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Thin client thrives in Web services era

Cost, security benefits

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Reg Reader Studies Thin client appliances continue to offer significant advantages over personal computers for major enterprises, according to a survey of Register readers published this week.

A survey of 1,624 IT pros conducted by QNB Intelligence, the market research division of analyst firm Quocirca, found that thin client appliances are “more affordable, secure, manageable and reliable” than PCs.

Overall, 38 per cent indicated use of Microsoft Terminal Server, 27 per cent use Citrix and approximately 20 per cent said they used other products.

Of the "other" technologies mentioned by respondents, the most popular was VNC, an open source server-based computing technology used by seven per cent of respondents. "Use of VNC appears to be very tactical at the moment so it is more of a potential threat to Microsoft than to Citrix," QNB Intelligence notes.

Thin client benefits

Four in five (81 per cent) of thin client users indicated that the initial investment in server-based computing saved their companies at least 10-20 per cent compared the cost of setting up comparable PC networks. Half of these same respondents said their corporations save 30 per cent or more when thin clients are deployed instead of PCs.

Users also save on supports costs by following the thin-client model. While 26 per cent of the respondents term PC administration a minor task, 78 per cent of thin client appliance users consider thin client appliance administration a minor task.

Thin client appliances were also deemed more durable. For example, 17 per cent of respondents believe their PCs will last five years or more, compared with 58 per cent who believe their thin client appliances will last more than five years. This isdouble the life span of a PC, according to 60 per cent of the respondents.

Users of thin client devices also benefit from a lower exposure to security problems, according to the survey. More than half (52 per cent) of PC administrators reported installing more than 20 security patches over the last year; only four per cent had installed none. In comparison, 55 per cent of thin client appliance administrators had installed no patches.

Think strategically, act tactically

The survey concludes that the thin-client approach sits comfortably with modern Web architectures, mobile technology and enterprise applications.

However, Quocirca advises organisations should be careful about how they deploy thin client systems if they expect to unlock their full benefits.

Quocirca concludes: "A variety of practical issues with server-based computing and thin clients were highlighted, but most of these were no different to any other network based application such as email or ERP. Perceived lack of flexibility and a need to work off-line were more genuine concerns for some types of user. Organisations wishing to gain the benefit of SBC and Thin client must avoid getting distracted by this minority.

"The rewards are there for those who select the right targets for deployment," it added.

“This research alleviates some of the myths around thin client computing,” said Dale Vile, services director at QNB Intelligence. “Respondents utilized both thin client appliances and personal computers and their experience clearly demonstrate that organizations can receive significant benefits in cost savings, security, manageability and reliability by deploying thin client solutions.”

Full findings of the survey, entitled The Use of Server Based Computing and Thin Client Technology, can be found here (free download). The survey was sponsored by server-based computing vendor Citrix and thin client software and systems outfit Neoware Systems.

The survey is the first fruits of our newly-revamped Reg Reader Studies. Many thanks to everyone who participated this time around. Readers are invited to sign up for participation in future studies here. Already, more than 3,000 people have signed up, so come and join us for the ride. ®

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