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.
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.
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.
Other Benefits of Using Thin or Zero Clients
There are several benefits for 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.
Thin Clients Reduce Multiple Costs:
- IT support costs
- Upfront purchasing costs
- Capital costs
- Use of space in data center
- Licensing costs
- Total administration and operating cost reduction 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 carbon footprint
- Cost savings from electricity can be reinvested
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 back up of desktops, laptops, and other client access devices
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, ensure data privacy
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