Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has brought renewed interest to alternative endpoints, especially thin clients. After all, if the desktop is running remotely as a virtual machine, why should you use an expensive, power-hungry PC to access it?
However, thin clients are far from perfect. Thin clients may be less expensive, as well as easier to and service than a PC, but those advantages are only evident when comparing a new thin client purchase against a new PC purchase. In fact, VDI offers the most bang for the buck when used with legacy PCs, eliminating the need to buy new client hardware.
Even if a client hardware refresh is on your agenda, you'll want to weigh the advantages of thin clients carefully. Most thin clients are based on technologies that were developed for terminal services solutions. They have CPUs and operating systems, and they require software installation, configuration, and maintenance. Like PCs, they must be provisioned and managed. In other words, though thin clients offer advantages over PCs, they carry some of the same baggage.
Zero client trade-offs
If you're willing to sacrifice some flexibility, you can eliminate this baggage entirely with a zero client. Unlike a thin client, a zero client has no local processing and no operating system, nor does it require software installation or configuration. It's a tiny, ultrasimple, plug-and-play device that uses very little power, never needs maintenance, and can be deployed in an instant by any end-user with enough brains to breathe.