The smart way to slim down

IT budgets are being squeezed. As a result, companies are investing in “slimmed down” PCs or thin clients to lower costs and ease computing complexity. Analysts expect thin-client sales to grow almost tenfold over current sales and reach 8.7 million by 2005, according to International Data Corp.

Thin clients, desktop devices that exist only on a network, download applications from the server and store all of their applications and data on the server. They give CIOs an easy-to-manage platform that can provide a higher ROI (in terms of money saved, through decreased IS support costs and faster application deployment) than desktop PCs.

“Thin clients are an IT manager’s dream. These devices can be managed and updated remotely, from one console. The control provided by thin clients will reduce your IT staffing costs,” says Bob O’Donnell, research director of device technology at IDC.

Among O’Donnell’s other recommendations:

1. Assess your current infrastructure. Thin clients require highly reliable connectivity to a centralized server. “You’ll need a Windows 2000 server or NT Terminal Server Edition that has more storage capability and processing power to handle thin clients, since nothing is stored on the devices and everything is stored on the server,” O’Donnell says.

2. When considering thin clients, CIOs need to find an area in their organization where they can deploy approximately 50 thin clients or more to see whether they are appropriate. Because thin clients are configured at the server level, setting up 100 thin clients is as easy as setting up one. “IT managers won’t see the benefit of thin clients by testing for usability and feasibility one at a time or here and there,” O’Donnell says.

3. Thin clients are not for everyone. Select a department or area of the company where employees do very specific, highly standardized tasks, and deploy thin clients in a subsection of this department. Thin clients are a good fit in call centres, customer centers, claims departments, data entry, technical support desks, bank branch offices, and training centres or educational computer labs.