Thin client v Zero client. The battle for the VDI environment has begun.

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As IT requirements continue to increase exponentially, the need for organizations to streamline systems, reduce clutter and maintain a highly organized workplace at all times is growing by the day. 

Ask any IT professional what percentage of their working week they spend clearing their colleague’s PCs of viruses, installing new or updating existing software, and you wonder how they find the time to tackle their own workload. 

This is the world of the time-consuming and budget sapping PC (aka Fat client or Thick client) IT environment. It’s a world that requires more IT staff, consumes more power and ultimately is a drain on the financial resources of the organization. 

To add to an already challenging situation, the increasing demand for a more mobile workforce and remote collaborative working has been the driving force behind a huge migration to the cloud.  

But it has also raised questions about the quality of the user experience, not to mention the need to ensure the security of the data, the network and the operational systems themselves. 

Quadris has seen the future and it’s the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. 

As a direct result, forward thinking IT heads are looking to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment to provide the energy reduction, cost savings and performance improvements necessary if an organization is to compete in the modern business world. 

A cutting-edge VDI environment enables you to store your data and applications in a central server while offering all the features of a PC, but with enhanced security, seamless software and hardware upgrades, powerful connectivity, all wrapped up in the very latest functionality. 

To achieve this time and money saving goal, many organizations are saying goodbye to the PC, and are embracing the future in the form of Thin client or Zero client technology – lightweight computers that are slowly, but surely, replacing familiar desktop hardware.  

Both offer VDI and computing power which resides on networked servers. Similarly, providing the user has access to the network, they both offer a consistent standardized experience on any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile. And with security in mind they are equally less vulnerable to viruses and malware and are equally economical when it comes to power usage. 

But which of these 2 cutting-edge solutions is right for you? 

Thin client or Zero client, what’s the difference? 

To start with, let’s take a look at the basics. 

  Thin client  Zero client 
Processor  Yes  Yes 
Memory  >1GB  512MB 
Removable Storage  Yes  No 
Operating System (OS)  Yes  No 
Firmware  No  Yes 
Hardware Acceleration  Yes  Yes 
Easy to manage  No  Yes 

While this table sheds some light on their core differences, what is more relevant is how these affect their functionality. 

The user experience: With end user needs in mind, Thin clients simply require the IT manager to install the required applications in order to offer a more rounded desktop experience. This provides users with all the requisite browsers, email functionality, enterprise-grade productivity applications, and connectivity to any legacy client/server applications. With Zero clients, users are limited to the applications that are made available from the data centre server. 

Speed and functionality: Designed to be a remote computer terminal, a Thin client has no hard drive and far fewer moving parts than a PC, while a Zero client has no Operating System, no hard drive and no moving parts, as a result it relies upon dedicated firmware to decode and digitally process PCoIP, HDX or RemoteFX DVI protocols. The end result is that Zero clients enjoy greater efficiencies than Thin clients and consequently boot up much faster which can improve user productivity. 

Flexibility v Visibility: Another difference lies in the connection types available. With Thin clients there are multiple VDI connection types managed via a central utility. Zero clients make do with just one or two connection types, most notably Citric or VMware, and have the option whether to be managed centrally or not. While this provides Thin clients with greater flexibility, Zero clients benefit from far more robust graphics and videos. 

Updates and configuration: While both require fewer and less frequent software updates than the PC, Thin clients still require more updates and on a much larger scale than Zero clients. Furthermore, configuration is faster and easier with Zero clients and require minimal software updates and maintenance. 

Security: With no Operating System to infect and no data storage to worry about, when it comes to security Zero clients are by far the safer option. Moreover, as users are unable to install unauthorized (and potentially infected) software, copy sensitive data to flash drives, or accidentally delete any important system files; this greatly reduces the vast majority of threats incurred by users of both PCs or Thin clients. 

How can I be sure that I make the right choice? 

By far the best way to choose between Thin client and Zero client options is to contact Quadris. For a more in-depth conversation about the particular needs of your organization’s IT setup, please contact Peter Grayson on 0345 163 1080 or email peter.grayson@quadris.co.uk