Thin client shop looking for cheaper alternatives

We are a 89-user HP Thin Client shop. I currently have 21 HP t5550’s and t5540 with windows CE installed that I am looking to replace.

Our network consultant recently suggested replacing the Thin Clients with something like the Intel Compute stick. Then he reversed his suggestion and quoted more HP thin clients because he feels they are more robust. The price tag for the 21 t520’s is $14k. That price is MSRP. My actual price would be lower. And, will have to be re-quoted at time of purchase since HP is retiring the t520’s this year. I won’t be buying until the 2019 budget year.

The compute stick is a fraction of the price at around $140 but according to the consultant a fraction of the computing power too.

The t5550/40’s were no great shakes when it came to computing. And, most of my users get everything they need from the server they RDP into so I’m not convinced I really need computing speed. Users get Microsoft Office and the other few software programs we use from the RDP servers.

The only complaints I get from t5550’s and 40 users is that when they try to watch a training video or attend a webinar the sound is choppy. That was greatly improved on the t510’s and t520’s. But, the t510/20 users can also use the thin client’s onboard browsers for video.

The plan was to use the compute sticks to remote into the Windows servers and only use the Compute Stick’s native browser for video watching.

I’m thinking of getting one for myself and putting it through its paces.

Is anyone using compute sticks as thin clients? How would my time be impacted by management of the devices.

I don’t run A/V on thin clients since I do not allow them to connect to servers other than through RDP client. I assume I have to either buy A/V or use Windows product.

As you can imagine, the t5550/40 users have older monitors and do not have wireless keyboards so, I’d have to figure in the price of

wireless keyboards/m* ice unless I tie up the USB ports with mouse/keyboard.

  • HDMI monitors with speakers
  • A/V protection (possibly)
  • Windows Pro upgrade if I want to connect them to WSUS

now my $130 compute stick is getting closer to the price of a thin client and I’ve added more management overhead for myself. Am I being dumb for considering them?

The concern with the t5550/40’s is that when we upgrade RDP servers to Server 2016 and beyond, the windows CE RDP client won’t be able to connect. It was a gamble that they would connect to Server 2012 but thankfully they did.

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I think the root of the question is “why are you, in 2018, still using thin clients” - once you know the answer to that then you’ll know if it’s worth the price premium to continue down that path or if you want to start rolling out full-blow desktops (compute stick or something better).

Hmmm…I find myself wondering why someone wouldn’t at least consider Thin Clients.

We do have some PCs, don’t get me wrong. Mobile users and graphic artists use software that wouldn’t be appropriate to install on the server. But, the majority of our users sit at a desk and use Microsoft office which works really well within RDS.

We use thin clients because I am one person with 89 internal users across 3 campuses who finds herself supporting more and more external users everyday.

Since installing Thin Clients my life managing the network has become much easier allowing me to do the other tasks I’ve been assigned

There are no moving parts to break. I haven’t had to replace a power supply or hard drive or media drive in 15 years since moving to thin clients

There are no updates to apply.

There is no user ownership. With PCs, users were jealous of one another and sometimes not so good at sharing.

Thin clients don’t require a/v allowing me to spend money elsewhere

VPN users really appreciate being able to log into their complete profile from home.

Anyone in any department can sit down at any computer and have access to everything they use at their desk. This is very nice for departmental coverage during vacations.

I can support any user from my phone by simply shadowing their RDP sessions

Thin clients are still less expensive than PCs allowing me to spend money configuring very powerful servers.

Users can video conference and attend webinars and watch training videos from our newer Thin Clients. Faced with replacing 14 Thin Clients I simply asked if sticks might be a viable option for at least some of the 15% I’m faced with replacing.

I think you might have taken my response as adversarial or critical, but I believe the end-result is you’ve definitely answered “why”

Reliability, build quality, stability and Windows Embedded being the primary reasons to use Thin Clients, I don’t think a compute stick fits your requirements. They use cheap USB power supplies, are designed as cheaply as possible so they tend to overheat and throttle down, and have suffered a few defects leading to early failures in the past. They also run full-blown Windows, patching, AV and all, and it doesn’t sound like running bottom-of-the barrel PC’s really does much to continue with your goal of having reliable end-user components.

First… for giggles… 14K / 21 units = $666 per unit… that right there should tell you something! :rofl:

Joking aside, it all depends on whether by thin client you mean a zero/stateless client or not. Now, I come from the zero client world so I have a tendency to say “who cares if I have a fraction of the computing power on the thin client, it’s just supposed to sit there and offer terminal services via NX/RDP/whatever to the user which… and I’m not joking… can viably be done on a Pentium 200!” Also… from the philosophical standpoint… you shouldn’t need to manage a thin client at all, once you start managing thin clients you start negating those thin client advantages. If a terminal breaks (which is admittedly rare), I just want to pick another one off the shelf, walk down to the cubicle, unplug the old one, chuck it in the bin (or out the window for effect/catharsis), plug in the new one, and let people assume I’m a wizard.

Anyhow, brass tacks: I’d only consider the compute sticks if you will be bootstrapping them into Linux and from there connecting to RDP/NX/whatever. If you aren’t currently and don’t have any desire to become a Linux ninja then you better stick with the HP thin clients. Furthermore, and this is really just general advice for anyone considering thin clients in church use but not necessarily directed at you per se, I wouldn’t use thin clients for any pastoral staff, a lot of pastoral staff use Logos as it’s pretty much universally mandatory for anyone graduating seminary these days. Logos works by flopping their digital library and a humongous index (so they can cross-reference resources in the library) into C:\Users\name\AppData\Local\Logos and it can really drag during indexing their libraries… now imagine 10 pastors all get updates to their Logos resources and all end up rebuilding their indexes on the RDS server around the same time. :frowning:

Actually, the IT trend and business world is transitioning back to thin clients. The trend is to use a Virtual Host (VMWare, Hyper-V, etc.) to either host Windows Machine, or a VDI environment.
If you have a mass number of end-point devices to manage, a thin client solution actually works really well. You only have one actual virtual machine to keep updated vs. 89 physical machines.
For example, If I have 89 physical machines I have to worry about 89 individual windows licenses, 89 antivirus licenses, 89 endpoint patch managements.
With RDP or VDI I have to make sure one system is fully locked down and properly licensed, and do standard firmware updates on on the thin clients.

So the real question to answer is, what do you want the endpoint to do? If it’s web browsing, document writing, and the like, thin client is the way to go. If you want them to do more powerful stuff like photo/video editing, then go desktop.