Methods of End User Access - Citrix MetaFrame XP

Probably the primary reason that anyone uses MetaFrame XP is to provide simple end-user access to Windows applications.

Probably the primary reason that anyone uses MetaFrame XP is to provide simple end-user access to Windows applications. By "methods of end user access," we're talking about how your users actually launch their applications on your MetaFrame XP servers. Do they have icons for MetaFrame XP applications in their Windows Start Menu or on their Windows desktop? Do they launch applications through a web portal? Are they running complete remote desktops or only specific applications?

Why is the method of access important?

By spending some time up front to consider how your users will access their applications, you can build their environment to be easy to use. (This will make your life easier as a MetaFrame administrator.

The way that you configure your user access will directly affect several aspects of your users' experience, including:

  • What users can do with their applications.
  • How easily users can use and get access to their applications.
  • How easy everything is to administer.
  • How quickly the users can access the system and switch between applications.
  • How secure the system is.
  • Total cost of ownership.

What are the user access method options?

Ultimately, all users will access the MetaFrame servers via some form of ICA client software from a hardware device that supports that software. Once a user is connected, their experience is controlled by the server-it doesn't really matter how they connected or what kind of client device they have. All of the user access method options really affect what steps the users will need to take to establish their connections.

From the management standpoint, the various user connection options fall into two general categories:

  1. Options that require configuration on client devices, such as the traditional Program Neighborhood client.
  2. Options that do not require configuration on client devices, such as deploying applications via web portals.

Regardless of the access methods you choose, your users will need some form of ICA client software loaded on their client device. However, some access methods require that you manually configure or update the client configuration on every single client, while other methods allow you to make configuration changes one time at the server, with ICA clients receiving the new settings automatically.

Let's take a detailed look at each of the following methods of end user access:

  • Placing icons on your users' desktops and in their Start Menus.
  • Creating websites or web portals with links that launch MetaFrame applications.
  • Installing and configuring the full Program Neighborhood ICA client software on each client workstation.
  • Using the Program Neighborhood Agent, which allows users to launch MetaFrame applications via links on their desktop or in their Start Menu, while allowing you to administer those links centrally. (This option requires Feature Release 1 or 2.)

Option 1. Traditional Icons on the Desktop and Start Menu

You can choose to put icons and shortcuts to your MetaFrame applications in your users' Start Menu or on their desktop. To your users, these icons look just like "regular" Windows applications. Your users would be comfortable with accessing applications this way, since it's really no different than the way they launch applications currently.

However, simply placing a shortcut on a computer does not mean that the computer will know what to do when that icon is clicked. You still have to install some form of ICA client software. In addition, if you ever want to change the parameters of an application that a user is accessing, you will have to do it manually.

Advantages of Connecting via Traditional Icons

  • MetaFrame XP application access is identical to locally-launched applications.
  • Icons placed in this fashion can contain detailed connection configuration information.
  • Each icon could point to applications from different server farms.

Disadvantages of Connecting via Traditional Icons

  • The ICA client software must be manually installed on each client workstation that users will use to access their applications.
  • Any application shortcut configuration changes must be done manually.

Option 2. Web Page / Web Portal

Many MetaFrame administrators provide their users with web access to applications, either through static web pages or dynamic web portals. These web pages are usually configured so that they will automatically install the ICA client software onto the user's client device if it's not installed when they visit the site.

Additionally, most application web portals are configured so that the user is provided with a login screen when they first access the site. After successful authentication, the list of MetaFrame applications is custom-built for each user based on his credentials. This application list consists of hyperlinks and icons for each application. Clicking one of these application hyperlinks launches an ICA session which is fully integrated into the user's desktop experience.

See Chapter 11 for full details on creating web application portals for your MetaFrame XP users,.

Advantages of Connecting via a Web Page

  • Access to MetaFrame XP applications can be from any machine, without preconfiguring client software.
  • Since many organizations already use web pages and intranets for important information and announcements, MetaFrame XP applications can be configured as part of a user's home page or corporate portal.
  • Because application configuration is done at the web server, you can easily change parameters or options. Every client device recognizes the changes the next time they access the web site. There is no need to manually configure every client.
  • One web page can contain links to applications from multiple MetaFrame servers or server farms.

Disadvantages of Connecting via a Web Page

  • Visiting a web page for their applications may be an added step for your users.
  • This could be a single point of failure. If the web server goes down, the users lose access to their applications.
  • You'll have to maintain the web server in addition to all of your MetaFrame XP servers.

Option 3. Full Program Neighborhood from a Local ICA Client

If you choose to install the full Program Neighborhood ICA client on your users' workstations, they can launch their MetaFrame XP applications via the Program Neighborhood software. The Program Neighborhood software can even push application icons to the users' desk or Start menu. More information on the Program Neighborhood client is available in Chapter 10.

Advantages of Connecting via a Full Client

  • Users will only see the icons for applications that they are configured to use.

Disadvantages of Connecting via a Full Client

  • You will need to manually update any configuration changes to the client software on your users' workstations.
  • It can be difficult for your users to connect to applications from more than one server farm.
  • It's easy for your users to "break" things, since the client software will be installed on their workstations just like any application.

Option 4. Program Neighborhood Agent

If you're using Feature Release 1 or 2, you can use the Program Neighborhood Agent to push MetaFrame XP application icons to 32-bit Windows clients. With the PN Agent client, icons can automatically appear in a user's Start Menu, on the desktop, or in their system tray. All configuration of the PN Agent client software is done via a URL, so you can change client configuration parameters automatically without having to visit every single client. More information about how to use this client is available in Chapter 11.

Advantages of Connecting via the Program Neighborhood Agent

  • As an administrator, you can easily update and change the configuration of the users' client software.
  • The Program Neighborhood Agent software can seamlessly connect to multiple server farms.

Disadvantages of Connecting via the Program Neighborhood Agent

  • This only works with 32-bit Windows clients.
  • The Program Neighborhood Agent client software must be manually installed.
  • You must use NFuse 1.6 or newer.
  • You must use Feature Release 1 or 2.

Focus on Applications

It is important to remember when figuring out how your users will launch their MetaFrame XP applications that your users only care about their applications. The ideal environment will allow your users to access their applications in an easy and intuitive manner, helping them to remain productive.

 

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