by Paul Rudo on 07/12/10 at 5:00 am
The difference between “thin client” and “fat client” computing is fairly simple to understand.
In a traditional “fat-client” computing environment, all of the programs are stored on a local machine – such as a desktop or laptop – and files are stored on a central server drive. Whenever someone wants to work with a file, they must download the file to the local machine, edit the file, and then send the file back.
The “thin client” model is different in the sense that the file remains on the centralized server, along with all of the programs and operating systems needed to modify them. The end-user transmits mouse, audio and keyboard data to the server, and the screenshots from the remote desktop are streamed live from the remote “terminal server”.
These “terminal servers” is a more modern version of the old-fashioned mainframes from the 1980s. But instead of glowing green text, they allow interactive access to a remotely hosted Windows, Linux or Mac desktop.
Although not particularly suited for every kind of computer user, there are certain benefits that come with deploying a terminal server/thin client architecture in your company.
Simplified Support And Maintenance
When budgeting for new IT products, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) must always be considered above the purchase price.
- Because these remote desktops are simply virtualized machines, they can be set up and deployed within minutes.
- Instead of buying an extra storage device when the hard drive gets full, you can simply allocate space dynamically. This ensures greater utilization of total storage while minimizing the need for upgrades.
- Also, since resource allocation can be done at the touch of a button, this greatly increases the speed at which machines can be modified or upgraded.
- Maintenance efficiency is further improved since IT personnel no longer have to walk over to a physical device, or drive to a remote office in order to resolve system problems.
In order to maintain high employee morale, and to give back to the community, many companies today are looking for new ways to reduce the environmental impact of doing business. Thin client computing allows companies to save a lot of money while also reducing their impact on the plane.
- Because all of the processing is done remotely, you can extend the lifetime of an older machine by converting it into a thin client. This helps divert a lot of electronic waste from landfills.
- A virtualized OS on a terminal server will usually consume much less energy than the same OS hosted on a desktop machine. And the energy cost savings resulting from this difference will continue to become more important as processors become more power-hungry, and operating systems become more bloated and resource-intensive.
- Instead of buying a new computer for each employee, you can simply deploy low-cost dedicated thin client devices which consume far less energy. Since these boxes are smaller and simpler than a full computer, they also require less energy and resources to produce.
Better Control Over Licensing
For most companies, licensing is either a potential liability or a source of waste.
By having many differently configured computers floating around, it’s easy to lose track of system licenses. If you fall out of compliance, it can lead to vendor problems, fines or even lawsuits. Many companies try to cope with this problem by purchasing more licenses than they need.
- By having all of your operating systems stored and managed from a single location, it’s much easier to keep track of who has what. This way, you can find and kill off unused machines while ensuring that every live machine is accounted for.
- There are also a number of packages on the market that can simplify or automate much of the license management tasks in a terminal server environment.
- More Secure
- Because no data is stored locally, the thin client model is perfect for laptop users. In the event that an employee’s machine gets stolen, the odds of data loss or a privacy leak are almost zero. Laptops are much easier to replace than critical data or a company’s reputation.
- With thin-client computing, all of the terminal servers are stored in a tightly-secured and closely monitored server room. This makes data theft much more difficult.
- Also, terminal servers are effective in preventing data leaks and viruses since the end-user can’t access them through USB drives, DVDs, or even floppies.
- For companies that have strict compliance obligations, thin client computing makes it easier to enforce adherence to data management policies while monitoring and flagging potential infractions.
- When it comes time to back up or restore, you only need to worry about protecting a single consolidated storage device.
Strategic Business Benefits
- For fast-growing companies, new thin clients can be deployed very quickly using low-cost hardware.
- And in the event of a merger, buy-out or restructuring, the thin client computing model offers a high degree of flexibility. If you’re ever forced to combine your IT systems with those of another company, it’s a simple matter of installing your client software on their desktops to give employees full access to both environments. This can delay the need for an expensive IT overhaul.
As you can see, moving employee desktops to a centralized terminal server environment can offer a lot of business benefits. Has your company tried to move its applications over to a thin client structure? What did you think?
Please tell me about it in the comments below.