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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Real Chances for Thin Client Computing and Why Consumers Do Not Like It

This article is courtesy of Paul Barrett, a web and systems developer for Living Media, a leading aggregator for bathroom renovations Perth and kitchen renovations Perth.

Many times in my career I have been asked my opinion on the viability of thin client solutions. Having worked in both types of environments, I have become more and more of the opinion that I do not like thin computing much and I will give you some of my reasons why.

Thin Computing receives a small grassroots stir up every few years where it is promised to be the solution for a new IT problem.  Recently, there has been the newly coined term ‘BYO Computing’. This basically refers to the ability of employees to bring their own devices to work (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc.) and access company network data via them. The end result has been that the IT minds of the world have tried to tell us that a thin client solution is the way to go to resolve the dilemma of uncontrolled network devices.

IBM Thin clientIBM Thin client (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Less obscure is the new term of VDI computing or Virtual Desktop Interface. This is simply the idea that we’re all going to run thin clients, except the solution is usually a cloud based one. If you don’t have an internet connection then nobody has a computer to use, simple. This brings us to the first main point.

Single Point of Failure

Single point of failure is both a positive and negative thing. Thin client aficionados claim that the single point of failure is a good thing in terms of increased security and decreased maintenance required for a stable platform. From my point of view, the single point of failure is a recipe for catastrophic and show stopping system failures. Without the most expensive clustered systems, a reboot spells several minutes multiplied by as many users that are on the network. So every outage is multiplied by the number of users on the network. In the truest thin client environments, an outage renders the clients completely unable to function. This means no computer for your employees until the system problems are rectified.

Clientron U700 Thin Client VS Tradition PCClientron U700 Thin Client VS Tradition PC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Centralized Security Risks

Again, we can argue that this is good but if an attacker is able to gain access to the server or cluster then there is much greater ease of navigating the network, stealing or vandalizing data. As much as it is easier to administer, it is easier to destroy once compromised.

Third party software

Like it or not, thin client solutions place limitations on the type of software that can be installed on them. Things just do not run as well. Graphic intensive solutions are generally not feasible at all on thin clients. There will be third party business applications that will be more difficult to troubleshoot for external consultants, or to get working at all. One answer is to get programming support that supports the thin client platforms, but this is simply another expense that the consumer will ultimately pay for.


Most of the computing costs are tied up in software, and thin computing does not reduce the software costs. In fact it increases them. You still need to pay for Office licenses, server CALS, and the cost of the thin client’s OS. Additionally you may need to pay for an expensive thin client framework such as Citrix. Money saved on computer costs is negligible.


While thin clients present a centralized management dream that may excite some managers and IT staffers, the reality is they are often only suited to the most soul destroying work environments including call centers and mail processing centers. People who work in more creative or technical roles, or those using a computer at home for entertainment or gaming will require a real computer, and this is unlikely to ever change. 

This article is courtesy of Paul Barrett, a web and systems developer for Living Media, a leading aggregator for bathroom renovations Perth and kitchen renovations Perth.
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