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Thin Clients Vs Full Desktops, a Financial and Operations Comparison



The choice between a thin client desktop and a full desktop computer is an important one that can have significant implications for an organization's budget and operations. This article will provide a detailed comparison of thin clients and full desktops in terms of their financial and operational costs.

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What is a thin client?

A thin client is a desktop computer that depends heavily on a server for its application and file storage. Thin clients help organizations with the centralization of data and applications, therefore offering an excellent option for safe and controlled computing when combined with cloud services such as Azure AVD. A thin client generally has less power than a full desktop computer and is used mostly for accessing remote applications and files.

What is a full desktop?

A full desktop, on the other hand, is a desktop computer that does not rely on a server for its application and file storage. It typically has more processing power than a thin client, and is used mostly for running local applications and storing files locally.

What is the difference: Thin client vs desktop pc

There are several key differences between thin clients and desktop personal computers. One of the most important is that thin clients generally require far less CPU power than a desktop PC. This is because thin clients have optimizations to offload most of the processing to a server. They also tend to be cheaper and more energy-efficient than desktop PCs.

Another key difference is that thin clients typically have far less storage than desktop PC. This is because they are designed to stream content from a server or cloud service (like Microsoft OneDrive or Microsoft SharePoint Online.  This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the one hand, it means that thin clients can be used without worrying about running out of storage space. Further, it also means that thin clients are more reliant on a good network connection than desktop PCs.

Finally, thin clients tend to be more security-conscious than desktop PCs. This is because they are designed to minimize the amount of data that is stored locally. This can be a benefit if you are worried about malware and data breaches, but it can also be a disadvantage if you need to access data offline.

What is the difference between thin client and rich client?

With a thin client desktop, nearly all of the processing happens on a server in the cloud or data center. The thin client is simply a display terminal that connects to the server. This type of thin client computing is also known as a server-based computing model. In contrast, a rich client machine has most of its processing power locally. Rich client works as network computers relying on both a server for some tasks and its own processing power for others.

There are several key differences between thin clients and rich clients that can impact an organization's finances and operations. One key difference is in the upfront cost of the hardware. A thin client is less expensive than a rich client because the thin client requires less hardware. A thin client also uses less electricity than a rich client, which reduces power consumption over time.

Another key difference is in the way that thin clients and rich clients are updated and patched. With a thin client, all the upgrades, updates, and patches happen on the server. This can be more convenient for IT because all the thin clients can be updated at the same time, reducing overall downtime. With a rich client, each machine must be updated individually. This can be more time-consuming as well as costly for the IT team as they will have to allocate more money to their budget.

Finally, thin clients and rich clients can differ in terms of security. Thin clients typically have less data stored locally, which can make them more secure. Rich clients typically have more data stored locally, which can make them more vulnerable to security threats in a working environment. The enhanced processing power in rich clients makes them high performance than thin clients

How thin clients complement a VDI strategy

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is defined as a desktop virtualization environment that is run and managed from a centralized server. VDI delivers a desktop interface to end users via virtual machines, which are hosted on a remote server. In other words, with VDI, the endpoint (i.e. the user's desktop) is actually a virtual machine that is running on a central server.

Thin clients are a key component of a successful VDI deployment. By consolidating the computing and storage resources on the server side, thin clients can provide a more efficient and cost-effective desktop solution. In addition, thin clients are typically more secure than traditional desktop PCs, as they do not store sensitive data locally.

Intel-powered thin clients can provide an excellent user experience for VDI, as they are designed to handle the demanding workloads of virtual desktop environments. VMware Horizon View is a popular solution for deploying VDI, and Intel-powered thin clients are certified for use with Horizon View.

When comparing thin clients to full desktop PCs, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO). Thin clients typically have a lower TCO than desktop PCs, as they require less maintenance and support. In addition, thin clients use less power and generate less heat, which can result in reduced cooling costs.

Overall, thin clients are a cost-effective and efficient solution for VDI that can provide a superior user experience. When considering a VDI deployment, be sure to consider the benefits of thin clients.

What are the disadvantages of using thin clients?

There are a few disadvantages of using thin clients that should be considered before making the switch from full desktops. Thin clients typically require access to a network to function, which can be a disadvantage in areas with poor network coverage. Finally, thin clients can also be less powerful than full desktops, so certain types of users may not be able to do their work as efficiently.

Thick Clients vs Thin Clients: What’s the Difference

The client-server model is a distributed computing architecture that partitions tasks or workloads between the resources of a central server and multiple clients. In a client-server model, the server provides centralized resources, data, and services to network clients. The client-server model is one of the most common ways to structure a network.

There are three main types of clients in the client-server model: thick clients and thin clients.

Thick clients, also known as fat clients, are full-featured desktop computers that have all the necessary hardware and software to run apps locally. A thick client typically has a powerful microprocessor, a large amount of memory and hard drive storage, and the ability to run complex applications. They further require individual licensing and routine maintenance.

Thin clients are much simpler than thick clients and have very limited processing power and storage. Thin clients typically connect to a server that hosts the applications and data that the thin client needs to access.

Choosing the best infrastructure for your business

So, which is better for your organization? The answer likely depends on a number of factors, including budget, the types of applications used, and user needs. Let's take a closer look at some key considerations.


One of the main considerations when choosing between thick and thin is cost. Thick clients are generally the most expensive option, as they require powerful hardware and complex firmware and software. Thin clients are less expensive than thick clients, as they have less hardware and rely on server-based applications.

The following are some other cost considerations:

a. Initial purchase/lease cost - the initial cost of buying/leasing thin clients is lower than that of full PCs.

b. Cybersecurity requirements - thin clients offer enhanced security as the data and applications are stored centrally on servers, which makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to access.

c. Operating System licensing and support - due to the reliance on server-based applications, thin clients generally require fewer operating system licenses than full PCs.

d. Firmware, Operating System, and Applications maintenance - thin clients typically require less maintenance than full PCs as the server-based applications are updated centrally.

e. Administration and deployment - thin clients can be administered and deployed remotely, which reduces the need for on-site IT staff. Once deployed, thin clients generally require less hands-on maintenance than full PCs.

Application needs

Another key consideration is application needs. Thick clients can run any type of application, as they have the necessary hardware and software to do so. Thin clients can only run applications that are hosted on a server, so they may not be able to run certain types of applications. However thin clints are the perfect client for users that work in ERP or CRM environments.  

User needs

Finally, user needs should be considered when choosing between thick and thin clients. Thick clients are best suited for users who need to run complex applications or need access to local data. Thin clients are best suited for users who only need to access server-based applications.

Talk to our experts in Microsoft Azure Managed Services


When it comes to choosing a computing architecture for your organization, there is not one size fits all. The best option for your organization will likely depend on a number of factors, including a budget, application needs, and end-user needs.

Thick clients will be useful to people who are highly mobile and constantly on the go and require access to a wide variety of applications, such as for instance, graphic design, and gaming purposes. They also do not need to be always connected to the network in order to function properly.

At ne Digital we are an IT consultation powerhouse that offers secure, reliable, and cost-effective ways to run your business operations. If you’re looking for a reliable way to run your IT workloads, contact us today to learn more about our IT managed services. We would be happy to help you make the switch to thin clients and see the benefits firsthand.

Topics: Azure

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