Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs

Andrew Froehlich, Network Engineer & IT Consultant | 12/24/2012 | 27 comments

Andrew Froehlich
When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, the computers found in labs at my elementary, junior high, and high schools were pretty hit-or-miss.

Back then schools didn't use servers, logins, or any practical way for lab administrators to lock down desktops. Every computer was set up and managed independently from one another, and the concept of "imaging" systems was still several years away. While the computer lab was better than nothing, classes always ended up being 50 percent classroom learning and 50 percent troubleshooting various problems on a handful of desktops.

Today's computer labs have come a long way. Now many applications and data reside on back-end servers, and desktops can be remotely accessed and managed. But even though there have been some major improvements that help manageability of computer labs, they're still far from perfect.

Administrators still have the task of maintaining operating systems, anti-virus, and other locally installed applications. When problems occur on a PC, such as a skipped OS patch or antivirus update, it can cause any number of operability issues that can be difficult to identify and fix. It's critical that teachers are enabled to give a uniform computer lab experience for each student. If not, it causes a huge distraction and takes away from the actual learning.

That's why I'm a huge advocate of using cloud-controlled thin clients in next-generation computer labs. A low-cost example of such a thin client is the Google Chromebook. By storing all applications, data, and most of the OS in the cloud, you create both a physical and logical layer of protection between the data and your end users. A cloud-controlled desktop stores very little information, and all computers are exact mirror images of each other so they will function identically.

There seems to be some hesitation by many school districts to consider cloud-controlled thin clients in computer labs -- even if they could save the school a substantial amount of money. Much of this has to do with the fact that schools fear that their networks and Internet connections can't handle the additional load. While this is a valid concern, most public schools in the US have sufficient network and Internet resources to satisfy the demands of a relatively large thin-client lab.

Secondly, schools look back at the catalogue of software titles they've already purchased and licensed and have a difficult time letting go. Again, while a valid concern, schools should at least investigate web-based alternatives to applications they currently have. Once they look around, they'll likely be surprised to find plenty of choices online, many of them at much lower prices (or even free) compared to the software they currently own.

In the end, school IT administrators need to start taking a fresh look at how they design their next-generation computer networks. If one of the major goals is to eliminate as many variables from the computing experience as possible, a cloud-based lab approach may be the way to go. Not only will it likely save the school district money, it can also reduce technical distractions.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Susan Nunziata   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/31/2012 7:03:27 AM
Re: Transformation
@singlemud. Thanks. It will be interesting to watch how this plays out in the educational environment in the next 12 to 18 months.
kstaron   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/30/2012 11:06:26 AM
The experience of staying on task.
Using cloud technology looks like it might be a good way to make sure students can get the same experience. Now all schools need is a way to make sure the student stays on the task of that experience during computer lab. Is there an app to disable a specific networks IM or internet browsing capabilities within a certain time frame? So students do not have the distraction readily available during set times?
Don K   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/30/2012 12:54:21 AM
Re: Transformation
Is it becasue of less space needed ?
singlemud   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/28/2012 9:08:59 AM
Re: Transformation
I would see that network capacibility should not be a big problem. The cloud servers are all local. Upgrade the framework will not cost much
Susan Nunziata   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/28/2012 12:38:35 AM
Re: Transformation
@Umair, @andrew: this approach makes a lot of sense for schools in need of an upgrade as well as those building labs from the ground up. I think in higher edit's quite fair to say that networks are up to the demands that this approach would place on the network. It's hard to believe that most K-12 schools will have networks capable of handling the additional demand. Do you have any examples of this approach being applied in k-12 environments?
Umair Ahmed   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/26/2012 4:32:07 PM
Re: Transformation
@ Andrew: When schools have enough aging hardware, there seems another option of converting Old PCs into thin clients, which may save the school both on hardware and management cost.  This can be a good option for an existing lab to evaluate the migration to thin clients without incurring significant expense. 
Syerita Turner   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/26/2012 2:26:18 PM
Re: Consistent management for all systems
Schoold have come a long way when talking technology. Fom standalone capability to networking but still many schools struggle with operability. Most computer labs are neglected therefore the computers are slow and non-maintained. Schools have done a great job with getting the computers but keeping them in working order has been a constant downfall.
Andrew Froehlich   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/26/2012 12:06:41 PM
Re: Transformation
@Umair - Yes, the idea of moving to a thin client lab would only be ideal for schools that have aging hardware and possibly have expensive software titles to re-license.
User Ranking: Blogger
Pedro Gonzales   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/26/2012 11:52:57 AM
moving to the cloud
I think it makes sense for school to use cloud computing to manage their computer labs; it makes administration and security much simpler to manage than trying to administer multiple computers.  At my university, they are using a system like that, I think is an intranet where they can install multiple programs on the various computers if need be.
Damian Romano   Thin Clients Are Ideal for School Computer Labs   12/26/2012 9:52:17 AM
Just makes sense
While I'm not totally sold that cloud based thin clients are the answer to every and all enterprise solution, the concept does seem to answer some of the pressing needs for a situation like this. This would certainly fit the ever evolving software needs of ne cirriculums.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Andrew Froehlich
Andrew Froehlich   3/18/2014   26 comments
At a recent South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Edward Snowden said the NSA is "setting fire to the future of the Internet." In light of this, the World Wide Web ...
Andrew Froehlich   2/28/2014   34 comments
An increasing number of partnerships, vendor contracts, and third-party agreements require opening access to your enterprise network. While offering access to these partners is usually ...
Andrew Froehlich   2/18/2014   10 comments
Annual IT security audits can be painful, yet they don't have to be.
Andrew Froehlich   2/11/2014   16 comments
Much of the focus around big data has been in electronic health records, customer data mining, and financial prediction models, but big data can be a big help in the field of IT security. ...
Andrew Froehlich   10/29/2013   16 comments
Because the business uses of mobile devices vary greatly, IT administrators must take a close look at the different mobile device management (MDM) solutions available in order to choose ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
4/16/2014 - Learn what is new in SQL 2014 and gain the competitive edge in the marketplace. Join us for Gain the Competitive Edge with SQL 2014.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   12 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   5 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   8 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   16 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   6 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   11 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.