need some advice on thin clients

Discussion in 'Networking' started by ThePiston, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. ThePiston

    ThePiston Senior member

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    I'm in a small office with about 10 employees and 15 work stations. Right now we all have our own PCs, but I'm getting tired of maintaining them. I want to move into a virtualized environment with thin clients.

    I think I understand it well - set up a server and install either VMware or Vyper-V. Create a virtual OS and have everyone tunnel into it with their thin client.

    Can anyone tell me if there's a minimum level thin client I should be looking for? I only want my staff to be working on a simple industry program and maybe some browsing - no video or other CPU/GPU intensive tasks.

    I see you can buy a ton of them on ebay for very cheap. Should those be good for my purposes?
     
  2. dave_the_nerd

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    I've seen them deployed. People were never happy with them. Performance was never good. I've only really seen them used without complaint as POS or data entry terminals.

    Find out what the eBay guys replaced the thin clients with: that's probably what you want.

    edit: searched eBay. Hell, for $35, might as well buy one or two to see how you like it - maybe set up a couple test VMs, have your users try it out. Dry run, get feedback. Empower the user base, win brownie points, and make them feel like their voices were heard when the final decision is made and the new tech rolled out.
     
    #2 dave_the_nerd, Nov 9, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  3. ThePiston

    ThePiston Senior member

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    there's a wide variety of thin clients - anywhere from $10/each up to $500 or more new from Dell. What I don't understand is that if they're dummy terminals, why the cost difference? Seems like any would do the job
     
  4. dave_the_nerd

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    Well, some run different OSes with different footprints (the one I linked runs WinXP Embedded.)

    There are also different needs, depending on your use model and what exactly you're doing on the client vs. on the server. (Obviously as much as possible on the server, right? But lazy programmers abound, and some things have to be done locally.)

    One that's used in a Remote Desktop situation like you're outlining wouldn't need as much RAM and CPU grunt as one that was running Java-based POS software.

    They're not "dummy terminals" in the traditional sense, in that they have local software and some capability to do stuff on their own, if you really want them to.
     
    #4 dave_the_nerd, Nov 9, 2012
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  5. drebo

    drebo Diamond Member

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    Thin clients are never cheaper to deploy, especially if you use VMWare/Citrix. The licensing from Microsoft is much more expensive (you have to use volume licensing) and the licensing from VMWare is also very expensive.

    For 15 computers, you'll be looking at two to three times the cost of just replacing the systems with nicer systems.

    Desktop virtualization makes sense when you have 100+ users that all do exactly the same thing. The moment you introduce differing platforms, you lose the maintenance advantage, because now you're maintaining multiple images.

    Virtualization isn't about reducing cost, it's about reducing maintenance. If you're OK with the high price tag, then go for it. My advice, for 15 computers, would just be to go out and buy 15 identical Dell or HP systems for ~$600 each with good warranties and then a decent server. It'll be a lot less expensive in the short term, and in the long term, maintenance won't be that much more than thin clients for the number of computers you have.
     
  6. ThePiston

    ThePiston Senior member

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    I just don't like the idea of maintaining 15 PCs with AV, updates, etc. Not to mention whatever my staff decides to do on them. I'd rather maintain one image on the server and have everyone use that. I'm looking into using thinlaunch.com which restricts a client to use only terminal services and eliminates the local windows shell from starting at all. seems like a nice alternative.
     
  7. Demo24

    Demo24 Diamond Member

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    You should already be running them on standard images (unless all the comps are different, then that becomes not worth the time), with restricted user permissions and scheduled updates. You can also get AV's that are hosted centrally, insures everyone is on the same level.
     
  8. xSauronx

    xSauronx Lifer

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    this, and there IS software available (i know a CC i went to used deep freeze or something) to make user changes revert with a daily reboot.

    i work for an IT consulting company and we sell a lot of symantec endpoint protection management software for central AV deployment. i think the small business suite or something might be priced/licensed properly for the OP.

    a medical system we work with is rolling out thin clients, but only to locations where users need access to JUST their medical record software and a web browser. they wanted to do it more widespread (that could easily give them 1000 thin clients when they are done, but they wanted more like half of the 8000+ PCs they have replaced) but realized with all of their different software packages it wasnt going to happen.
     
  9. skillyho

    skillyho Golden Member

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    NComputing...check it out. Easily run 10-15 simultaneous machines off of a single stout desktop. Devices can be as cheap as $100 each and can connect via USB (if they're close) or through Terminal Services (LAN).
     
  10. imagoon

    imagoon Diamond Member

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    You still have to maintain the thin clients image. At the level of 15 machines, it is far cheaper to maintain the 15 machines that a server running 15 VDI desktops and 15 clients. All the locking down you do to make the VDI environments work can be done on the local desktops. Thin clients only make sense at scale and when computer usage is meant to be restricted.

    If you are like every company on earth, you are going to end up with some users needing laptops, that will then connect to the VDI further eroding the value. If you were talking 150+ clients then you will start to see some cost savings. Otherwise use the centralized tools that are available to you. Going VDI will also jack up your costs for things like AV since those apps are aware that they are in server / VDI environments and typically have heftier licenses, and it is still up to you to maintain them.
     
  11. talion83

    talion83 Member

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    You are probably better off looking at a Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Services on 2008 R2 and 2012) but not VDI. VDI is much more costly. Terminals you need to purchase user CALs which normally run around $80/user + the Server OS.

    The Server OS will be where more of your cost is going to come from depending upon what sort of environment you have/need.

    NComputing requires you to have the TS licenses still - but they do make a pretty nice product. I've evaluated them and our reasons for not going with them were based upon our current environmental constraints which you wouldn't have it if you are looking at a new deployment.

