Cloud Computing and Thin Clients
When I began looking at thin client applications, I was pretty darned sure that the weight loss industry had come up with yet another way to separate overweight people from their money.
Introducing Thin Technology
Thin clients have been around for as long as there have been computers tied together in networks. The concept is pretty simple; individual users do not need full access to a computer to do their work, so rather than placing a fully functional computer on each desk, a thin client machine provides just the functionality needed to accomplish the necessary tasks.
Thin client systems are useful in some business and institutional settings. They have the advantage of keeping the major computing functions, processing and storage, in a safe, central location. There is also potential savings in software licensing, the software is licensed to the central computer but can be accessed from any of the thin client remote terminals.
From Thin Machines to Clouds
These benefits sound very similar to the claims made by cloud computing services, especially software as a service type applications. Although they are similar in many respects, there are some very important differences between thin client technology and cloud computing.
The most important difference is where the data and programming information are stored. As previously described, the data for the thin client is held on the institution’s central computer. Although it is accessible from any of the remote thin client terminals, it is relatively safe on the central machine where only a few technicians will have physical access.
Cloud data is stored in “the cloud”, of course. The actual physical location of the cloud could be any of several large data centers around the world. The actual machinery is likely to be much simpler and more robust than an institution’s central server, and even more secure thanks to modern encryption.
The biggest attraction of the thin client model is that individual users can do their work on relatively simple, inexpensive equipment. However, all the thin client interface can do is work connected with the central computer. Cloud services can be accessed on any device that has a connection to the Internet, whether it is a laptop, desktop, netbook, tablet, or even a smartphone! When the cloud session is over, the interfacing equipment can be used for other computing tasks. Some cloud applications can even be used without the user being connected to the Internet.
By Peter Knight
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