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Part 3: How to Plan the Switch to Thin Client / Server-Based Computing
So now that you know a little bit about thin client / server-based computing (TC/SBC) and have an idea of the security benefits it provides, it’s time to decide whether or not it’s a good fit for your business environment. There are a couple things to consider when deciding to make the switch:
- Initial Investment – A cost/benefit analysis should be performed to determine if converting your environment to TC/SBC will really save you money in the long run.
Implementation Plan – Before making a significant change in your network environment, you should always carefully plan the following steps:
- Backup of existing data.
- Server operating system selection.
- Server hardware selection.
- Thin client hardware selection.
- Testing phase.
- Documentation stage.
- Rollout schedule.
Your initial investment into TC/SBC hardware and software will vary depending on your needs. If you have a relatively small user base (5-10 employees) your setup costs might not be too intimidating. However, if you support a larger user base (15-25 employees) your initial investment can add up quickly. This is why a cost/benefit analysis is so important. Keep in mind that a larger user base might require additional servers as data will not be saved locally on the client machines. Then again, this may simply mean that you increase your server capacity by adding more hard drives instead of purchasing additional servers. However, remember that the money you save on administration costs and fewer hardware component failures is something you can put towards this initial investment.
The more detail you put into your implementation plan, the smoother your transition will be. Backup of existing business data is a crucial first step. This can also be an extremely tedious step if business data is stored throughout your environment on multiple local hard drives as well as your server(s). Take your time during this stage of the process so as not to overlook any business-critical data.
Next, the selection process of your TC/SBC hardware and software should focus on performance and security without sacrificing a great deal of cost. A small business environment does not need a lot of the bells and whistles that a larger enterprise environment might require. Keep things simple. After all, technology is supposed to make our lives easier right? Uh, yeah… right!
Once you receive your hardware and have the initial configuration settings in place it's time to test... and test, and test again! The more testing you perform, the easier it will be to troubleshoot any issues that might arise during implementation. Downtime (especially in a small business environment) means a loss of productivity which translates into lost money. Once you have thoroughly tested your new setup you should document the process and include all product support information, warranties, and technical support contact information and put it somewhere that’s easy to find. Make things easier on yourself and document each step of the way so you don’t miss anything.
Finally, it's time to plan your rollout. Use common sense during this phase and don't rush. If the business needs to be running full speed ahead on Monday morning, it's probably not a good idea to try and rollout on Sunday night. Give yourself time to troubleshoot issues should any arise (and they always do) and then plan your rollout accordingly.
For novice administrators or IT support representatives this process can be a daunting task if you are not familiar with TC/SBC technology. Don’t be afraid to seek help! There are hundreds of consulting companies that can assist small businesses with hardware and software selection, planning, and even installation and configuration. However, they will undoubtedly charge a hefty fee for these services. However, if you’re reading this, you obviously have the internet at your fingertips. There is an information superhighway out there that is full of tutorials and information on TC/SBC. Remember, this is where the industry is headed so you probably won’t have a problem finding information. Good luck!
Thin Clients in the Small Business Environment: Part 3
The use of thin clients (for server-based computing) is the way of the future: the not so distant future. As technology in this field gets better, costs will slowly fall, making it easier for small businesses to adopt the server-based computing model.