What if your organization didn’t need a PC at every desk?
That’s now one of the common questions we pose to companies considering an IT refresh or looking for ways to simplify their IT strategy.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you turn back the clock to the days of typewriters and calculators. We all still need access to databases, email and productivity software like Microsoft Office. But those tools—and the processing power they need to run—no longer have to reside in separate PC towers and hard drives.
Instead, everything employees need, even the operating system, is hosted centrally and accessed through what are known as thin clients.
Thin is in
Thin clients are simplified computer terminals with no hard drive or storage. They connect via private network to shared servers residing on-premise or in an offsite data center.
We have helped several organizations adopt this approach to IT, dramatically streamlining how they use and manage computing resources.
One of our customer’s IT now exists almost entirely in the cloud. Their distributed workforce of about 40 users in five locations access all IT, including the ERP system, Windows operating system and Microsoft Office productivity suite, via dual-monitor thin client terminals. Secure, redundant networks connect it to our data center.
5 ways thin clients keep IT simple
Through our work with customers, we’ve identified several key benefits of thin clients:
- No installation hassles — Installing a complete PC takes time, and that takes money. For each computer, you need to install the correct software packages and configure the settings. With thin clients, it all occurs on the central servers, and we can deploy new account access almost instantly.
- More secure — With no hard drives, no data resides in the device on each desk or ever leaves the office on an employee’s laptop. This instantly eliminates any risk of theft. The terminals have very little value without network access.
- Seamless remote work — If employees need to work off-site, connecting to their virtual desktop environment can be done through a secured gateway. They get exactly the same experience as working in the office, while data stays safely within your IT security perimeter.
- Simpler data restoration — With fewer moving parts, thin clients present far fewer technical issues than laptops and desktop machines, and because the user’s IT environment is inherently virtual, IT support occurs remotely. If hardware failure does occur, a user just signs in at a different terminal until a new unit can be delivered to their desk.
- Better resource utilization — When you buy a new PC, you invest upfront in processing power you very rarely use to its full potential. It just sits there, like an insurance policy, in case your software tools suddenly need it. Extrapolate this across an entire organization of dozens or hundreds of employees and PCs, and that adds up. With a thin client IT environment, computing resources are better utilized—the processing power resides centrally and can scale up or down based on actual demand.
What to consider
Of course, a thin client IT environment won’t be a good fit for every organization. It represents a major shift in IT strategy and requires some transition time. We typically estimate a rollout of three to six months.
You also need to consider its impact on other IT infrastructure, and the cost of potential upgrades. If most of your IT assets are approaching end-of-life, that can make good financial sense, but a lot depends on what investments your organization has made in recent years. Although thin clients are individually less expensive than PCs (about 50-75% less), you may also need to invest in your network and data center to ensure they are robust, or engage an IT services firm to host and manage your environment.
Over the mid- to long-term, thin clients are often an efficient way to budget IT, especially if you require flexibility to scale up your organization, or plan to expand across multiple locations. But it does require careful analysis and a full audit of your current IT strategy.
New ways to think about IT
Thin clients can seem like a radical departure from what many organizations are familiar with, but we’ve seen first-hand that it works exceptionally well. It helps them focus their IT resources on what matters most: the software tools and processing power, not hardware sitting on employees’ desks.
If you’re interested in learning more about whether thin clients are a good fit for your IT strategy, we would be happy to share our insights and experiences.