Feb 05 2009

Ready for a Trim?

It takes smart planning and preparation to cut over to a thin-client architecture.

Like most projects that affect the daily lives of federal employees, strategy is not the key to success when rolling out a thin-client architecture.

It’s well established that these devices present an opportunity to both improve security and better manage cost, while providing a robust computing experience for users.

Rather, the challenge when deploying thin clients is change management.

For more than two decades, users have gained increasingly powerful PCs; they will be suspicious of any attempts to take away that capability. To assuage their fears, IT needs to take the following actions before, during and after deployment:

  • Make a strong business case (over at least a five-year period). Ensure the business case includes all the basic elements of cost savings, including hardware, software, maintenance and labor. Don’t exaggerate savings from new techniques, such as virtualization. Highlight cost savings per user instead. Be prepared to tie your plan to whatever the new administration expects from agencies in terms of managing IT infrastructure cost and performance.
  • Pilot the new infrastructure, including any other organizational components tied to thin clients. Monitor the pilot closely: Make sure the operation is well managed and that you have accurate performance statistics. Also, ensure that you have a fairly seamless cut-over between processing sites should you experience an outage, and that your IT staff focuses relentlessly on customer service.
  • Pay a lot of attention to your end users, and show interest in their concerns. Be prepared to demonstrate how thin clients are at least as good as PCs — if not better — at optimizing the computing environment. Over communicate, and show interest in users’ concerns.
  • Get daily reports on network performance. Ask for immediate alerts whenever an outage occurs. Let your staff see that you are personally committed to serving end users.
  • Implement the new technology at a workable pace. Don’t push conversions that stretch your organization’s ability to provide support.

The cost of a thin device is roughly half that of a PC, so upgrading is less expensive. In addition, thin clients require refreshment roughly half as often as PCs, extending the cost savings. But most important, software resides on the servers, not the clients, significantly reducing the labor involved for upgrades and patches. CIOs realize the full benefit of remote client management from the data center. The bottom line? Thin clients yield a lower total cost of ownership.