Lower energy bills, longer lifecycle boost thin client's green appeal

Shifting from PCs to thin clients can save a company upwards of 25 percent in power savings, according to a newly released report from Forrester. The potential energy savings is driving IT execs to reconsider moving from trading in users' thick clients for thin ones.

Shifting from PCs to thin clients can save a company upwards of 25 percent in power savings, according to a newly released report from Forrester. The potential energy savings is driving IT execs to reconsider moving from trading in users' thick clients for thin ones.

The lower power bills can be attributed to the fact that thin clients "consume anywhere from 6 to 50 watts — far less than the 150 to 350 watts used by typical PCs," according to Forrester report, titled "Green Benefits Put Thin-Client Computing Back On The Desktop Hardware Agenda." Less energy consumption, of course, also means fewer carbon emissions, which is becoming a greater selling point for eco-conscious companies.

Forrester points to a second green advantage that thin clients hold over PCs: a longer lifecycle. "Unlike PCs and laptops, which commonly have a three- to four-year replacement cycle, thin clients last an average of seven years. They slow down technology’s inevitable slide into obsolescence because they have fewer points of failure and rarely need upgrades."

Green (and cost-saving) advantages aside, thin clients can demonstrably reduce IT help-desk visits to users' cubicles for PC maintenance, as well as time spent on patches. That's because the heavy lifting is taking place on central servers to which all the clients are connected. (In the case of NComputing's thin-client offering, that central server may actually be a desktop PC.)

Add to the appeal of thin clients the security benefits: If a thief somehow makes off with a user's thin client, said baddie won't have access to sensitive information, as data is stored remotely. (You can read more about my take on the benefits of thin clients right here.)

Thin clients aren't without their shortcomings, the report notes. For starters, they're well-suited for running more complex applications, nor for mobile workers. Thus, they're better suited for "call center, finance, and human resource employees than, say, on-the-go members of the sales team or software developers who rely on software compilers and need to multitask, the report says.

Moreover, companies contemplating a move to thin clients may find resistance from users, the Forrester report notes: "Users accustomed to working in an unmanaged PC environment where desktops are configured to personal preferences often see thin-client deployment as a loss of personal control."

Forrester's report "Green Benefits Put Thin-Client Computing Back On The Desktop Hardware Agenda" is available here for $279.

My question for my readers: What's your take on thin clients? Do you use them at your organization -- or have you considered and rejected them?

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