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Reviewing the Pros and Cons of Thin Client Computing

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/3/2013

A thin client is an aesthetically slim PC used as an access point for server-based computing. It has fewer parts and requires fewer components to run; hence, it has numerous cost efficiency advantages. The benefits are remarkable, but still, we must also look into their disadvantages.

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    How does it Fare in the Work Environment?

    Monitor face with ModerroOS Thin client computing fits into different types of work environment, since they do not need to be in the same place as their server. The setup presents benefits that are mostly practical. "Clients" can be taken into the harshest of work places like dusty desert camps and can be deployed even after the occurrence of a natural disaster.

    These are also perfect for workplaces where space is a big issue. As a slim PC, it has an inherent space-conserving attribute since it comes in one piece with only the monitor showing while the unit is hidden behind it. Some even mount on walls with only the peripherals and the monitor exposed.

    Even in work environments with very little budget room to run air conditioning, systems can be expected to gain from the benefits. The absence of dynamic or moving parts to serve one’s computing purpose entails less generation of heat. This is mainly because these PCs make use of solid state devices like flash drives instead of hard drives.

    However ideal this server-based computing may all seem, there are notable disadvantages that concern costs and performance abilities. Below is a rundown of its advantages and disadvantages that one should weigh before deciding to use thin computing in a business organization.

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    The Advantages:

    1) Lower Operational Costs - An office environment where several workstations are involved can access a single server unit, thereby reducing the operational costs covering these related actions:

    • Setting up the device takes less than ten minutes to accomplish.
    • The lifespan of a "client" unit is very long, since there are no moving parts inside. The only parts that need constant replacements are the peripherals that are external to the PC. This means that when something breaks at the "client’s" end, it can be as easy as taking a replacement unit to replace the broken one. Even wear and tear is considerably unnoticeable.
    • Energy efficiency - A slim unit is said to consume 20W to 40W as opposed to the regular thick PC, where power consumption during operation mode consumes 60W to 110W. In addition, the thin PCs need little or no air conditioning at all, which literally means less operating costs. Whatever air conditioning needed is demanded and supplied at the server area.
    • Work efficiency - Its work environment can be far-reaching and extensive; as it can provide quick access to remotely located workers simultaneously operating on server-based computing.

    2)800px-NEO-CV863A Hardware internal view  Superior Security – Since users will only have access to the server by network connections, security measures like different access levels for different users can be implemented. That way, users with lower access levels will not be able to see, know, or in worst case scenarios, hack into the confidential files and applications of the entire organization. They are all secured at the server’s end, which is also a way of securing data files in the event of natural disasters. The servers will be the only machines that need to survive the disaster as the main location of all the saved data. Immediately after the disaster, new "clients" can easily be connected to the server, for as long as the latter remains intact.

    3) Lower Malware Infection Risks – There is a very slim chance of getting malware on the server from a thin client because inputs to the server only come from the keyboard, mouse actions, and screen images. The PCs get their software or programs from the server itself; hence, patches, software updates and virus scanning applications are being implemented only on the server's end. It follows that the servers will be the one to process information and store the information afterwards.

    4) Highly Reliable – Business organizations can expect continuous service for longer durations since thin clients can have a lifespan of more than five years. In as much as these units are built as solid state devices, there is less impact from wear and tear through constant use.

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    The Disadvantages:


    a) "Client" Organizations are Subject to Limitations – Inasmuch as the slim units do most of their processing at the server, there will be setups where rich media access will be disabled. Some of these concerns are the result of poor performance when simultaneous access to multimedia in this PC is taking place. Heavy and resource-hungry applications like Flash animations and video streaming can slow the performance of both the server and the "client". In corporate organizations where video conferencing and webinars are often carried out, presentation of materials and web-cam/video communications can be adversely affected.

    b) Requires Superior Network Connection – Using a network that has latency or network lag issues can greatly affect the "clients". It can even mean rendering the units unusable because the processing will not be fluently transmitted by the server. Such cases make the slim PC very hard to use because the server's response will affect both the visual and the processing performance of the "client". In some workplace setups, even printing tasks have been observed to hog bandwidth, thus, affecting the work going on in other units.

    c) Cost Intensive Work Environment – For any plans of converting a regular work station into a thin client work environment, performing comparative cost analysis is strongly advised. Thin setups have been noted to be cost efficient only if employed on a large-scale basis. Comparison of regular workstations using the same number of regular PC units should be made versus a work environment setup that makes use of a dedicated server and the same number of slim PCs.

    In some cases the cost of installing the server itself is already far more expensive than all the regular workstations combined. This is aside from the fact that a slim unit can cost as much as a fully-equipped PC. Nevertheless, some argue that the benefits derived, as far as cost and maintenance efficiency are concerned, will eventually offset the initial costs. As a capitalized investment, the costs can be spread out for at least three years.

    Still, the expensiveness of the fees covering different licenses, which include software for every station, Client Access Licenses (CAL) for clients and server, as well as tracking and managing licenses, will tie-up a substantial amount of business funds and may take too long to recover. Thus, smaller business organizations are advised to carefully consider such costs before venturing into server-based thin computing.

    d) Single Point of Failure Affects All – If the server goes down, every thin client connected to it becomes barely usable. In any event that the server becomes inaccessible, the work processes being handled by all "clients" will come to a standstill and thus, adversely affect business-hour productivity.

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    Environmental Impact

    Environmentally wise, the advantages of thin client computing bring positive benefits in the following ways:

    • Less heat generated means less carbon impact.
    • Less electronic waste outputs, since there are fewer parts to replace.
    • Less complexity involved in slim PC manufacture cuts down costs from the point of production at the supplier’s chain. The related costs of transport from manufacturer to distributors and to retailers present less volume due to the PC's compact dimension which is only a fifth of a regular PC. This then equates to lower numbers in transport requirement.


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