ThinClient concepts - some queries about Thin Client technology
Q1. What are Thin Clients?
A1. Typically, thin Clients are low powered computers that (strictly speaking) do not have a hard disk
drive. Since there is no hard disk drive, there is also no operating system. And since these are
low powered systems, all processing is done on the server instead of the thin client itself. Certain
types of thin clients (running on embedded XP or embedded Linux) may have full fledged OS
capabilities complete with installed applications such as Micorsoft or Open Office and browsers such
as Internet Explorer and/or Mozilla Firefox.
Q2. If there is no hard disk drive and no operating system, how does it work? How does it boot up?
A2. All Thin Clients boot up directly from a server which is running the operating system (Windows
2003 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server or even Linux).
Thin Clients may boot either directly from the server via PXE boot and then connect to it or boot up
from locally installed mini disk running Windows XP embedded (Win XPe), Windows CE embedded
(Win CEe) or Linux embedded (Le) and then connect to the server. Once connected to the server, the
user gets the log in screen of the operating system running on the server.
Please bear in mind that booting from a server and connecting to a server are two different
processes, since you can have more than one server - one simply for booting up and the second
or even a third or more for connecting to (where the applications are installed and processing
takes place) depending upon architecture. If required, an enterprise can also go in for a hybrid
architecture consisting of both Windows and Linux Terminal servers.
Q3. Where are the various applications installed and user data stored?
A3. All applications are installed on the connecting server and every user has his own "My
Documents" folder created where his profile, documents, etc. are stored.
Q4. If all files and documents of all users are stored on the same server on the same storage device,
can one user not access or read the files of another user?
A4. As stated above, every user has his own "My Documents" folder created. No user can access or
even get into another user's "My Documents" folder unless specifically permitted to do so. This,
of course, will require an NTFS file storge system and not the FAT32.
Q5. What kind of applications and software can one install and run in a Thin Client environment?
A5. All programs of everyday life can be used with Thin Clients...to name a few MS Office; various
various browsers for surfing; e-mail clients like Outlook Express, Microsoft Outlook, etc.; ERP
packages - including SAP; Coreldraw, Adobe Photoshop, Pagemaker, Tally, MS SQL based
packages, chatting (using keyboard) programs and even open source and customized packages.
Q6. Which software packages cannot be used?
A6. Heavy graphical games, animation packages like Maya and such others that require a very fast
screen refresh cannot be used.
Q7. How many Thin Clients can be made to run on a single server?
A7. This depends upon the server hardware configuration, the choice of operting system and the
programs/applications that are installed on that particular server. Typically, a small office with
10 Thin Clients can be well served by a P-IV machine with 1GB of RAM with Windows Server 2003
Standard edition (that supports up to 4GB of RAM. Enterprise edition + SP2 supports upto 64GB.
For increased RAM support, 64 bit versions are apt wherein the Standard edition + SP2 can support
32GB while Enterprise + SP2 can support 2TB ). Increase the RAM to 2GB and the users to 20 to
25 without any problem.
For users on an enterprise level, a Xeon based server with dual or more processors, a minimum
of 4GB RAM and redundancy on storage devices by way of RAID, network adaptors and power
supply unit is recommended. Load balancing technology with additional servers prevents any
single server from reaching critical levels.
These are of course, broad guidelines. Actual server hardware and architecture will most
definitely vary from case to case.
Q8. Won't running so many Thin Clients on one server slow it down or kill it altogether?
A8. No. This will not happen since the server hardware is sized taking into account the number of
Thin Clients that are to be run and the software/applications to be installed on it.
Besides, all processing is taking place electronically without any moving parts except the hard
disk drive. Load balancing technology is employed to prevent server crashes.
Q9. Can one install a printer on a Thin Client node?
A9. Yes. Most printers can be installed on a Thin Client node either on a parallel port or USB port. The
printer is physically installed on the Thin Client node but in configured on the server as a local printer
printing to a TCP/IP port. In case of embedded systems, the printer in configured locally on the Thin
Q10. What devices can a Thin Client access locally?
A10. Most devices like local hard disk drives, pen drives, floppy disk drives and optical drives can be
accessed by the Thin Client without any problem. For other devices like scanners, multi function
devices and CD/DVD writer, if required on a Thin Client, our embedded systems are recommended,
one that is running Win XPe.
Q11. Will 'Touch Screens' work with Thin Clients?
A11. Yes, very much with our Win XPe range.
Q12. What about Thin Clients and Citrix?
A12. Citrix metaframe server installed on the Remote Server will enable the Thin Clients to work across
a relatively slow WAN link also by using the ICA protocol instead of Remote Desktop (RDP).
Q13. What about DOS? Can I run DOS progams on my Thin Clients?
A13. Most definitely, yes!! You can run DOS programs in FULL SCREEN.
Q14. Can I have a hard disk on my Thin Client?
A14. Of course!!! Though not required, but if you do have or want a hard disk, you have a dual boot system,
whereby you can work either on the server or on the local hard disk.