Nov 03 2009

Are Thin Clients Right for Your Schools?

A thin infrastructure offers benefits beyond cost savings.

Before deploying thin clients, it pays to do your homework: Read the literature, look at case studies and talk to software makers and users.

That's what my tech team did and after a few months of our pilot, my only wish is that we had started using thin clients sooner. The cost savings are better than I had imagined, our maintenance work is a fraction of what it used to be, and our users couldn't be happier.

If you're wondering whether thin clients are right for your organization, here are some points to consider:

  • Thin clients set up with ease. Our pilot units found our Citrix Systems server and practically configured themselves. But we also realized we needed to put more time into our Citrix XenApp configuration to fully tap its functionality.

  • Have your end users try out a few units. They may find uses that hadn't occurred to you. It's one thing for IT to select a solution; it's another for a business user to try it and say, “Wow, this solves so many issues for us.”

  • Individualize each machine. Many users don't need the features on standard computers. Our manufacturing team needs only web access, so we can save on application licensing costs.

    Production managers who need standard Microsoft Office applications can use the same thin clients with those applications pushed out to them. We can even push out applications to our remote facilities and manage everything centrally. The only limitation we've found so far is that thin clients don't work well for mobile users who have limited access to the Internet.

  • Virus prevention is simpler. Users can't install the latest games from the Internet because only IT administrators have access rights.

  • Wireless devices work just fine. Instead of hard-wiring our 100,000-square-foot manufacturing floor, I can set up 20 access points that will cover the thin clients and our barcode scanners.

If you're still not sure whether thin clients are for you, take another look. Like I said, my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner.