FitnessWorld trims down with thin clients

People visit locations of the Vancouver-based FitnessWorld chain to help get thin, and the company’s IT staff adopted that same goal when it came time to upgrade their computer network infrastructure.

With 12 health

clubs in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland plus a head office, FitnessWorld decided on a Linux-based system using thin client technology from Surrey, B.C.-based LinuxMagic.

Ivan Beletsky, senior systems administrator for FitnessWorld, said they previously had an older system of “”dumb terminals”” that connected to their backend database. They were looking for a system that would combine that backend database with their membership system in a familiar-style interface people were used to, but that also gave them access to new tools they didn’t have before, like Web browsers and word processors through a graphical interface.

“”We could have converted to a Microsoft Windows environment, but our licensing, administration and hardware costs would be much higher since we’d have to buy licenses for each desktop,”” said Beletsky. “”We made the decision to go with a thin client environment because it provides us with all the same advantages for a fraction of the costs.””

With a thin client network, all the software runs on the server. The thin client is a small box connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse. The brains are located on the server.

Each of the club locations now have a server installed with five thin client workstations with an average of 20 users in each club, and at the head office the one server has 50 thin client terminals connected and is still expanding.

“”Our original decision was to only have it deployed at the head office, but when we actually got it here and saw all these advantages like cost benefits and system administration benefits, we decided to have a server installed at every club,”” said Beletsky.

While the cost savings were their biggest driver, Beletsky said they’re also pleased with the added security the Linux-based network offers. The terminals don’t have disk drives so viruses are less of a concern, and from an IT perspective maintenance is much easier and occurs mainly at the server level.

“”If I have to replace a terminal it’s as simple as unplugging one and plugging in another one, there’s no configuration on the client side whatsoever,”” said Beletsky. “”With a Windows environment it would probably take us four hours to re-build an average Windows machine, with a thin client it takes me five minutes.””

That’s one of the biggest advantages to thin clients, said Michael Peddemors, president and CEO of Linux Magic: You don’t have to maintain any of the client stations, and you save on software licensing and administration.

“”There’s no hard drives to go dead or CPU fans or power supplies to die, you just basically plug the device in and it works,”” said Peddemors.

While the hype over Linux has died down in recent years, Peddemors said Linux itself is still going strong and is now positioned to break into the desktop market.

“”The server side stuff has been moving over to Linux for years, but now at the desktop level Linux has finally become usable for the workplace environment,”” said Peddemors.

While a couple of years ago Linux didn’t have all the applications at the desktop that the average business needs, today those office and web applications are there. Since they reside on the server, they are much more affordable than a Windows network, which requires a license for each workstation.

In fact, by adopting LinuxMagic’s WorkPlace solution instead of a Windows-based network Peddemors estimated the annual savings for FitnessWorld on desktop ownership and support is $2,000 per workstation.

Peddemors said the availability of these applications, the affordability, plus the security and stability that have always attracted people, is making Linux an increasingly easier sale.

“”I think there’s a bit of a rebellion to having to pay all the Windows licensing fees. This gives them an option so they can get out of that licensing cycle,”” said Peddemors. “”I think that’s probably the major driving force.””

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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