I wanted to find out the advantages of using a zero client device compared to using a laptop or desktop computer for my company. I wanted to see whether a zero client computer would be a good choice.
What are the main advantages of a zero client? The main advantages of using zero clients are cost, speed, security and management. The following lists the most important advantages:
- Zero clients have low costs
- Zero clients are very reliable
- Zero clients have a small form factor
- Zero clients are fast
- Zero clients are easier to manage
- Zero clients have excellent security
- Zero clients have low energy usage
- Zero clients have good R.O.I.
- Zero clients are ‘Cloud Ready’
In the following part of the article, I will take a detailed look at these advantages of using zero clients.
1. Zero clients have low costs
From the initial procurement costs to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Zero clients cost less overall than desktop computers.
Low procurement costs
Using zero clients of using traditional desktop computers and laptops can bring major cost savings in the overall zero client procurement costs. Zero client devices cost less than desktop computers with some zero client devices starting off as low as $300.
Low maintenance costs
Zero clients don’t require regular maintenance like desktop computers do in terms of patching to hardware upgrades. This brings the overall maintenance costs down.
Any changes made don’t need to be deployed to each device as would be the case with a thin client or desktop computer. Requiring time out of hours to do this without causing any disruption and down time. With zero clients the changes automatically take effect when the zero client starts up, as they are picked up during this boot time.
Low support costs
System changes and upgrades in zero clients can be made without IT professionals being in physical contact with the system. Therefore, you don’t have to hire IT professionals in your physical location to check the system if there are usage problems.
Instead, all the changes can be made by an IT professional while working remotely, which is way cheaper. Research indicates that zero clients help a business to reduce operating and administration costs by 64% compared to the use of traditional desktops.
2. Zero clients are very reliable
Zero clients are very reliable as they have less hardware than desktop computers and don’t have any moving parts like hard disks and cooling fans. This ensures there is less to go wrong in zero clients, thereby increasing their reliability.
3. Zero clients have a small form factor
Zero client devices are much smaller than desktop computers, and it’s this small footprint that makes them highly suitable for environments where big and bulky desktop computers can’t go.
4. Zero clients are fast
Zero clients are designed to process the information sent from power remote computers known as servers quickly. This involves unencrypting image data and rendering this data to display onto connected displays.
As this is the only major task other than accepting keyboard inputs and mouse movements, done by the Zero client, it is able to do this speedily.
5. Zero clients are easier to manage
All management is done centrally, making configuration and deployment far easier for zero clients. There’s no need to regularly visit any of the zero clients and instead, all management is done from a single dashboard.
6. Zero clients have excellent security
Security is paramount in the design of the zero client. Especially in today’s climate, where there is an influx of devices that are using cloud, mobile, and internet of things (IoT). While this is a good thing in terms of tech development, it has also increased the opportunities available for cyber criminals. Companies now need to protect themselves from these cyber criminals and adopt secure workplace tech solutions that are not prone to these attacks.
There are a number of security advantages using zero clients compared to using thick clients like desktop computers.
Viruses and malware
As there’s no operating system on a zero client, there’s nothing to infect in today’s climate of viruses and malware. With the actual brains involved in decoding (decrypting images) and rendering confined to a microchip, it becomes difficult to find places within the zero client to infect.
Users are also unable to download any software to zero clients as their workspace is on the remote servers. So, anything downloaded with a virus will affect the remote servers and not the zero client.
Information and Data Security
Zero clients don’t have any storage (or very limited storage) and with the user’s workspace being located on the remote servers, it’s impossible to store any user data on the zero clients.
If the zero-client device ends up being stolen, then there’s not much a criminal can do with them to get any useful data. Any image files would only be in memory and this would get deleted when the zero client was powered down.
Enhanced Access Security
Zero clients can use integrated smart cards for authentication, and this is useful in not having to remember usernames and passwords. Some zero clients can also provide biometric authentication using pluggable fingerprint USB modules.
Communication from and to the zero client is done securely using encryption whereby the data transferred, primarily images, is encrypted in transfer. The zero client decrypts images sent from the remote server before rendering them on the users display.
7. Zero clients have low energy usage
As zero clients are simpler in design, they have less parts and therefore consume less energy, more so as there are no moving parts.
Some zero clients use so little energy, they are able to draw their power from the network cable using Power over Ethernet (PoE).
Research indicates that zero clients have an average consumption of 8-20 Watts, which is less than the 150-watt PC. Therefore, you get to reduce the energy bill significantly, and you can reinvestment the savings elsewhere.
8. Zero clients have good R.O.I.
Zero clients provide long term savings on the initial investment made, also known as the return on investment (ROI), when compared against desktop computers and laptops.
Most of this is down to the low costs from purchasing, using and the longer lifespan of a zero client to desktop computers and laptops.
9. Zero clients are ‘Cloud Ready’
Zero clients can be used to connect to virtual desktops in the cloud including Desktop as a Service (DaaS) from Amazon with their Workspaces, Citrix with their Managed Desktops, Microsoft Azure with Windows Virtual Desktops to VMware with their Horizon Cloud DaaS solution.
All of which bring considerable cost savings compared to using desktop computers and being able to use resources on a subscription basis, with limited upfront costs.
Are zero clients worth it?
Yes, zero clients are worth it, as there are several ways that you can use a zero client to help improve your operational functionality.
- Zero clients can be used to access unique virtual desktops where each user’s applications and data are partitioned off from each other. Providing an excellent way to manage and isolate secure information.
- Zero clients can be used in point of sale environments, where’s no need to have bulky desktop computer. Instead a tiny zero client can be used, providing the functionality of a desktop computer at considerably less cost.
- Zero clients can be used by workers working from their homes, allowing them to connect to the company systems using their zero clients and Wi-Fi.
- Branch office workers can connect remotely using zero clients, saving the money on having to build and support a desktop environment.
- As stated earlier, zero clients can be used for connecting to workloads in the cloud like DaaS and virtual desktops and applications.
What is the difference between a thin client and a zero client?
A zero client unlike a thin client does not have a operating system, like Microsoft Windows IoT or some lightweight distribution of Linux. There’s no processor (CPU) like thin client devices have, nor is there any form of storage, thin client devices can have flash memory to store their operating system and configuration settings.
What does a zero client do?
The zero client has a special microchip capable of decoding and rendering communications sent to it from the remote servers it connects to. This allows it to update the user’s display with any changes from their mouse movements and key strokes.
So, if the user opens start menu and clicks the word processor, this will happen remotely on the server and the changes in the screens will be sent to the zero client.
This seamless process makes it look like the actual word processor application is running on the zero client when in fact the application is actually running on the remote server.
Zero clients have a chip, keyboard, mouse, and monitor in various form factors. They cannot function independently and hence solely depend on desktop virtualization set up.
There is a need for organizations to adopt zero clients in their operations. With the rise of cyber threats, there is a need for companies to secure data, and this can be achieved using zero clients.
Also, zero clients provide an easy-to-use and convenient VDI environment while also allowing a firm to enjoy reduced costs in maintenance, data center, licensing, and energy consumption.