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Does thin client save cost of purchasing new laptops

Posted on 2013-05-31
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Last Modified: 2013-06-20
Dear Experts,

I have been asked to find a new strategy to save cost, and that is through reducing the number of computers we buy every year as the university expands and require to open computer room for students.  Before highlighting my approach, let me give you an overview of our current university setup.

Our structure and courses
-  the university has around 2000 students, and we have 10 labs with 300 laptops.  of course connected to domain controllers with shared drive and Microsoft office with other applications used in different courses.  there are two type of courses:

A- Students that uses applications that require a high processing power.
B- Students that use laptops only for browsing, office and share drive access.

which of the following do you think is best to save cost without compromising access to shared data and user account management

A- Mix inviroments: In addition to our domain controller, setup terminal server.  this way students who use computers for office, browsing and share access they can use terminal clients.  this way we don't have to buy expensive laptops.  The other remaining laptops is for heavy applications.

B-  change whole domain to Terminal Server.  with this scenario a powerful server has to be implements which will be expensive.

C- How about force students to bring their own laptops to use in class for browing and use Office 365, save their data on cloud, if possible grant teacher access these drives.  in this case Internet connection will be single point of failure.  what worries me in this senario is we may have to create one local account on local domain, another on cloud for office which will be difficult to manage.  that is the one which is been highlited and asked me to see if possible.

If you think of better way please advice.

your idea is so important.

Thanks
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Question by:uknet80
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by:Jerry Miller
Jerry Miller earned 84 total points
ID: 39213356
The mixed environment is probably your best option. The heavy processing users will not be happy with the terminal server apps unless you really load up on the number of servers and saving money is one of your priorities. You may request 10 serves and 4, which would drastically hurt your response times.

Forcing students to supply their own equipment would be nice if everyone has access to a laptop, however there are still many people that do not have a laptop to bring. College students (and their parents) are poor and sometimes that is an expense that gets cut.

Even if you are at a school where nearly 100% of the students have laptops, you need to supply some devices for the others. Even if there is a some kind of lab fee involved. Bringing in devices from outside opens up the whole BYOD debate in your network. Read up heavily on the security aspect of this before you go down this path. It can be done, but make sure you are covering yourself and employer in regards to security.

It is simply my two cents, you may get differing opinions from others. I have worked in mixed environments where the goal was 100% Citrix terminal server, but it was scrapped by the power user issues.
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by:pgm554
pgm554 earned 83 total points
ID: 39213391
Within 3 to 5 years you will be looking at virtual desktop (vdi) computing as a major new force.

If your users are using Windows 8 Pro and above,this implementation will be less painful.

http://www.vmware.com/products/view/overview.html

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/products-and-technologies/virtualization/vdi.aspx
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by:Aaron Tomosky
Aaron Tomosky earned 83 total points
ID: 39213440
What requires high processing power and how high? A new $600 dell will do anything that doesn't require 3d graphics. Laptops are a very personal choice, I would lean toward bring your own and make arrangements with some major companies to offer hardware and software at discounts. All the servers and network infrastructure for vdi IMO are just not worth it.
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by:Jim P.
Jim P. earned 83 total points
ID: 39213686
My last company was a bank. The typical teller needed a real PC, but the majority of it was just to access the the teller software, email. and the occasional excel spreadsheet.

So we used the older version of the CyberNetMan PC's. At the time they were essentially they were a laptop computer with no monitor and a regular keyboard over them.

They were about $350 a piece because we were buying in long-term quantity. These new ones look to be in the same class.

Our back office had regular Dells. So maybe you could set your labs up with a split. One or two full workstations, the rest the low power CyberNet types.

And the other thing is never let anybody surf with IE on terminal servers. That will kill them for processing power.
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Author Comment

by:uknet80
ID: 39218909
I have been asked to to make a plan for pushing a policy to let students bring their own devices BYOD,  my concerns are following:

1-  Internet connection outages.

2-  Some software may not support cloud. Python,...etc.

3-  Bandwidth requirements,  what would be the bandwidth requirement estimate of having 500 students accessing remote desktop "Cloud" simultaneously.  Current bandwidth we are using is 15Mbps?
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39219163
If they have their own devices why are they Remote Desktop to the "cloud"?
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by:uknet80
ID: 39221114
The idea is, if they bring their own devices they still have to have some sort of access to share drives and maybe some remote desktop connection? isn't that the terminology of BYOD?
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39221123
Well my thought was whatever they bring can handle the workload so no need for rdp. If you want to do vdi they by all means buy your own thin clients.
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Author Comment

by:uknet80
ID: 39221603
What would be the estimation of think client, if I use Microsoft Terminal service for 300 clients, that would use mainly browsing and word documents.

