Part 2: Security Benefits of Thin Clients in the Small Business Environment
One of the key advantages of server-based computing is the increase in data security. Ideally, your servers should be located in a secured environment (i.e. a dedicated server room that requires security badge access, etc.) Most of your applications would run off your servers and all data would reside on the servers rather than the local machines. The thin clients will simply be used as a vehicle to connect to the server environment. In the thick client environment (standard PCs and laptops) it is much more common to store data on the local drive. Therein lies a major risk because data can be lost if a drive failure occurs. Conventional hard drives have moving parts and therefore fail much faster than a solid state drive; the type of drive you would find in a typical thin client.
To guard against data loss on the server side, a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configuration can be implemented to maintain data integrity. There are multiple types of RAID that can be implemented but an explanation of these is beyond the scope of this article. However, a quick explanation of RAID would probably be helpful to those who are not familiar with the term. Essentially, a RAID configuration is simply a group of hard disks (an array) that is configured to act as one large logical drive. The array can be configured for fault tolerance (guarding against data loss), performance (two or more drives working together), or a combination of both. Implementing a RAID configuration in a server-based computing environment is the ideal setup for ultimate data security.
Another benefit of the thin client that should not be ignored is cost. Cost is a factor that can, in a way, have a direct impact on security. How? Most small businesses will have a somewhat stringent budget on what they can spend on Information Technology costs. The server-based computing model has two key cost benefits:
- Administration costs are reduced since the OS, applications, and data can all be managed from a centralized location: the server.
- By design, the thin client is a barebones version of a PC and/or laptop and requires less expensive hardware in order to connect to the server environment.
These cost savings can then be applied towards security upgrades in other areas of your network; encryption software, better antivirus packages, a stronger firewall setup, etc.
As technology in this area gets better, costs will slowly fall, making it easier for small businesses to adopt the server-based computing model. So how does a small business convert from the thick client environment to the thin client / server-based computing environment? Even though operating costs decrease, won’t this conversion require some kind of initial investment? What about the old thick client hardware? Can it still be used? I’ll address these questions in Part 3 of this series: How to Plan the Switch to Thin Client / Server-Based Computing.