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Benefits of using thin and zero clients vs desktop PC’s

03/1/2023
Blog
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What are “thin clients” and their close cousins “zero client devices”?

You probably have a desktop computer or laptop computer at work and all the software you use is installed on that computer. Although your data is probably stored on servers, you access the software resident on your computer. Thin clients are lightweight computers that replace your desktop computer and are purposely designed to connect to a server and deliver the software applications you need to you as you call upon them. So, the software sits on the server until you need it; this is called desktop virtualization. This allows for these much less powerful and less expensive thin client devices.

WHAT ARE “THIN” AND “ZERO” CLIENTS?

From the stand point of security, the main advantage of using a thin client for desktop virtualization is that they do not require direct access to the endpoint operating system. In this way, users are better protected from the situations in which viruses and hacking attacks take place.

Thin_clients

End users and other network endpoints pose the biggest risk associated with traditional client/server based computing. A lot of us have dealt with or at least heard stories of end users installing unauthorized and potentially infected software on desktops, accidentally deleting system files, copying sensitive data to flash drives, or perhaps visiting a malicious website. These problems are greatly reduced or eliminated when using thin clients.

There are small distinctions between a thin client and a zero client device. A thin client has little storage and has less powerful computer processing capabilities and a zero client takes it further by not including any local storage on the device; all storage takes place on the server

The protection provided by either a thin client or zero client is the users do not have access to the desktop OS and cannot install software from or copy sensitive data to a flash drive or other types of removable media. This device rarely includes USB ports, making the use of removable media a non-issue. Thin client devices are also, mostly, resistant to tampering, so the chances of the device becoming infected with malware are low.

Some vendors such as Dell Wyse advertise “virus-immunity,” although using a thin or zero client device does not completely guarantee the risk of virus or malware infection. A perfect example would be, if a user visits a malicious website, an infection can still occur, but it would affect the virtual desktop OS rather than the device itself. Thin client devices never contact the malicious website, so they’re immune to infection.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE UP PRODUCTIVITY IN ORDER TO SWITCH TO A THIN OR ZERO CLIENT

One of the first concerns that many have when it comes to switching their IT infrastructure is that they will lose access to certain applications or that they will be giving up functionality. This is not the case in today’s day and age. Increasingly, the applications used in business, as well as in one’s personal life, are web based and are already operating in “the cloud.” This means a thin client will readily access most of the applications which you are already using.

There are several examples of services that operate solely in a web browser. These include the following:

For Accounting & Invoicing

  • Quickbooks Online
  • Wave
  • Freshbooks

For Office Productivity

  • Google Workspace
  • Office 365
  • Zoho Office Suite

For Media Creation

  • WeVideo
  • PhotoPea
  • Fotor

These are just a few examples of how the adoption of thin and zero clients has been accelerated due to the availability of “cloud first” applications. The chances are that the overwhelming majority of software being used in your business is already operating somewhere other than a server in your location.

The fact that cloud-based applications have become ubiquitous means that if you are using local solutions in your location, then you may very well be making your operation less efficient than it could otherwise be. This is due to the fact that several layers of applications and technology are likely being employed in order to make your “local” environment properly communicate with mobile devices. By ensuring that your local environment is accessing the same resources as your smartphones and tablets, you can reduce several layers of “bloat” in your software stack.

MIGRATING TO A THIN OR ZERO CLIENT ENVIRONMENT

Migrating your computing environment to thin or zero client workstations is not overly difficult. As mentioned above, it is likely that many of the applications you are already using exist in “the cloud.” So for these applications, there is essentially no switching cost. For those applications that are local to your environment, migration should also not be difficult. This is due to the fact that modern cloud applications often include migration features that make switching to their services relatively easy.

Even if a specific migration tool is not available for a certain application, the fact of the matter is that general import and export tools more than suffice for the typical thin client migration. This often takes the form of your local software being able to export a file that can easily be imported by its cloud-based counterpart. Exporting all of your data from Microsoft Outlook and importing it into Google Workspace is, for example, relatively easy.

At the end of the day, the cost or time involved in migrating your IT environment should not dissuade you from moving to a stack based on thin or zero clients.

OTHER BENEFITS OF USING THIN OR ZERO CLIENTS

There are several benefits to using this technology for enterprises and IT infrastructures. A number of IT departments are migrating to this architecture to centralize business using virtual desktop technologies.

Cost Savings

Thin Clients Reduce Multiple Costs:

  • IT support costs
  • Upfront purchasing costs
  • Capital costs
  • Use of space in the data center
  • Licensing costs
  • Total administration and operating cost reduction of up to 70%

Reduces Energy Bill by 97%

  • Thin clients consume an average of 8-20 watts compared to a 150-watt PC
  • This reduces the carbon footprint
  • Cost savings from electricity can be reinvested

Simplified Management

The Benefits of Thin Client Management are:

  • All software and hardware upgrades, security policies, application changes, etc. can be made in the data center
  • IT personnel are not required (as they are with PCs) to fix individual problems at the end user desktop location
  • Less downtime, increasing productivity amongst End Users and IT personnel
  • Centralized and simplified backup of desktops, laptops, and other client access devices

Enhanced Security

The Benefits of Thin Client Security Include:

  • Thin clients are protected from unauthorized software or introducing viruses
  • Data cannot be copied to a disk or saved to any other location than the server
  • Centralized processing makes it easy to manage and monitor the system
  • Simplify security, protect intellectual property, and ensure data privacy

Increased Productivity

Systems can be Virtually Preconfigured, Packaged, and Put into Operation in Minutes.

  • Quickens setup and enables flexibility, with no specialist staff
  • Productivity can increase, while standard PCs have long repair times that cause delays and higher costs
  • Access the same apps and data from virtually anywhere

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