I would need a rough estimation?
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by:Jim P.
ID: 39222184
A way to see what the CPU looks like when browsing is just have a couple of people connect to a server setup with the remote admin TS settings. Have them browse the internet while you're on the console session and look at the CPU and memory in the task manager.

You will need banks of servers and TS licensing isn't cheap.
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39222418
For browsing and word docs why are you even considering TS and vdi? You are totally over complicating a very simple setup: BYOD that can do what you need it to do. Most students shouldn't pay over $600 and their laptop will probably last all 4 years. you should work some deals to get discount pricing with some vendors.

Just price out one terminal server and you will see how rediculous this sounds. I don't think anyone has even mentioned how impossible this will be over 100mbit or wifi.
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by:serialband
serialband earned 167 total points
ID: 39223139
What exactly is your goal?  Is it just to save money?  Is it to operate a lab?  Why do you use laptops instead of desktops?  Is it because the students must take them out in the field?  You could save money right there by switching to Desktops.  They'll last much longer and they'll be better ergonomically.  Do you rotate the stock of laptops?  Or do you buy them all at once.

If you have the old, sturdy laptops, like the T-Series Thinkpads, you can shift them to lower end use as they age.  You don't need 300 brand new laptops for everybody all at once.  The really high end users should have desktops, or maybe you don't really mean high end.  The high end users I supported got 64 core desktop with 128 GB RAM, because they were running parallel compute simulations.  Those were just for their initial test runs with a smaller data set.  Full runs were done on clusters.  As they aged, they got newer, better systems, and their older systems moved to the next group of people.  There's no need to get rid of such high end systems so quickly.

Thin Client devices are in the $400 (if you're lucky) to $600 range, because you have to spend $200 on licenses.  You should be able to get vendors to knock off $100 to $200 for an educational discount.  You'll also need to buy an expensive back end server to handle all the connections.  Because it will be so expensive, you'll keep it around a little longer.  You'll also keep it longer because it's more powerful and because it's on the back end so there's less physical wear and tear.  You'll save overall in long term costs and management, but it should cost you a bundle to start, but it should be cheaper than an equivalent amount of $1000+ laptops or Desktops.  Microsoft gives pretty good educational discounts.  The $400-$600 laptops, although cheaper, are not worth the long term trouble if you're doing "corporate" support.  They just don't last for heavy lab use.

BYOD for school is a ridiculous requirement unless it's done as a school requirement at the administrative level so the poorer students can include the cost in their loans and grants.  You'd save money partly because you don't have to buy the laptop and partly because you can get rid of those extra admins that used to have to manage the school owned devices.  While it can work somewhat in the business world, it's not necessarily the right thing for an educational environment, because at public universities, you don't just get rid of an employee.
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Author Comment

by:uknet80
ID: 39224826
thanks serialband for that detail.  I see you have a good experience in a wide technology that is why I will take more of your time, of course if you agree.

BYOD is something that I cannot digest, but it is been proposed and it is one of the option to save cost.  I just want to find some good reasons to convince them, why we shouldn't consider this option.  Currently we have laptops connected to domain, access shared drive, have antivirus installed on and VLAN setup.  if we are going to consider this option there is going to be lots of compromises and a big challenge.  choosing a root that may Fail cause a big Embarrassment for our department.  Can you highlight some disadvantages of having students user BYOD.

You have sent an estimate of thin client what would be an estimation for servers side, license too if possible.  we have 600 Client computers, all user different applications,  Microsoft office, Python, Oracle, MySQL, Jing.Microsoft project, Eclipse..etc

Why I am asking for some figure, is to get a justification for our senior member and compare costs with technology
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by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39225757
If you specified what computers you need to be where and do what we could give better direction. Right now you have laptops in a lab which just seems weird.
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serialband earned 167 total points
ID: 39228977
I agree.  Laptops are overly expensive for a University computer lab, especially if a lot of them are used for mainly word processing.  You're also giving the students a head start on later physical pain with bad ergonomics.

My numbers were ballpark figures.  You need to research your own network and computer devices for the systems you wish to purchase to get the real costs.

BYOD may work, but you'll likely spend more to get started.  The administration is probably thinking that it will be cheap, but it won't be.  They're likely thinking home, home office, or small business access points.  Those just won't scale.  For a university, BYOD isn't a replacement, but an option, an extra service. I'll repeat again, unless your university makes laptops a requirement for all new students, so that they can include it in their grant/scholarship/student loan, the poorer students will just suffer.

They're the same people that think Disk drives are cheap, "I saw a 4 TB drive for $200".  They don't realize that those aren't good drives for high availability RAID systems and that you have to include servers and Backup.  A lot of people just see commodity stuff for the home and think those are sufficient for servers.  I've encountered systems built like that and there's just a lot more failures when you use those cheap consumer devices.
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Author Closing Comment

by:uknet80
ID: 39262198
Thanks to everyone for your long discussions.
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