Do you feel like your organization is constantly upgrading PCs? Tired of dealing with issues like virus infections, users saving data to their hard drive or equipment failure in general? Thin clients don’t eliminate these issues, but they can certainly help.
What are thin clients?
- They replace PCs and other workstations. There is a version for laptops as well.
- They are typically small, 6″ by 8″ or smaller. They remind me of a large external hard drive.
- They use solid state drives and have no fans or other moving parts that could go bad.
- They are devices that simply communicate back to a desktop on the server.
Why use thin clients?
- They replace PCs and other workstations. For anyone tired of PC maintenance, this is a big selling point.
- They make anti-virus and other applications loaded on the PC easier to manage. The applications are now on the server, so they can be managed from one physical place.
- Because they have no moving parts, their life span is longer and they are hardier in difficult environments. Their lifespan is typically 5-7 years rather than 3-5 for a PC.
- They are relatively cheap. Depending on whether you need sound or video, thin clients can be found in the $200 to $500 range.
- You must have a network connection to your servers. This is a particularly big issue for people who travel frequently and don’t always have internet connectivity.
- They require additional technology (Microsoft Remote Desktop, Citrix or VMWare desktop virtualization) and usually additional servers, which can be virtual servers. Most feel the lower support costs make up for the added technical complexity.
- Not every application is thin client/desktop virtualization friendly. Before you go down this road, test out your applications.
- Users may not be able to customize their desktop like they can on a PC (screen saver, wallpaper, icons). We’ve had agents in a call center get very upset about this – people think of their PC as a home away from home sometimes. However, the standardization allows for a quick replacement – no more rebuilding PCs.
Keep in mind that telecommunications is critical, particularly in remote locations, as is secure external access. Desktop virtualization software can enable a secure remote connection, and the software is usually available for iPads and other mobile devices. We’ve seen some companies allow home PC access for the first time because of the security of the connection.
If you have remote locations, manufacturing or warehouse needs where dust or debris is an issue, or you have a large number of users (e.g. call center), consider this technology. A pilot roll-out success can go a long way to acclimating the organization. You may find it makes sense for your entire company.