Thin Client Computing

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What is Thin Client Computing?

A traditional network comprises of Servers and PC based workstations. The Servers are used to store centralised data and run server based application such as e-mail (Exchange, Groupwise), databases and Accounting software. The PC workstations run applications locally and via the network, access the necessary servers for the data they require. In a Local Area Network (LAN) environment this setup works fine, as the speed or bandwidth on the network is very high and can easily cope with the volume of data being sent between the PC and Server.

However if a users PC is not attached directly to the LAN but is accessing the network remotely, the connection method is going to have a much lower bandwidth than available on the LAN. Newer technologies such as ADSL may have download speeds of up to 8Mbits, but this is still less than a 10th of the speed of most LANs. More importantly these circuits only have upload speeds of 256Kbits or 512Kbits which is a big problem when trying to access applications remotely.

Thin Client systems get over this problem. In a Thin Client system, a Thin Client server is installed on the LAN. All of the applications that users require are installed on this server as they would on a normal workstation PC. Any users accessing the system as a Thin Client do not run any applications on their local PC. Instead the Thin Client server runs the application on their behalf and simply sends the screen, keyboard and mouse data back to the user. As a result the user can see and use the application as if it was running locally, but everything is actually happening on the server.

What are the benefits for Remote Users?

The benefit of Thin Client connections is the amount of data required to go between the user and server is tiny compared to when the application runs locally. This means that anyone accessing the system remotely with limited bandwidth can work at almost the same speed as an office based user.

Is There a Benefit in Having Thin Client for Office Based Users?

Another benefit of Thin Client systems is that the user needs no more than a terminal to access the system. Whilst the cost of PCs are now relatively low, they still carry a significant overhead in maintenance and support which terminals eliminate. The significance of this has been sufficient in many companies for them to extend the Thin Client system to the office based users, resulting in PCs being replaced by Terminals when they are due for replacement.

Will it make Our Systems Easier to manage and Upgrade?

Yes. A further benefit provided by a Thin Client system is the reduction in time it takes to upgrade software versions and add new users. When a new update is released for any application it only has to be applied to the single application on the Thin Client server, and not on every PC installed on the network. When a new user is added, you simply need to create a policy that determines what applications they can access, and they are ready to go. There are no security issues with Thin Client as user authentication and access rights are still controlled by the Domain Controllers.

Who produces Thin Client Software?

The two leading products for Thin Client systems are Microsoft Terminal Services and Citrix. The most appropriate one will depend on your exact requirements. Whilst Terminal Services has been developed significantly in recent times and is sufficient for many companies, Citrix offers a number of significant advantages which for some installations are essential.

Traditional Network

Traditional Network

Each application runs locally on every PC. The local network is sufficient to carry the necessary data between servers and PCs, but remote connections are too slow to support remote users.

Thin Client Network

Thin Client Network
The Thin Client server runs applications on behalf of the users, and only sends monitor, keyboard and mouse information to the user’s PC or terminal. Remote connections are able to support this small amount of data, allowing remote users to run office applications at speeds similar to that of office users.