Thin Clients: A Replacement for Regular PCs in Highly Secure Environs

by December 7, 2015 0 comments

Thin clients basically are low-cost diskless computing devices, connected to a server-based computing network. A thin client functions as a virtual desktop, using the computing power residing on networked servers. The thin client can’t run applications or store data or documents on its own. It functions just as an interface to convey your keystrokes and connect to the applications, documents, data and storage on networked servers, where the actual work is done. In thin clients, you just need to manage server-side virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Most of the thin clients run Web browsers and/or remote desktop software, such as Microsoft Terminal Services or Citrix XenApp, where all screen views, mouse clicks, and keystrokes are passed to the thin client using either Citrix’s Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) or Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Types of thin clients

• Basic Thin Clients – Basic appliance-like devices that access server-based Windows applications via RDP
and ICA.
• Browser Thin Clients – Offer RDP & ICA, plus terminal emulations and a built-in browser to run local web applications.
• Flexible Thin Clients – RDP, ICA, terminal emulations, full Internet Explorer browser, with multimedia plug-in support and the ability to run applications locally.
• Linux Thin Clients – Linux Thin Client Terminals are growing in popularity and are the most flexible thin clients due to the adaptability of the open source operating system.
Thin clients are great for companies where people work in different shifts, like a call center, retail outlet, or an assembly line in a manufacturing company. It reduces all security issues related to multiple people logging into it. If your setup is a new company or you are thinking to replace your old desktops and want some centralized computing solution then you can think about thin clients.

Why should I use thin clients over regular PCs for my company?
The main reason to replace or use Thin clients over regular PCs is because they offer many advantages, including lower maintenance and upgrade costs and a more secure, controlled environment. By reducing maintenance and install time, thin clients keep downtime to an absolute minimum which is a big advantage to any business because the time is money. A thin client comes with ThinManager software that allows you to configure and manage all connected thin clients from the central, secure server. All your client management and maintenance is centralized which means your IT staff’s burden of managing core functions of processing, disk storage, memory, applications and operating systems shifts at one place on one or more back-end servers.

Where and when should I use a Thin Client?
Thin clients can be used anywhere you would normally have a Desktop PC. They are very useful when there are more than one employee sharing the same system and needs to quickly access business apps and data. Thin Clients range from office grade to light industrial, to heavy industrial. Thin Clients do not have cooling fans, are very small and easy to mount, and can be replaced within a minute or two.
You can consider using thin clients when setting up a new company. If your desktops are becoming obsolete, you could consider replacing them with thin clients instead of buying fresh desktops again. Thin clients are useful when you don’t have the time or money to hire additional IT staff to maintain your fleet of desktops.

What’s the actual cost of a thin client setup? Can netbooks work as thin clients?
It is hard to really tell you what is the actual cost of thin client setup because it depends, on what kind of usage you intend to have on your end computers or your server or what kind of infrastructure you are going to setup for your company. If you would like a very basic and cheap method of doing this, you can set up one powerful Windows 8 Pro computer, and run multiple virtual machines in Hyper-V with Windows 8 but if you have large numbers of employees and computer infrastructure then you must go for enterprise server edition. You can also go for open source Linux server which also helps in cost cutting.
A netbook can be a good alternative to Thin client but if you were planning to set up a virtual desktop environment then it is not. The computing power of netbooks are low that can’t handle extensive multi-tasking. The minimal local storage is often SSDs with 32 GB or less, cramped keyboards, small screens with quirky resolutions but on other side a thin client can support high definition and all computing power and storage capacity on your server.

What’s a Zero client?
Zero client, also known as an ultrathin client, is a server-based computing model in which the end user’s computing device has no local storage and is used in a virtual desktop infrastructure environment. A typical zero client product is a small box that serves to connect a keyboard, mouse, monitor and Ethernet connection to a remote server which hosts the client’s operating system and software applications.

What’s a browser based thin client?
Browser thin clients are based on Microsoft’s Windows CE embedded OS with all capabilities of Basic thin clients with some additional functionality and power. Windows CE features Internet Explorer for local Web computing and has enough power built in to run a local terminal emulation suite. Call center, customer service reps, and retail users often use the browser thin clients, so they can access web-based information in addition to data from the central server.

Does it have an embedded operating system?
Yes, thin clients have embedded operating system. Operating systems used in thin clients are:
• Basic thin client terminals: It features a proprietary operating system that delivers simple server-based computing in a thin-client appliance. All application processing, including web browsing, occurs on the server
• Windows CE: It features Internet Explorer for local Web computing and has enough power built in to run a local terminal emulation suite.
• Windows XP Embedded (XPe): This OS embedded thin clients have additional power for local processing, a local Java Virtual Machine (JVM), the option to embed local applications, top-line graphics, and colors, and full Win32 API application support.
• Linux Thin Client Terminals: Linux embed clients are most flexible thin clients due to the adaptability of the open source operating system. Linux Thin Client terminals are capable of running 32-bit Windows applications, Unix and Linux applications via server-based computing.

Can I use a thin client to access cloud-based apps?
Yes, one can access cloud-based app on a thin client because all their work generally done on server side that means what you getting is full-fledged virtual PC desktop and you can run any type of cloud based app on it.

Protocols used by a thin client
There are many different protocols used by a thin client to communicate with its host server. Some of them are already out of use while some of them are still popular in the market. Here are some major protocols currently in use:
• ICA by Citrix: ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) supports multiple platforms. WinFrame, Citrix XenApp, and Citrix XenDesktop are all ICA based.
• RDP by Microsoft: It is the most widely known protocol for clients connecting remotely to the server.
• PCoIP: By Teradici and VMware.
• UXP: By nComputing.
Note: Some thin clients uses their own unique
VDI protocol for passing data between server
and client.
Will there be a difference in speed, if I buy 512 MB ram instead of 128? As everything is computed at the server?
Not really, unless you want the option of running apps locally on the appliance compact flash memory. If we talk about speed then it depends on video hardware and CPU as it has displayed the OS which is running on the server. Linux based thin client is not very memory and CPU consuming as compared to XPe.

Should I go for a Thin client having APU?
Thin clients with APU means additional processing and graphics capability. Again it depends upon your requirement whether you should go for an APU or not. If you want to display some graphic intensive applications like 3D rendering, CAD, multiple video streams, high-definition video decoding on your thin client then you must go for APU built thin clients. These thin clients can support the high resolution on up to four independent displays and a variety of display formats.

Does a thin client support audio or HDMI output?
Yes, most of thin clients now come with both HDMI and VGA output. If you are using HDMI then it produces both video and audio. Some thin clients also come with an audio port as well as HDMI port. The latest VDI solutions from Citrix and VMware already integrate multimedia support and acceleration.

Is there any heating or noise issue in the thin client while running it for 24 hours?
Thin client terminals are very environmentally-friendly, cooler CPUs as all the processing is done at the server end. Thin clients do not have any moving parts like fans which is much responsible for the noise. So, there is no noise issue.

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