Housing Technology asked Gary Haldane, the IT manager at Kingdom Housing Association, to share his experience of thin-client computing over the past 10 years.
Kingdom Housing Association first implemented thin-client technology in 1999, using Citrix Presentation server and we have continued to use the same technology for a decade. We have 180 users, 100 of which are concurrent users, and just two IT staff.
One of the main reasons for so few IT staff is our use of thin clients rather than traditional ‘fat’ desktop PCs; in the past five years we have increased thin-client usage by 10 per cent to finally reach 100 per cent usage across the organisation.
Based on our decade of experience, these are the actual benefits we have seen:
- Installation – less than 5 minutes to set-up.
- Ease of management – upgrades are only done on the Citrix servers so there’s no need to visit or push out upgrades to PCs.
- Maintenance costs – thin clients are so reliable and inexpensive that there is no need to have a maintenance agreement in place.
- Space saving – as they’re smaller than the size of a hand, thin clients free up the users’ desk space.
- Start-up time – much quicker than a traditional PC to start up and shutdown.
- Security – no CD/DVD or open ports for users to gain access and no requirement to protect from viruses.
- Centralised storage – as thin clients have no hard drives, users have no choice but to save work on the network, ensuring that all work is backed up.
- Environment – the thin clients we buy from Chippc break the world record in desktop power consumption and utilise only 4W; this is a huge power saving compared with the average 75-150W power consumption of a typical PC, giving us the smallest possible carbon footprint. (note: Chippc also provide Power-over-Ethernet thin clients).
- Life span/cost – we still have working thin clients that were installed 10 years ago. Thin clients usually last for at least six years, twice the life of a PC. Furthermore, a Chippc costs around £200, with devices available from other suppliers for just over £100.
- Users can easily hot-desk – roaming profiles are used, so users can log-in to any thin client on the network. They are also presented with the same desktop when working from home.
We had some PCs in the past that ran services which we didn’t want installed in our Citrix environment. These have now been virtualised using Vmware and we have a few virtual PCs running separate applications such as Avaya Soft Console, arcHouse Mail merge and Concept Maintenance Planner. The virtual PCs can be accessed from any thin client.
Kingdom still has a central PC in each of its three offices. These are only used for downloading photos, virus checking CDs, etc. I am confident that these will also disappear in time.
In my experience, I would recommend Chippc thin clients as they have proved to be the most reliable thin clients that we have bought to date.
If you still use traditional desktop PCs and don’t think it’s possible to move all users to a thin-client environment, then Kingdom is proof of a housing organisation that has managed it without making any compromises and has reaped the benefits.
Gary Haldane is the IT manager at Kingdom Housing Association.