What Everyone Ought To Know About Fat Clients and Thin Clients

Blog Cloud Tuesday 7th March 2017 • 2 min read
Billy Law-Bregan, Communications Officer

What’s the Difference Between Fat Clients and Thin Clients.

What’s the difference between a fat client and a thin client? The answer has nothing to do with weight. Instead, the two have been fighting for control of how business approach cloud computing.

Here’s how they differ.

Fat Clients (AKA PCs)

A normal PC has its own operating system (Windows XP, Windows 7, etc.) which needs configuration as well as on-going support and software updates. When plugged in and turned on, fat clients can be used to launch programs including MS Office, Internet browsers, or the Remote Desktop Connection program for cloud.

If your Internet connection is down or the cloud itself is unavailable, the PC can still be used to a limited degree if any programs are installed.

To access cloud, the PC must first boot up, load the login settings, then run the cloud program and finally log into the cloud. PCs generally cost around £300-£600 depending on the quality and speed of components.

• Pros: if Internet or cloud is unavailable, people can still work off a USB stick, local file, or external hard drive.
• Cons: users need to login twice to get through to cloud, users can accidentally save things on the desktop instead of cloud, cost per PC is high

Thin Clients (AKA lightweight computers)

In the case of thin clients, the actual device is a lot smaller than a PC (imagine stacking 6 DVD covers on top of each other for a general idea). A thin client device can be plugged directly into a network, screen, keyboard and mouse just like a normal PC – only it uses much less electricity!

The biggest differences between fat and thin clients lie with the latter’s capabilities. On its own, it is completely useless: there is no hard-drive or operating system installed, eliminating its capacity to store programmes. On the flip side, there is no interface to log into, which also means that there is no support or maintenance ever required!

Thin clients come into their own when configured to connect to cloud servers. They simply turn on, boot up in seconds, and do not require an initial login. The first thing you see upon boot-up is your cloud login. There is also no local profile, so any user can sit at any thin client for quick access to the cloud portal.
Thin clients generally cost around £160-£250 per unit, again depending on quality, speed or ability.

• Pros: low cost per device, no support required since there’s no OS, single login to get to cloud and no local data to worry about!
• Cons: useless without all network & cloud services online and running, there is no “off cloud” capacity

In short, PCs are great for general all-purpose computing, and are useful even without a network or cloud connection. Thin clients are cheaper but designed for cloud-usage only, and are dependent on Internet & cloud working at all times.

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