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Product Summary

Enterprise Computing: Thin Client Technology

Many colleges and universities are turning to thin client appliances for their students' everyday campus computing needs. The term thin client used to refer only to software, but is now also used to describe the end-user computers employed in the client/server architecture. A thin client is a network computer without a hard disk drive that performs small applications but relies on the server to perform the bulk of the data processing. Alternatively, a fat client includes a disk drive and d'es more of its own processing. As with the old technology of mainframes and "dumb terminals," a thin client computer is dependent on the host server to deliver applications, process data, and store information. However, thin clients have more robust capabilities than dumb terminals, and operate with a graphical user interface, or GUI.

There are many reasons why thin clients can be low-cost solutions for campus computing. Because each thin client terminal draws from the same server, each uses the same software applications. When it's time to upgrade the software, the network administrator can simply upgrade the server without having to service hundreds or thousands of PCs.

Thin clients contain no moving parts or fans, making the hardware itself very durable. And security and maintenance are easier and stronger, since everything is stored on the server rather than on the end-user's computer: Users can't manipulate, damage, or steal software from the computer they're using. Thin client technology is most successful when the applications involved are relatively small, such as e-mail and word processing, less so when the users are doing massive data crunching. Centralizing all applications on a campus also may limit the number of available applications users can choose from. However, uniformity d'es have its advantages, especially when weighed against the cost of purchasing and maintaining hundreds of individual PCs.

Wyse Technology Winterm 3200LE

The Winterm 3200LE modular Windows-based terminal is a simple entry-level Winterm terminal that is ideal for users in a LAN environment who use a standard suite of office productivity applications, plus e-mail and Internet browsing, and who utilize network-based peripherals, including printers. The 3200LE offers reduced total cost of ownership. Designed to last about twice as long as a personal computer, it attaches to a previously owned monitor, eliminating the need for a separate computer and saving desktop space.

Boundless Technologies' Capio II

The Boundless Capio II is a 266 mHz thin client appliance featuring on-board audio, dual USB ports, and a number of expansion options including a 56K modem card. Boundless offers an optional 10-year warranty on Capio products. The Capio II 200 is a DOS-based ICA-environment thin client, while the 320 and 325 models are Windows-based. Capio's thin unit can be positioned horizontally as well as vertically to fit into any work space, and its metal case and internal power supply are designed to withstand lots of abuse.

MaxSpeed MaxTerm and +One Station

MaxTerm Windows-based terminals from MaxSpeed offer relatively low acquisition cost and the highest speed of any thin client appliance currently on the market. The +One Station device is a useful piece of hardware that doubles computing power at a fraction of the cost of a new terminal. The little device, about the size of a deck of playing cards, allows two users to share applications, hard drive, and peripherals. By adding only a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, individuals or network administrators can turn two terminals into one. +One Station isn't a practical solution for creating multi-user networks, but it d'es work as a just-in-time device when one extra computer is needed. It's also a handy unit to use at home where two or more individuals may share the same CPU.

Sun Microsystems' Sun Ray Appliances

Sun Ray Systems appliances use Sun's Hot Desk Technology to give users instant access to existing applications and resources on the campus network, whether the underlying platform is Unix or Windows. Hot Desking allows a user to move his or her session from one desktop to another without logging on or off. Users simply plug the smart card into a Sun Ray appliance; that card can then be taken to another desktop where the session comes up exactly as it was left. Secure passwords authenticate the user's identity. Sun Ray desktops have a relatively small footprint, requiring less desk space than other appliances.

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