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November 17, 2020

How Does A Thin Client Work?

What is a Thin Client?

More often than not, people ask, “What is a Thin Client and how does it work?” In its simplest form, a Thin Client is a purpose-built device used to access remote resources over a network. It can cost less in comparison to a standard desktop or laptop computer. It is a small form-factor device that operates using a low-voltage processor, on-board flash storage, memory, NIC, and a few other ports. Its design keeps moving parts down to a minimum and power consumption very low. This small device doesn't need a fan to keep the internals and CPU cooled down. That, combined with the tiny physical footprint of a Thin Client, can really work in almost any workspace configuration you may have. You can even have a Thin Client mounted to the back of an existing monitor using VESA mounting holes. And, some come embedded into the monitor itself. So, you only need to power a single device. Talk about portability and saving some serious desk real estate.

Is a Thin Client good for graphics?

A Thin Client also caters to end users needing more graphic capabilities. Most Thin Clients will support one to two monitors as standard. You can also opt-in to add DisplayPort and HDMI ports to support up to four 4K monitors from a Thin Client. A graphic end user’s dream! Also, imagine powering a company's Network Operation Center's monitoring systems with only a couple of Thin Clients connected to eight 4K displays. You also are guaranteed to get multiple USB ports for your keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals, plus 1GBps Ethernet ports for network connectivity. On many of these devices, you can add a wireless adapter as well for when you don't have a convenient connection to plug into. And, when security is top priority and access using a CAC card reader is required, many Thin Clients also include that support as well.

So, what are Thin Clients used for?

Ok, so you can start to picture what a Thin Client looks like, and probably begin to understand what you can physically connect to one by now. But, what software will run on a Thin Client and what are they generally used for? Now, when an end user sits down at his/her desk and presses the power button on a Thin Client, they will either be presented with a Linux or Windows-based Operating System. This just depends on what came installed when the device was customized and purchased. Both of these Operating Systems are much smaller versions compared to what you might see on a fat PC and are purposefully built to run on Thin Clients and similar IoT device types. They are created to boot fast, be secure, and run a minimal set of applications and required tools. While you can run a variety of applications on the OS itself, the primary application is going to be the remote desktop client. This could be Citrix, Microsoft, VMware, or some other desktop virtualization platform that is set up by an IT Department.

The point is that a Thin Client will support all of these major VDI and Server-based computing environments out there, working with the latest protocols for each. IT Admins install and configure only the relevant client for the end user environment to connect, and they are good to go. Your end users will just need to launch the app from the Thin Client and they will be working from a remote desktop or app hosted in the Cloud in a matter of seconds. Often, an end user will have no idea that they are even working from an application hosted in the Cloud. The experience is no different than applications natively installed on the endpoint device itself.

A Thin Client VDI environment example:

Let’s take an example of using a Thin Client to connect to your existing on-premise VMware Horizon environment. Pretend IT has already configured the Thin Client, so it knows what URL to connect to. The end user simply launches the Horizon client from the desktop. Once the application loads, the end user enters personal credentials and clicks connect. Since they entered the correct password, behind the scenes they will begin to establish a Blast connection over port 22443 TCP or UDP (depending on what’s been setup) between the Thin Client and Horizon VDI desktop. While the VDI session is up, all traffic will go over this port and all processing will be done in the end user’s data center. Once the Horizon Client is closed, the session is disconnected and the port is closed. To start a new session, the end user would need to re-enter their credentials to be authenticated again.

Are Thin Clients just for on-premise?

Thin Clients aren’t constrained to working with just on-premise environments anymore. Sure, they have a long history of working with local VDI installs, like Citrix XenApp or VMware Horizon environments, and those do work rock solid. But, they can also connect to a DaaS (Desktop as a Service), or public cloud hosted desktop, or server-based applications as well, like Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop or Amazon WorkSpaces. As long as the network has been configured for the required ports based on protocol, permissions are set up, and there is an available resource at the destination and you should be ready for connection. Thin Clients really are purpose-built to connect to these remote computing environment, no matter where they are housed.

"What" manages Thin Clients?

A centralized management system can be used to deploy, manage, and update Thin Clients. This management software can discover existing Thin Clients, push settings and configurations, update them, install software, and remotely control them when an end-user needs desk side assistance. Forget having to go to each workstation to manually upgrade computers after the latest security update comes out. Or, say a new version of the Remote Desktop client just came out and you need to schedule the install overnight. All of these tasks and many more can be automated and done from the single management system.

Why 10ZiG for Thin Clients?

Leveraging Thin Clients in a VDI environment is a super easy way to get end users set up and connected in the fastest way possible in-office, or remote. They take up next to no space, while still giving you all of the ports needed to connect favorite devices and displays. They support all of the popular remote desktop protocols to connect to a VDI or DaaS environment, ensuring that company data stays off of endpoint devices. It’s easy to see why companies are switching to Thin Clients on desks for a secure cost-effective desktop virtualization solution.

It’s even easier to see why companies are switching to 10ZiG Thin Clients with The 10ZiG Manager™ centralized management software. If you're still in the process of setting up end users in office or at home, 10ZiG offers Thin & Zero Clients for VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft, as well as other leading VDI vendors using Linux and Windows 10 IoT based platforms on x86 Intel/AMD hardware. Add in The 10ZiG Manager™ Server and you're a success! 10ZiG is an endpoint provider that provides top-quality VDI endpoints, enterprise software, service, and warranties. You can reach us at sales@10zig.com or +1 (866) 865-5250 for a no-cost consultation and/or get your FREE demo.