Thin Is In

Pros And Cons

"Thin clients can reduce TCO," says Silver, "but the trick is using them for the right people and applications."

The best return on investment is most likely to come from structured-task workers who spend much of their day on one or two applications, such as executive recruitment or customer support. Bookkeepers, retail sales clerks or phone sales people are also good candidates for thin clients.

While application responsiveness is rarely a problem over the typical LAN, thin clients aren't a good choice for heavily graphical applications, such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft PowerPoint. Although Gloria reports few problems running all her applications over the Web, it wouldn't hurt to have a broadband connection--a T1, T3, ISDN, DSL or ATM line.

A touchier issue is deciding who will get the thin clients and who will get the "real" PCs. You're likely to get some initial resistance from the troops if you take away full-fledged Windows desktops and replace them with limited-functionality machines. On the other hand, thin clients can live happily alongside Wintel desktops needed for special purposes. This doesn't happen to be an issue Westminster struggles with, and, if you're lucky, it might not be one in your company either, especially for new employees who won't have to give up their PCs.

A more predictable concern is what will happen when--not if--your thin-client server goes down (as every other server does). Be sure to have a redundant server and an emergency service agreement with your systems integrator, says Silver. Westminster turned the management of its entire system over to Planet Computer at a cost of a few hundred dollars per month.

"When I said `client server,' I said, `That's it, I'm out of the race,' " asserts Gloria. "I am going to get the latest technology, do e-commerce and e-mail, and join the 21st Century; but I'm not going to chase the rabbit around the dog track anymore."

Ultimately, the greatest benefit the distributed computing model provides is more time for your business.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Thin Is In.

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