From the Factory Floor to the Front Office

Over the course of the last decade, the growth of thin client computing in factories and industrial environments has continued to increase as demand has steadily risen.   In these facilities, where environmental and safety factors are often the primary influence when deciding on a reliable computing platform, there is a definite need for technology that replaces the PC.  As a machine, the PC is not intended to operate in an area filled with vibration, airborne particulates, or hazardous gases.   Such concerns and factors explain why there is constant growth in the industrial thin client computing arena.  But this beckons the question, if industrial operations continue moving to the thin client because they HAVE TO, then what is the impetus for the front office CHOOSING TO?

The simple answer is that switching to a server based thin client computing environment provides the same benefits regardless of where it is implemented.  First on that list of benefits is a drastically lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  This includes the purchase of new thin client hardware, server hardware, initial network configuration, and maintenance services.  Regardless of your current computing environment, there is always a constant influx of new machines to replace those that break down or have become obsolete.  This is an established expenditure that is part of doing business in an electronic world.  The following cost estimate shows a breakdown of the average TCO for both a PC and a thin client.

Nubis Cloud Technology Cost Estimate

While this cost savings is magnified with each thin client deployed in place of a PC, the cost benefit is only one reason to make the switch.  In addition to the reduced hardware cost, there are a number of other money saving factors including a reduction of per unit energy consumption of up to 80%, reduced per seat software licensing fees, and IT overages.  With the ability to implement a feature such as WinTMC that allows your current PCs to operate as a thin client, any company can make the switch to a server based computing environment one thin client at a time.  This eliminates the need for a large initial hardware investment while providing flexibility to your current network architecture.

If lower cost and flexibility aren’t enough to motivate you to make the switch, perhaps the additional security will.  In a server based computing environment, the server itself is the only possible point of external attack.  By focusing on keeping a few servers secure instead of hundreds of PCs across a network, you can create a more focused security plan without having to maintain multiple programs and filters on every single workstation. This eliminates the possibility of individual users infecting a machine when web browsing or checking email.  With the addition of ThinManager TermSecure, your network administrator can increase security by restricting user access to specific terminals or adding hardware validation requirements such as security FOBs or RFID cards.

Consistency and “up time” should also be considered when deciding to make the move away from PCs.  Server based Redundancy, Redundant Ethernet, and Automatic Failover will ensure that if a server or network leg goes down or is suddenly taken offline, not only is user data preserved, but users will be able to continue working on a parallel instance of their current session.  A ThinManager Platform environment will not only allow such functions, but also offers a wide variety of standard features that can be assigned for specific uses such as the MultiMonitor function or remote management for offsite IT monitoring.

Considering the wealth of opportunities for savings with a thin client network, and the endless cycle of fixing and upgrading PCs, it is clear that the front office could learn a thing or two about Total Cost of Ownership from the factory floor.


Tom Jordan

Marketing Lead for ThinManager - A Rockwell Automation Technology