I spoke with an HP rep recently about that company's new line of thin clients. The first thing that struck me about them wasn't the amount of technology crammed into those little boxes. It was how much they cost—they start at $249. My reaction was to immediately picture the desktop PC that $249 could buy. Such machines aren't going to impress anyone with their specs, but they do exist, and they're functional.
So why not just buy cheap PCs for all your users? Tad Bodeman, director of thin client services for HP, told me about some of the advantages—and most of these should apply to many thin clients, not just the new HP line. For one, thin clients are ecologically better than the cheap desktops. Bodeman said the new thin clients can go as low as 12 watts of electricity used at idle. The new line also has an emphasis on environmentally-friendly parts, such as recycled plastic in the case. Bodeman said HP is seeing thin clients in use for as long as five to seven years, so it means less trash than full machines that get thrown away more often (and less expense on buying client hardware).
Bodeman said that another big advantage is that with thin clients, you don't have to send someone out to fix software or hardware problems. You can manage the software on the server where it sits, and you can just have users unplug the cables from a broken box and plug them into a new one.
"When you put these thin clients on a desk, you essentially eliminate deskside support," Bodeman said.
Security was another plus for thin clients, Bodeman said. There's no data on the user's machine, so it's harder to copy information, and if a thin client is stolen, no data goes with it.