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When should IT use thin clients for VDI?

Thin clients are less expensive than PCs, but they also come with limitations. Find out if thin clients will work well within your organization.

Thin client devices offer numerous advantages over PCs, such as a lower acquisition cost and lower maintenance costs -- but thin clients are not a good fit for every use case.

Many organizations replace desktop PCs with thin clients that are attached to backend VDI systems. Before deploying thin clients for VDI, IT pros must consider how they will use them. There are several key factors that determine whether thin clients will work in an organization.

Thin client considerations

Thin client devices commonly consist of little more than a video display and input devices such as a keyboard and a mouse. The backend VDI system handles nearly all computing tasks. This means that all keyboard and mouse inputs must traverse the network as they are processed. Display refreshes must also traverse the network. This means that having reliable connectivity is an absolute must for organizations using thin clients.

A thin client device depends on network connectivity, so thin client devices might not be the best choice for branch offices. This is not to say that these branch offices can't use these devices, but rather that the connection to the VDI system must be fast and reliable enough to ensure a good end-user experience.

IT pros should also consider application usage prior to deploying thin clients for VDI. There was a time when thin client environments were only suitable for lightweight tasks such as checking email or working on a spreadsheet. Today, most VDI systems have the ability to map a dedicated GPU to a user session, which makes it possible for users to run more graphically intensive applications. Even so, latency and limited display resolutions tend to make thin clients a poor choice for graphically intensive applications such as video editing, CAD drawing or photo editing.

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