Choosing between ‘Thin vs Zero’ Clients for Virtual Desktop Computing


Choosing between thin clients or PCoIP zero clients for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure VDI is never easy. This is all the more so with the great number of choices in the market. Making a decision between these two takes time and technical thought. Companies that need more clarity on what they do and how they work would agree with this. All this is valid, considering how thin and zero clients can be similar in many ways.

What exactly are thin clients and zero clients? To begin with, they are small devices which offload workloads to back-end servers. Both:

. Reduce costs.

. Improve data security.

. Involve minimum maintenance.

. Are energy efficient, easy to set up and replace.

The question is: how can you choose between them to match the needs of your VDI plan?

As we shall see, both are actually quite different in terms of the features they offer. Let’s examine the following aspects so that you know what we mean.

Sizing and Capacity Planning

Start with sizing and capacity planning for a successful VDI setup. There are many key factors to consider, such as:

  1. What is your staff’s current and desired computer usage?
  2. What workload levels do users expect to manage with a specific thin or zero client?
  3. What resources can users draw on from a thin or zero client?
  4. What are the graphic needs of your users?

All these matter especially in situations where users launch many VDI sessions per VM. The key is to ensure optimal LAN traffic and high performance at all costs.

Now, when planning for VDI size and capacity, thin client computing is best because:

  •         It saves energy costs.
  •         It is hassle-free. This is because these devices have limited moving parts.
  •         It offers centralized control. In turn, IT can easily handle desktops, software access and upgrades. This is important if businesses manage remote teams in multiple locations.
  •         It makes planning and forecasting easy. Note that data processing and storage is centrally performed in Thin Client setups. IT can easily assess current activity and plan for serving future users on these grounds.

While zero clients offer the same, they are useful where:

  •         IT needs the fastest boot-up. These devices boot up very quickly and are not affected by viruses. This is because display and decoding happen inside a dedicated hardware in zero client setups. You get to reduce device downtime and boost productivity, both of which are keys to success.
  •        IT needs quick and easy device configuration. A zero client is ideal because compared to thin clients, its configuration is even simpler and faster. This works well in companies with a large number of users.
  •         Zero client software updates are few and far between.
  •         Businesses wish to do away with local storage and OS. The backend server delivers applications which limit IT roles and offer the highest possible graphics performance.
  •         Large companies have airtight privacy policy and security needs due to sensitive data.

. Businesses have optimal energy consumption rules.

Types of Users

Matching the perfect thin or zero client solution to end user application needs is the trick to high performance VDI. So, divide your staff into three main groups; task users, knowledge workers and power users. All three have different access rights and levels of IT functionality.

Firstly, assign a standard thin or zero client solution to task users. These users mostly run basic applications with lightweight browser support and entry-level device features. For instance, C3Pi Raspberry Pi 3 is the best fit for fulfilling task worker performance needs. This low-cost device is also perfect for single monitor configurations in VMware Horizon and other standard VDI setups.

Knowledge workers often manage large data sets due to which they have higher computer usage. They also work with multiple monitors and need mid-level multimedia features. For this group, choose thin and zero clients that deliver modest computer usage and offer multi-monitor features. For example, the CD8811 thin client comes with dual displays, Intel® HD graphics and PC-like UX; perfect for this team.

Lastly, power users manage large workloads. For this, they need quality video optimization, rich graphics, fast processing speeds and high-end media features. For example, Flash/HTML5, high resolution 3D, CAD support and triple or quad monitor displays. ClearCube offers many PCoIP and Specialty zero clients for these users in different fields. Examples are designers and engineers who run 3D/CAD/CAM/ simulation and geospatial programs.

Ultimately, it all comes down to end user expertise. How you set up and manage user profiles based on the type of work they do helps make an informed decision. This is important for determining which thin or zero client best suits their needs. Both have a lot to offer, each in its own way.

Thin and Zero Client Security for VDI

Businesses need VDI solutions to go beyond delivering the standard of security which PCs do. This is so because VDI functions as PC replacement technology due to which users expect more. Hence, IT must make sure that systems remain timely and responsive without creating risks that could put valuable information at stake. How can thin and zero clients help?

Let’s start with thin clients. Ideal for meeting growing security needs, they protect data centrally without having to manage complex IT systems. These devices offer high security because they do not store any data. As a result, users can access information in data centers anywhere and anytime.

For instance, doctors often access EMR through their personal devices even when they are off duty. Similarly, IT must ensure data integrity, security and flexibility for other healthcare staff to access the same files remotely. Thin clients serve a useful purpose in these situations where team members work from multiple locations. This is because they coordinate control and provide great end user support.

On the other hand, zero clients also offer the same. These are highly secure and low-maintenance solutions for managing Big Data and end user work spaces. They have all the resources needed for handling sensitive data and driving consistent productivity in high-risk companies.

Useful matches against such user needs are ClientCubes and TEMPEST certified zero clients. These devices are perfect as multi-level and multi-objective security solutions in the most demanding offices. They work well for managing highly classified data with strict security or TEMPEST standards.

Closing Thoughts

Virtual desktop computing requires thorough planning and device knowledge. This can be even more of a challenge if your IT department leans towards PC-like management practices. With a little upfront training on managing thin and zero clients, this does not need to be the case.

Always consider both current and future use cases when choosing between both endpoints. For IT teams, this allows them to do more than just draw on great host-rendering efficiencies. They can also guarantee quality user experience over different network conditions in VDI setups. This provides simplicity and security in meeting business goals without fail.

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