Thick Client vs. Thin Client: Choose The Best for Your Workflow

Image of a desk with many monitors
Do I need a thick client or a thin client?

In the computer world, clients are essential for the architecture of systems. Clients are programs that interact with servers, so you can get information from that server. 

Clients allow you to work with data without connecting to another computer. They can come in many forms, like desktop, web-based, or mobile applications

Generally, clients split into 2 types: thick clients and thin clients. While both have different purposes, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between the two, to make the most informed decision when it comes to your business or personal computing needs. Let’s explore the best for you. 

I’ll first dive into thick clients. 

What Is a Thick Client (Fat Client)?

The most expensive and powerful computers in the world are nothing without their manual labor. A thick client, or a fat client, is a computing workstation that includes most or all components essential for operating software applications independently. That also includes monitor screens with input capabilities, so you can interact directly on-screen.

We can’t say that a computer system that only has monitors is a thick client. Why? Because you already have an option where you don’t need anything else besides your keyboard!

The thick client is a component that has access to resources on a server, but doesn’t require any processing power for its use. It’s also been the go-to for many years because of its customizable features and greater control over system configuration.

Thick Clients for Workplaces

Workplaces often provide thick clients to their employees so they can continue even when they disconnect. Thick client computers communicate with one another in a P2P fashion. As a result, they don’t require constant server communication, because they always have at least one active connection between them.

Clients with thick client operating systems also experience faster response times and more excellent durability.. Conversely, those who don’t use thick clients need to lease server computing resources from an outside source. Unfortunately, that’ll cost them speed and money.

If your environment has limited storage and computing capacity, you’ll likely need a thick client. That said, the rise in the work-from-home model may create issues with thick clients. That’s because you’ll need access at all times. These issues could also lead to potential problems because the client is too slow while online, so it might not always function correctly. That is, unless you don’t get interrupted while using it!

Example of Thick Clients

The thick client is a computer that company employees receive. In general, it’s safe to assume most of them will need the same applications and files on their device! That’s why, the thick client is also a perfect option for businesses that require all the hardware and software needed. The employee only needs to connect their computer with company servers and download any updates or data required; they won’t ever disconnect from work! 

Thick clients are also excellent if you want to work remotely. You can now get your job done without an internet connection, which means you won’t disconnect from the office even if you’re in the field! You also won’t be wasting money on data plans. Finally, a thick client will allow you to work with all the files saved on the hard drive, assuming you don’t need internet access.

Infographic of thin clients vs thick clients
The difference is in the response!

Thick Clients: Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Server connection: Thick clients don’t require a constant connection to central servers. Once the client has gathered initial information  from the server, it’ll never need updates or new data input!
  2. Server capacity: Thick clients require more power from your servers. It means you can also provide services for more people without worrying about running out of juice or bandwidth!
  3. Fewer server requirements: The final performance of an application will depend on the servers to which it connects. Since thick clients do most processing, they’re cheaper and more potent in some cases, because they don’t have high-end, complex needs.
  4. Offline working: Thick clients come with hardware and software requirements, allowing them to perform tasks even when disconnected from central servers. It also means you don’t need an internet connection!
  5. Computer performance: Thick clients can run resource-intensive applications. For instance, games require a lot of bandwidth and processing power from your computer, so they should run smoothly without any hiccups or pauses in gameplay!
  6. Storage: Thick clients allow you to access your files and applications any time.

Cons

  1. Data storage: Computes hold so much information, so we can’t overstate the importance of data backups.
  2. Maintenance: New releases may include necessary fixes that you need to apply to all connected clients.
  3. New applications: The end-user may need to upload the application to other computers to work correctly.
  4. Security: Thick clients increase the individual’s responsibility for the safety and protection of their computer.
  5. Investment into each client: The hardware and software have a higher up-front cost, but then you’ll also be paying for maintenance or updates every year.
  6. Network traffic: The data traffic on the network will be heavy since each client needs to bring their information through a stable connection.

Let’s now move on to thin clients.

What Is a Thin Client?

Thin clients are the new wave of computer technology. They work remotely in an environment where most applications and sensitive data exist on servers, not locally!

They also offer more power than the typical laptop or PC. Thin clients are powerful workstations that have the memory and storage needed to run applications and in-house computing tasks. As a result, they don’t rely heavily upon outside resources. That also cuts down the waiting time to fetch data from afar!

The concept of a thin client device is to function as a virtual desktop, using the computing power residing on networked servers. The central server may also be an on-premise or cloud-based system.  

Companies with limited resources may use thin clients, because they don’t want employees to use up data while browsing online. Thin clients are also perfect because they still allow workers to perform essential tasks without having any hiccups in service. 

