This concept is widely accepted on a very large scale. In a traditional or fat-client environment, applications are stored locally, and data is stored centrally. Whenever we have to open a file, the entire file is transferred to the local PC, with the results being saved back across the LAN/WAN to the central storage area. Server/client architecture handle this process slightly differently, but processing still takes place at the local PC. This requires high bandwidth to each PC. But this thin client technology states that applications do not run locally on PCs with all of their associated challenges and costs, but applications run centrally with only keyboard, video and mouse updates transmitted across the network. In this bandwidth usage is minimum as compared to traditional PC/server environments.
Also Read: Cloud Computing
Thin Clients are generally low powered computers that do not have a hard disk drive but carry flash memory. So there is also no operating system. And since these are low powered systems, all processing is done on the server instead of the thin client itself. It is a computer or a computer program which depends heavily on some other computer known as a server to fulfill its traditional computational roles. Certain types of thin clients may have full fledged OS capabilities. The most common type of modern thin client is a low-end computer terminal which concentrates solely on providing a graphical user interface to the end-user. The remaining functionality, in particular, the operating system provided by the server.
Types of Thin Client
Web thin client
Web thin clients are lame clients dependent on web-based software for the application and data storage. Hence, the internet connection can become the point of failure.
This type of client is also called as zero clients. In this the kernel is responsible for initializing the network, begins the networking protocol, and handles display of the server’s output.
A Run-Time Environment (RTE) client contains task-specific and various tools like kernel, libraries, BIOS, firmware, plug-ins etc to run only those applications. It contains all and only the code needed to accomplish its specific task, thus it is more than a zero client but less than typical thin client computer. RTE clients are mostly found in stable environments demanding high security.
Also Read: Cluster Computing
Working Of Thin Client
Thin clients are actually individual computer systems. The thin client machine operated by a user contains its own Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), its own memory, network connections, and even its own operating system. Because it contains its own operating environment, a thin client is capable of booting into an operable state without any network assistance. In most thin client deployments, however, the similarities with a standard personal computer end after the client is fully booted.
When a thin client is fully booted, special software on the machine uses a built-in network connection to access an application server. Most of the software that a thin client runs–applications like word processors, spreadsheets, graphic design, drafting packages, and even web browsers–reside on a network server rather than on the individual user’s desktop machine. For this reason, a thin client does not require a large amount of Random Access Memory (RAM), nor does it require a large hard drive to store applications.
On a personal desktop computer, the user is usually responsible for obtaining, installing, and maintaining any software packages that may be needed. Since a thin client relies on a network server to provide the software, however, this responsibility falls on the network administrator. In a thin client environment, network administrators determine what software is required by users, then install and maintain that software on the server to which clients connect. In some cases, special network licenses must be obtained for the software, but many packages will run on the server as a single instance.
Advantages of Thin Client computing: There are a number of advantages of using this technology. Some of the main advantages are:-
Savings in time and resources:
All applications, programs and software including anti-virus need to be installed only once i.e. on the server instead of so many PCs individually.This results in substantial time savings of personnel which can be put to more production.
Low downtime and high productivity:
A frequent complaint of computer users is that their hard disk drive has crashed or the operating system has corrupted files and consequently is not booting up.With Thin Clients, users cannot install, uninstall or delete any system, software or files other than those in their own “My Documents” folder. Only the Administrator can do so. As a result, there is near zero downtime and high levels of productivity.
Until the server is switched on, no user can access any files, even from his own “My documents” folder. It will be trying to access information from a PC that is off. Even a pen drive will not work, which otherwise renders a desktop PC extremely vulnerable to data theft.
In case of Thin Clients, a user is not restricted to being at his designated workstation. He can make any workstation his own.
No data loss:
In case of power failure, all desktop PCs lose data (In case of thin clients, if the client machines switch off, there is no such problem. The server switches over to the single UPS and the data can be safely backed up or saved. When power is restored, the user returns to the same spot he was working on without any loss of data.
- Centralized operations and controls.
- No need to take up the backup from many different PCs. Simply take backup from one place i.e.
- Instant savings due to lower expenditure on the base operating system.
Disadvantage: Some of the general disadvantages of using this computing is-
The Server- One of the main disadvantages of a thin client computer is the server itself. Since thin clients do not process anything or store any data on their own, they require a connection to a server to handle these tasks for them. In case of any failure to the server, all connected thin clients are affected, and they will not work.
Network Bandwidth Issues: Since thin clients require a connection to a server, they are also dependent on the networking infrastructure. As with issues associated with the server going down, if thin clients lose their connection to the server due to a network outage, they will not work.
Lack of Multimedia Support: Media-rich applications like audio and video require a lot of networks resources as well as computing power to play. With thin clients, computing power is shared among all the clients connected to the computer. Bandwidth used to deliver packets between the server and thin client is also shared between all connections. Due to these resources being at a premium in a thin-client setting, resource-rich multimedia applications do not run effectively on these machines. For example, thin clients are often overwhelmed and stop working when they are required to stream media or use Flash players.
Some other disadvantages are:
- The number of clients makes the server expensive and complicated
- Operating systems like Windows are designed to run on local resources. This actually makes them less flexible, in direct contradiction to it proposed goals
- Thick clients also allow background data transfer while working on other tasks using local resources. Thin clients also make it difficult to track individual user behavior, which is often analyzed to provide more customized responses to frequently asked requests and predict future user behavior for more efficient use of resources. Finally, thin clients create server-side bottleneck and scalability issues.