Thin client PCs help Children’s Aid Society of Algoma cut IT repair cost

With small organizations increasingly looking for ways to save time and money on IT repairs and tasks, some organizations are moving toward using cloud computing and thin client PCs in their offices.

The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma began using this strategy about a year ago and has since seen a lot of success according to the organization’s manager of infrastructure and technology, Allan Johnson.

The society has five offices and a staff of 150 spread across northern Ontario. CDW Canada, a technology partner with the Algoma CAS, brought different brands of thin client hardware, including the Samsung TC240 and HP products, for the society to use as part of a pilot. “Samsung was better because it was one unit,” Johnson says, which he says is easier to manage.

Virtualization on the end-user side using thin client hardware is a slower-growing market than on the server end, according to Dave Senf, director of infrastructure solutions with IDC Canada. But that’s to be expected, since virtualization on the server side became a huge trend very quickly, he says.

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Samsung Electronics entered the thin client market two years ago, according to Jean-Paul Desmarais, marketing manager for IT solutions at Samsung. “This is absolutely an area that Samsung is investing in because it’s a growth area,” he says.

Desmarais says interest in the hardware is increasing. “This year, we’re seeing a huge interest in the technology and lots of tests and pilots,” he says. “What the thin client approach does is centralize all of the smarts at the server level,” Desmarais explains. That way, IT departments don’t have to work on individual PCs when there is a problem. “We’re implementing a simpler, better solution for a thin client environment,” Desmarais says.

The Algoma CAS uses Citrix software to internally host its information. It deployed a few Samsung thin clients as part of a pilot program about a year ago in its head office in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and had staff asking for them shortly after.

“We didn’t have to sell it to them; they wanted it,” Johnson says. The larger screen and faster speeds made the staff want more deployed throughout the office. The society now has about 30 units among its various offices and is looking to deploy more soon.

“It reduces the travel time for technicians to go to repairs in district offices,” Johnson says, which saves the organization an “astronomical” amount of time.

“The Algoma Children’s Aid Society faced a challenge with the geography that they had to cover,” Desmarais says, and points out the challenges with very small and very remote offices. “They needed more reliable solution that would work remotely,” he says. “It’s an excellent solution when you have remote sites,” Desmarais adds.

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“Desktop virtualization is a trend that all companies are looking at,” Desmarais says. “Businesses that have a full-time IT manager and take a managed approach to their IT should be looking at it,” he says.

“There is reduced cost moving from the traditional rich client into the thin client environment,” Senf adds. “Ultimately it’s going to be deployed across rich clients,” Senf says of client virtualization, including traditional desktops and laptops.

In large organizations that have thousands of PCs, one per cent of the computers potentially going down is actually quite major, Senf says. For organizations that have a smaller number of PCs, using thin clients may not be as effective, he says.

But organizations that hold a lot of secure information, like the Algoma CAS or those in healthcare are likely the ones that would benefit most from using thin clients in their offices, Senf says. If the thin client is stolen, there is no information actually stored on it as there would be with a traditional desktop PC or laptop.

When considering using the cloud and thin client combination in their offices, businesses need to determine how mobile their workforces are and the level of security they need for their information, Senf says.

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