June 09, 2014

The Value of Thin Clients in a DaaS or SaaS Environment

Back in the day, long before the internet became a household word and even before "personal computers" even existed, if you used a computer, the odds are you actually were using a terminal connected to a server somewhere. While the concept of "client/server" computing may seem like a new concept, it has actually been around for decades. That's because each terminal connected to a server is, in concept, a client.

As technology progressed and the "personal computer" became inexpensive enough to land on every desktop and laptops became a necessity to maintain connectivity, the core concepts of the client/server arrangement sort of fell by the wayside. Granted, in some specific situations, you'd still terminals connected to HP or IBM servers like an IBM 3270 or even a PC connected via a thin client software host. Most computers were either standalone units or were connected to a network to share resources such as storage space, interoffice email connectivity or even internet connectivity. On the whole, all the software a user required was loaded on each computer in the business.

This meant the IT department not only had to maintain updates, clean systems and keep toner in the printers, but they had to continually upgrade hardware and software to stay ahead of constantly changing business and office needs. Regardless of whether the office ran custom software or standard out-of-the-box products, in order to stay ahead of the curve, IT departments would have to ensure users were either using current generation equipment or, at worst, one generation back.

Needless to say, all these software and hardware upgrades are expensive, especially in a large corporation. Granted, the overall cost of performance has dropped dramatically over the last decade, however the baseline costs to stay current have either stayed the same, or even increased. This leaves IT managers as well as other management such as the Chief Financial Officer looking for ways to minimize those expenses.

Welcome to today.

Today, we have office networks running at a gigabit, internet connections in a person's home running as fast as 60mps and with WiFi and 3G/4G connectivity, even netbooks and laptops can connect to an office network quickly and easily. With so much bandwidth available, such concepts as Data as a Service (DaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) are becoming more and more commonplace. Cloud computing isn't just a concept anymore, it has become a practice. This means all an IT department has to do is either upgrade on the main servers or to ensure subscriptions to software and storage areas are paid. Far less computing power is required on each desktop to provide the same, or an even better level of performance with SaaS/DaaS than with other processes.

This has ushered in a resurgence of the client/server concept so ubiquitous decades ago. Now, a device with just enough computing power to connect to the workplace network, any user can have full access to all the software they need with plenty of performance, even for processor intensive operations. That's because all the support for the software and usage is provided through the servers, not the clients. This reduces costs and increases efficiency dramatically.

While current office desktop units can still support everything required for your needs, the computing playing field continues to change. By going to a client/server SaaS/DaaS system now, fewer hardware and software upgrades will be required in the future. Also, with internet connectivity, workers outside the office can have just as much power and access to required software, data and resources as someone sitting at a desk.

Not only that, but the concept of a true thin client becomes far more important. A thin client today is actually that "just enough" computer to connect to the network with whatever support is needed to access the SaaS/DaaS systems. These aren't the super powered IT departments have had to continually upgrade and maintain. Most thin client computers today are essentially small boxes connected to necessary peripherals such as monitors, keyboards and mice. Some are even more simplistic with the thin client hardware all enclosed in the monitor with only a wireless keyboard and mouse.

In some respects, by utilizing the current client/server model, the computing industry has come around full circle. Today, however, with so much power available through high speed networking, IT managers have far more inexpensive solutions to current problems and problems that will arise in the future. Going back to a true client/server foundation enables the IT department to focus on what's important, not in running around for updates and upgrades.

If you're looking for a solution that will carry your office into the future, take a look at today's client/server setups with a thin client instead of staying with the current computing model. You'll find better performance, increased up-time, easier maintenance and lower cost of ownership.