[Overview] What Is a Thin Client & Its Pros/Cons and Examples? [MiniTool Wiki]

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Thin Client Definition

Thin client computers play as components of a broader computing infrastructure, where a lot of clients share their computations with a server or server farm. The server-side infrastructure makes use of cloud computing programs like hosted shared desktop (HSD), virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and app virtualization.

Thin client hardware generally supports common peripherals including monitors, keyboards, mice, open ports for USB devices (such as flash drive, printers, and webcams), as well as jacks for sound peripherals.

Some thin client PCs consist of (legacy) serial or parallel ports to support older devices like time clocks, receipt printers, or scales. Typically, thin client software includes cloud access agents (like ICA, RDP, or PCoIP), a graphical user interface (GUI), a local web browser, terminal emulators (for some situations), and a basic set of local utilities.

Tip:
  • ICA refers to independent computing architecture.
  • PCoIP means PC over IP, a proprietary remote display protocol (RDP) by Teradici company.

Thin Client OS

A Thin client OS is an operating system that powers a thin client, enabling the device to run.

Advantages of Using Thin Client Technology

The thin client combination forms what is called a cloud-based system, where desktop resources are centralized at at least one data center. This centralization brings some benefits such as optimization of hardware, reduced software management, and improved data security.

1. Hardware Resource Optimization

Taking advantage of the thin client methodology optimizes the usage of the hardware equipment within the system. For example, bussing, input/output (I/O), and cabling can be minimized while idle memory and processing power can be assigned to user sessions where need those resources most.

2. Software Maintenance Simplification

With the thin client deployment, software patching and OS migration can be applied, tested, and activated for all users in one instance to accelerate roll-out and improve administrative efficiency thus reducing the cost to run the whole system.

3. Security Improvement

Within the thin client setup, software assets are centralized and are easily monitored and protected by firewalls. The sensitive data is uncompromised in case of device loss.

Also read: [FYI] Desktop as a Service & Other “as a Service” Solutions

Disadvantages of Thin Client Technology

Thin clients have many advantages including the above one. Yet, they still have some limitations.

  • Thin clients are extremely dependent on a continuous Internet connection.
  • Slower network than relying on internal computer components.
  • Servers have to be sized correctly to deliver the right amount of resources to each client.

Think Client vs Thin Client

In contrast with the thin client, there is a thick client (also called fat client, rich client, or heavy client) or a conventional PC. A thick client also aims to work in a client-server model yet has significant local processing power. However, a conventional personal computer intends to carry out its functions mostly locally.  

Best Thin Clients for Your References

Below is a list of some of the popular thin clients in the market.

  • Dell WYSE 3000 3040 thin client
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Intel Ghost Canyon NUC
  • Lenovo ThinkCentre M625q
  • HP T430 thin client
  • CHUWI GBox Pro thin client PC
  • T5 Mini PC Intel Z8350 Windows 10 Pro computer stick
  • Traditional x86 thin clients
  • AcePC AK7 thin client PC
  • Acute Angle AA B4 desktop mini PC
  • Azulle Access3 Mini PC
  • Beelink L55 thin client mini PC
  • Mii Mini PC
  • Minix NEO J50C thin-client PC
Tip: [Overview] Remote Desktop Services Definition and Functions
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