Closing the PC/TC experience gap for good

Digital transformation can be much easier while remaining secure – certain entrenched preconceptions just have to transform first.

clowns stormtrooper star wars workstations computers office team
Kenny Louie (CC BY 2.0)

When thin clients were first introduced to the market in 1995, there was a cultural backlash. Thin clients may have made working with company data less costly and more secure, but from the workers’ perspective, their PC was replaced by a little box connected by a serial cable, with limited graphics that was much slower than the PC they were used to working on every day.

In those early days, even as we swapped the serial cables for network ones, shrunk the cases, and doubled the performance, it didn’t take long before thin clients were banished to niche use cases, becoming the territory of call centers, nurses’ stations and manufacturing plants—often to those workers’ disappointment.

Until recently, this was the status quo. The experience gap compared to PCs made it tough for thin clients to reach any deep level of market adoption, despite their power saving, cost and security benefits.

But here in 2018, that experience gap has all but closed, just as the rise of the mobile workforce has made security substantially more difficult for IT teams. Suddenly, thin clients seem like a pretty great idea.

How thin clients have become the hero we need

The widespread transformation of the workforce has hit IT teams harder than anyone. As employees take their devices from location to location, connecting to a variety of networks, security becomes tricky to say the least.

There’s just so much that can go wrong and research tells us 95% of breaches originate at the endpoint, or client device. What if a worker connects to an unsecured network and falls victim to a man-in-the-middle attack that compromises company data? What if they lose their device, or it gets stolen, along with all the sensitive corporate information they’ve saved on it?

At the same time, mobility can create productivity challenges for workers who use on-prem or resource-intensive apps. How do you ensure every employee has access to the applications they need and that those applications work well on mobile devices?

Thin clients with digital workspaces / VDI enable companies to securely deliver an entire OS environment, including all the apps a worker needs, across a reliable network. Cyber criminals can’t snoop on VDI environments even when on an unsecured network, and employees can’t save information directly to thin clients, so there’s a near zero risk associated with lost or stolen devices and almost no attack surface to speak of.

Moreover, apps deliver similar performance on VDI-enabled thin clients as desktop PCs, eliminating a huge roadblock for workers who use resource-intensive software. The thin client user experience is now virtually the same as a PC user experience now, and IT is taking notice.

But if thin clients are so good, why are they so rare?

The thing your mother told you about first impressions is true. When people think of thin clients, they remember 1996 and are skeptical that a box with bad graphics will solve their problems.

But what they don’t know is how outstanding thin client and VDI technology has become. The rise of GPU virtualization, or vGPU alone went a long way toward closing the experience gap between thin clients and PCs, enabling a latency-free experience even when working in resource-intensive design or visualization applications.

Faster servers, gigabit networking and higher-performance endpoints went the rest of the distance. Working on a thin client today is not only highly secure, it’s a high-quality experience.

Thin client technology is even evolving a step further. You can now connect your thin client to multiple 60-hertz 4K monitors and still see latency-free performance. DDR4 memory increases the performance and bandwidth while decreasing the power consumption.

You can customize your devices in a variety of ways to work for your company or for individual employees:

  • Your IT team is free to use the VDI environment they want, whether it’s Citrix, Microsoft, or VMware.
  • Employees don’t just get a box, they get a variety of mounting and display options, so they can fit a thin client into their workstation in a way that best suits their style.
  • Expanded chassis options allows for discrete graphics cards to drive the latest displays, but still include support for Common Access Cards (CAC), VGA or legacy port options.
  • Customize the CPU, memory and key features to hit the price/performance point you want.

In other words, you can deliver the simple, yet robust, security your IT team wants with the high-quality, low-latency experience workers need and expect. All you have to do is give thin clients a fresh look.

Digital transformation can be much easier while remaining secure – certain entrenched preconceptions just have to transform first.

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