Parallels Remote Application Server (RAS) Review

An excellent, simple interface for our customers; allows use of any browser on any platform

What is our primary use case?

My primary use case of this solution is to publish and make available applications for customers. I'm a customer of Parallels and a data center engineer and freelancer. 

How has it helped my organization?

The previous solution I used, Citrix, had a very specific browser. With Parallels, you can use any browser on any platform to access the application, which makes it much more convenient for the customers and is easier to manage. We're able to replicate the environment more quickly if we need to build out more servers.

What is most valuable?

The simplicity of the interface for customers is a valuable feature. In this case, we wanted a solution that did not require a client and it could be run from a browser. As far as we can tell this is also a very secure solution, which is very important to us because we're in the financial industry.

What needs improvement?

When the customer is connected, they use a specific publishing agent and if that agent fails, the customer loses their connection. From a usability perspective, it would be nice if there was an automated way that the connection would fail-over to a different publishing agent so the user would not lose their session. That is not an option now so if that publishing agent crashes, then all the customers connected through that agent lose their session. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using this solution for more than one year. 

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

This solution has been very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability is not super-applicable because we have a pretty static environment, but when there is a need to add additional servers, it's not difficult. I know that there are some automated features that you can use to scale, but we've never had to use any of those, so I can't speak to that, but I know that it is something that they offer as part of the solution. We have two people that are the administrators of Parallels and some support staff and developers, around 10 people, that do administration of the applications that are published. We have about 250 users.

How are customer service and technical support?

Parallels' first level of support could probably be a little better, but their second and third level support is awesome. Very responsive, very good, very knowledgeable and very helpful.
At the first level, their knowledge is just not up to what it needs to be to troubleshoot many issues. It might be different now, but at that time it was problematic for us.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We previously used an older version of Citrix and decided that rather than upgrading to the later version, which would have been very expensive, we chose Parallels which offered a more economical solution. Basically, it was the most economical enterprise-ready solution  available. There were other things out there that could have been used, but they couldn't do what Parallels does.

How was the initial setup?

If you don't have any experience with it, some of the setup was a little bit complex, but now that I've worked with it, thinking back about what was required, it doesn't seem so difficult. In a smaller environment, I think it's fairly easy to set up. Once you start to build out a little bit more, it can get a little complex. By small environment, I'm referring to an organization with one front-end server, one gateway and one or two applications. 

We didn't have time to do any testing beforehand. We had to do immediate implementation. There was no knowledge at all of the product, so we were installing it without any background. It took several days at least to get things working. I was working 20-hour days for a month and I've forgotten the way things were going and what we did and how long it took. We were doing so many things at the same time, because we'd had a data center failure and a hack, and this was the way to get us back online. We carried out the deployment ourselves together with some Parallels' support. 

What was our ROI?

I don't really know how to quantify it but without Parallels, we'd either be spending a lot more money or our business would not exist anymore. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

VMware had another solution that we evaluated, but it was expensive. 

What other advice do I have?

I would recommend having some type of consultant or architect, somebody with experience to know the best way to implement, because we did have to make a few changes after the fact, once we discovered some things. The documentation is pretty good. We didn't have the benefit of setting up a dev environment, but if somebody could, I would highly suggest they do that. If that's possible, I think in a pretty short space of time people would have the knowledge they needed to deploy it to production.

For what Parallels has given us and compared to the cost of other solutions, and the fact that it's stable, works well, does what we need and is secure, I rate it a 10 out of 10.

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**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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