Essential Guide

Guide to choosing and managing VDI thin clients

Everything you need to know about thin client benefits, product options and management


Thin clients make the VDI world go round. A thin client is a slimmed-down endpoint device that doesn't do any of the computing processing on the device itself; it relies on a network connection to the data center, where the virtual desktop is hosted.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to thin clients: What features do you need? How will you manage them? Do you need thin client devices in the first place? They are a great way to provide slim, manageable endpoints for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) users, but there are other options for VDI hardware, too.

In this guide, learn about the benefits of VDI thin clients, how to choose the right ones for your environment and how these endpoints compare to thick and zero clients.

1PCs make great thin clients-

Repurposing PCs as VDI thin clients

So you've decided to make the switch to thin clients -- great! But what do you do with all those PCs sitting on users' desks? To save money on hardware and training, some companies convert those PCs to thin clients. Just remember to use the right program to make the conversion, and be sure the PCs will support virtual desktops the way users need them.


Determining which PCs to convert to thin clients

Using your existing PCs to access virtual desktops is a great way to save on hardware, costs and training. It's not just a matter of adding a shortcut, however. You need to manage virtual desktop updates and consider which PCs you'll use as thin clients. For instance, computers that are more than three years old may fail more easily, and they probably won't support the latest graphics. Also consider the screen size and quality -- is it something virtual desktop users will want to use? Continue Reading


Tools for PC-to-thin client conversion

There are a few tools out there to help you convert PCs into thin clients. First, there is Windows-based thin client software such as ThinLaunch Thin Desktop and triCerat triShell Kiosk Edition. Just make sure you have Software Assurance before you use these tools. Other non-Windows-based options that work in VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop environments include Stratodesk, ThinStation, DevonIT and more. Continue Reading


Using XenClient to repurpose PCs

If you run Citrix XenDesktop Enterprise, you might not realize that you can use XenClient Enterprise to essentially convert PCs to thin clients. A service VM that runs Linux has a built-in browser, Remote Desktop Protocol client and Citrix Receiver for Linux -- meaning you can run XenClient without any VMs, basically as a secure thin client. Continue Reading

2The thin client skinny-

Choosing VDI thin clients

The purpose of thin clients is that they make management easier, so it's important to make sure you choose the right hardware. The wrong product or features can actually complicate management, so stick to only the features you need and make sure to weigh your options before you buy.


Choosing VDI thin clients

There are a lot of options out there for thin client hardware, so get to know a few popular choices that might suit your VDI environment. Continue Reading


What to look for in thin clients

When you're choosing thin client devices, consider if you can centrally manage them and whether you'll configure them all identically. Also take into account remote display protocol support: Cheap options don't have the best support, and vendor-specific thin clients usually only work with that vendor's protocol. Finally, how many advanced features do you need? Browser redirection and other capabilities can add to client complexity and defeat the purpose of having a slimmed-down endpoint. Continue Reading


Considering cost, display and app support

Remember that the point of deploying VDI thin clients is that they are simple and inexpensive. Video conferencing, multimedia and 3-D graphics support will add to the cost. Those capabilities are important for many users, however, especially those who require computer-aided design or 3-D apps to do their work. To make sure your thin clients can support those types of applications, take note of the display protocol quality and how much network bandwidth you'll require. Continue Reading

3Thin clients vs. the world-

How thin clients compare to other VDI hardware

Are thin clients truly the right choice for your organization? Before you take the plunge, it's a good idea to consider your other options, including thin clients, zero clients and even Android thin clients. Each one has pros and cons, and knowing which one fits your needs will help make management and deployment easier.


Thin vs. thick vs. zero clients

You can use thick clients for desktop virtualization, but that eliminates many of the benefits of VDI, because you're not saving on hardware. Thin clients help you reduce hardware and power consumption, apply base images to virtual desktops users and centralize management, but they don't suit every organization. Zero clients are another option; they require no configuration or software and can be even more cost-effective and power-saving than thin clients. Continue Reading


Other ways to access virtual desktops

Accessing a virtual desktop from a tablet is also a possibility, but it doesn't always provide the best user experience. Many Windows applications aren't meant for touch-screen use, and remote users tend to lack the necessary bandwidth. To see how the tablet method compares to others, check out all the pros and cons of different endpoint options for VDI. Continue Reading


Android as a thin client option

Bring your own device programs often take Apple devices into account, but what about accessing a virtual desktop from an Android device? There would be a number of benefits to using the Android platform, which could serve as an open source version of the Linux-based thin clients on the market. But Android was made for mobile, so it doesn't lend itself to desktop use yet. Continue Reading