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I was wondering if it would be possible to install any kind of software (ranging from MS Office to Photoshop and the like) on a server and then be able to access this software from any other computer, no matter what it's hardware is (since the applications will be running on the server).

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Isn't this the whole concept of cloud computing? –  Mehrdad Apr 3 '11 at 14:18
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@Mehrdad: "Cloud computing" is a relatively meaningless buzzword, and the answer to this question doesn't necessarily involve it. (For example, a VNC connection wouldn't be classed as "cloud computing" by even the most over-zealous managers.) –  Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 3 '11 at 14:21
    
@Tomalak: Huh, okay... –  Mehrdad Apr 3 '11 at 14:22

4 Answers 4

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As BugFinder mentioned, Citrix products are one approach.

A simpler approach is to set up Remote Desktop or VNC. You can log in to the server remotely and "use" it (graphics & sound output, keyboard & mouse input) as if it were your own PC.

An alternative would be web applications, like Google Docs. Strictly speaking the application runs on your local PC, but with server support and in-built collaboration due to the data storage segment being online.

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Good idea, VNC only allows 1 user though, so that could be a limitation, plus in a commercial environment you need to pay for it too. RDP is a good idea, especially if you have windows 2k8 as that basically has citrix like capabilities –  BugFinder Apr 3 '11 at 15:46
    
@BugFinder: Multiple clients may connect to a VNC server at the same time. –  Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 3 '11 at 15:47
    
I've only ever seen the one work, I stand corrected - thanks –  BugFinder Apr 3 '11 at 15:53

Have you considered citrix? Which allows for any software to be installed on a central server and using a web/desktop client you can connect (even from a phone) and use the software as it technically still runs on the server

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Since the OS was only implied to be MS Windows, I'll take this as an OS-agnostic question and mention X Windows as another option. I've personally run a network in the past with a single Linux server running applications for a mix of about 75 assorted Linux, MS Windows, and dedicated thin client workstations, plus a second MS Windows server running Win32 apps via Citrix for up to a couple dozen workstations - some workstations even routinely bounced through both app servers, using X to connect to the Linux server and Citrix from the Linux server to the MS Windows server where the app actually ran. The whole system worked like a champ and I was extremely surprised at the number of client workstations that each server could handle.

This is also how web applications typically work, with the app running on the web server and its output displayed in the user's browser, although recent developments are allowing more of the processing to be moved into browser-side javascript. I suspect that this is what the "isn't this just cloud computing?" comment was getting at.

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