A thin client is an excellent choice if you focus on the perfect balance of performance and portability. In addition, machine learning solutions can also help businesses optimize their resources by analyzing data from all over your network in real-time! Many companies specialize in this field, but some very reputable manufacturers offer both desktop computers and laptops, like Dell and HP.

Thin Clients: Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Space: Thin clients are tiny and can provide space-saving opportunities for those who don’t have much room. They also hand off heavy-duty processing to servers. That cuts down the need for fans and saves space.
  2. Lower Cost: Thin clients don’t risk breaking because they have few internal parts. They’re also easy to plug in and set up, saving on IT costs.
  3. Security: Thin clients can ensure that only trusted software is installed on your computer. 
  4. Easier management: Thin clients take the hassle out of installing software and ensuring your computer is up-to-date. You’ll also never have another issue with hardware or updates again.

Cons

  1. Single point failure: Centralized networks always have one point of failure. This could be potentially problematic as it would cause all connected clients to go down, causing an issue with their hardware or software.
  2. Need for powerful servers: Thin clients rely on these powerful machines for their work, and if they don’t have enough power or performance, the entire system will suffer.
  3. Network issue: When the network is slow, you need to wait for your connection to return before resuming work on thin clients.

Thick Clients vs. Thin Clients

Generally, an in-house developer develops the thick client that resides on a local machine. On the other hand, a thin client is where all of the processing happens on the server-side and displays data to the user through a browser or app. In the table below, I summarize the differences between a thick client and a thin client. 

Thick ClientThin Client
ExplanationAt least some of the software features run on your deviceSoftware completely relies on a cloud platform
Network LatencyYou can work while offline or slow network connectionYou get more functionality with a faster connection 
DataData can be stored locallyServers store the data
Local resourcesMostly work on local resourcesCommonly use fewer local resources such as memory, disk space, or computing power
NetworkOnly works on local area network (LAN)You can also use an external network connection
CostMore expensiveLess expensive
ComplexityMore complexEasy to manage
Decide if you’ll use a thick client or a thin client!

What Type Is Best for You? 

Thick Client

  • Customizable features
  • Gives you control over apps and data in the machine

Thin Client

  • Cost-effective
  • Streamline workflows and save office space
  • Runs network under one roof, so security isn’t a concern
  • Saves time

Basically, this is a head-to-head comparison of thick and thin clients. Consider these features carefully and decide which client you want to adopt. Each client also has its advantages and disadvantages, so you should weigh the risks against the benefits. 

Final Thoughts

Thick clients are programs that reside on the local machine. On the other hand, thin clients are where all the processing happens on the server-side and displays data to users through a browser or app. If you’re looking for an easy way to decide which type of application is best for your needs, think about how much control you want over the user interface and how important security is to you. In this article, I’ve explained everything you need to know about the thick client and thin client, so you can make the best decision for your applications. 

Still have questions? Check out the FAQs and Resources below. 

Get The Latest Tech News

FAQ

What is an example of a thick client?

Microsoft Outlook, G-Talk, Yahoo messenger, and online trading portals are examples of thick clients. A thick client is basically a functional computer that can connect to a server. It also has its own operating system, software, and processing capabilities. In all, they’re ideal for workplaces that encourage remote work, because they also allow for working offline. 

What is an example of a thin client?

Thin client applications are web-based, browser-based programs that don’t require any installation on the user’s side. It’s mainly a gateway to the network. Thin clients are also good for minimal workloads, as they can’t handle much data processing. The most common thin client we see today is the web browser!

Which is better: a laptop or a thin client? 

Laptops may be small and portable, but they’re not always the best option. They need configuration to sync to your company’s resources, and you may be stuck working on two devices when you go to the office. A better alternative is a thin client. It’s an economy-sized desktop computer designed to function primarily as your resource server for most tasks accessible remotely. You can transfer everything you pay for on a thin client to a desktop, and it’s perfect if you want to begin working from home.

Who uses the thin clients?

Employees across industries use thin clients, because they’re cost-effective and convenient. They also help replace computers, especially if you need the processing power that comes with them locally on your network.

Can I use a thin client at home?

Thin clients are a great way to get online without having an expensive computer. You can use them at home just so long as you have good internet access. If you’re working from home, you can support, manage, and configure thin clients remotely. That makes it an amazing option if you’re worried about the configuration time! It’s also good for those who lack the necessary IT knowledge to manage their client.

Resources

TechGenix: What Is Network Segmentation?

Learn all about network segmentation here.

TechGenix: Top 5 Open Source Storage Projects for Kubernetes

Explore the top 5 open source storage projects for Kubernetes in this article.

TechGenix: Cloud Cost Management

Learn more about cloud cost management: purpose, advantages, and best practices here.

TechGenix: TCP vs. UDP

Understand the limitations of TCP vs. UPD here.

TechGenix: Restructuring a legacy network with a VLAN

Find out all about restructuring a legacy network with a VLAN here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Scroll to Top