    As far as one thin client vs another - well there are a LOT of differences here. You have some that run a full blown OS on them (normally linux but some have windows) or you have ones that pretty much are just a connection to your TS/VDI system. Also, like desktops you have some that can support 1 monitor and others 2+. You have different processing powers on them - for the most part the processing is done on the server, but there are situations where it won't be.

    But you may also want to just look into a SMB Windows server, put all of your PC's on a Domain and institute some Group Policy settings. You can control a lot of what users can do and you can setup schedules for doing AV updates, etc...
     
  12. Tbirdkid

    Tbirdkid Diamond Member

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    As a small/medium business consulting engineer here is my opinion for what its worth.

    1. Thin clients are good if you have a totally secure environment and you are never going to give the people internet access out of the terminal server.
    2. Thin clients are good if your budget is low, and you already have the licensing in the terminal services licensing.
    3. Thin clients are good in situations that require people to come in, sit down, type letters, do financial work, and NEVER do anything extra curricular.

    To me, I never push things like thin clients. I hate having to deal with a terminal server. People just dont care what you tell them they cant do, they do it anyways. Also, when it comes to IT, people will just flat lie to you.

    For AV, install an admin server, and manage it from there on all machines. Install WSUS in your environment, and push updates from there. Standardize your workstations, and laptops, so that when you push changes, you know what its going to do to the next guy.

    Your problem lies in the fact that you guys havent had a controlled environment, with standardization. This itself, is the bane of all evil in IT.
     
  13. ThePiston

    ThePiston Senior member

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    well we are a medical environment so I need it to be secure. I don't think I need virtualization - I just want a reliable connection to terminal services. I'll set all of the security in TS. No one needs to do anything outside of use our EHR and occasionally browse certain website to get insurance info or the like. I like the idea of thin clients for these reasons:

    1. very little power draw
    2. staff can't fart around and do anything on the thin clients like create a wedding party Word doc in their spare time
    3. don't have to worry about AV in the thin clients themselves (or someone inserting a personal USB and infecting network)
    4. total control over the centralized desktop environment
    5. only one environment to update and maintain
    6. they are cheap

    Basically I want to maintain one single desktop environment from which all of my staff logs into every day. no more headaches of maintaining 15 different desktops with all of the adobe, java, etc updates.

    let me know if I'm wrong about any of my points about thin clients
     
  14. imagoon

    imagoon Diamond Member

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    1) At your scope, not true since the server is going to draw a lot more power.
    2) Sure they can. They can start word on the TS just as easily as a local machine. Don't delude yourself here.
    3) Actually, yes you do. You need to monitor the thin clients OS for security patches. I have seen both Linux and Windows thin client machines infected. The Linux one was being used to host parts of torrents and the Windows one was a more typical spam one.
    4) Maybe. This is quite a bit of work in TS. TS is not a straight desktop and one user can wreck another.
    5) Again a TS is not a desktop, there is more testing and processes to follow than with desktops
    6) Not really. The unit is cheap, the total cost of ownership is by far more expensive at your tiny scope.
     
  15. drebo

    drebo Diamond Member

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    15 volume license for Office 2010 Standard Edition is about twice the cost of 15 OEM licenses of Office 2010 Home and Business. As such, the little bit of savings you have on a thin client over a desktop is pretty minimal.

    Utilizing WSUS for patch management and a centalized AV solution, as well as group policies, you can secure the desktops in their same manner. If you use Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, you can restrict USB port and CD-Rom usage via group policy.

    Additionally, a server that can handle 15 remote desktop sessions is double or more the cost of a server that would work as a simple file server for 15 computers. Also, it is considered bad practice to put the Terminal Server on a Domain Controller...meaning you now need two servers.

    If you consider:

    1x Term Server @ $6k
    1x File Server @ $3k
    15x Windows CALs @ $200
    15x Term Serv CALs @ $1.2k
    15x Office Standard CALs @ $4k
    15x Thin Clients @ $4k
    Total: ~$20k in licensing and hardware, plus about twice as much deployment time.

    Versus

    1x File Server @ $3k
    15x Windows CALs @ $200
    15x Office Home and Business OEM @ $2k
    15x Medium-quality HP Workstations @ $9k (something like this, though you could go much cheaper: http://www.cdw.com/shop/products/HP-Compaq-Pro-4300-Core-i3-3220-3.3-GHz-Monitor-none/2836228.aspx)
    15x 1-year Centrally Managed AV @ $400
    Total: $15k and about half as much setup time.

    To me, it seems only logical to go the second route.
     
  16. ThePiston

    ThePiston Senior member

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    ok, thanks for the input guys
     
  17. Danimal1209

    Danimal1209 Senior member

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    Put all machines on an AD domain. Make one image and deploy it to all the user machines. Use Endpoint for AV. Manage updates from the server. Also, do some URL filtering if you want them to only use certain websites.
     
  18. wlee

    wlee Senior member

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    Not quite the same thing as you're looking at, but using MS MultiPoint Server 2012 and Server 2012 Essentials ( 25 Users and 50 Device license included)should give you the centralized management that you are looking for at lower cost than Citrix or VMWare streaming VDI. That will allow you to use either Thin or Zero Clients ( NComputing ). I believe the Cals are less costly, but you are limited to 10 users for the WorkGroup ver and 25 for the Domain ver. The other advantage is that MultiPoint server is allowed to join Server 2012 Essentials and use the backup until. Regular TS is not. HP was selling a complete solution for the 2011 ver with their own zero clients,but I'd wait until 2012 is avail. MS RemoteFX is supposed to be much improved over the 2008r2/2011 ver.
    For your size group, it should work fine. Maybe just keep a couple full WorkStations for heavy GFX/Photo/Video work.

    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server-essentials/default.aspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/multipoint/
     
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