Thinner is better

If you still think thin-client computing means having a tech-support worker on the Atkins diet, then it is time to get up to speed.

If you still think thin-client computing means having a tech-support worker who’s on the Atkins diet, it’s time to get up to speed. A thin client is simply a minimal workstation, perhaps containing only a screen and a keyboard, from which you can run applications that are stored and maintained offsite, and it’s becoming a favorite way for SMBs to save both money and headaches. King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based based Neoware specializes in thin-client services, and its CEO, Michael Kantrowitz, recently answered some questions about the company and what it does.

When and why was Neoware started?

Neoware was formed as a merger between Human Designed Systems, Inc. (HDS) and Information Systems Acquisition Corporation (ISAC) in March 1995. The company was started to provide software, services and managed thin-client appliances to organizations seeking to lower the total cost of deploying and maintaining desktops by centralizing the administration of applications and upgrades, security, and ongoing maintenance across their network.

Can you explain what server-based computing is, and why it’s advantageous for certain businesses?

Server-based computing allows companies to run applications on centrally managed servers, providing companies a pathway to install, run, and update applications on the server and to limit the security issues on the desktop. Server-based computing provides System Administrators greater ability to manage the desktop and produce better security.

Users can use PCs or thin clients on the desktop. Thin clients provide additional benefits over PCs in a server-based computing environment:

— They eliminate local hard drives, floppies, and CDs, and by being virtually immune from standard PC viruses.

— They eliminate the need to travel from desk to desk to install software, change operating systems, or provide technical support to users.

— They eliminate moving parts, including noisy fans, and by eliminating users’ needs to reconfigure their desktops

— They typically cost one-fourth the price of a typical business PC.

— They’re free from obsolescence by running applications on servers–not the desktop–so that performance can be upgraded in the future by upgrading servers, without changing the desktop.

What kind of support do you offer clients?

Neoware provides support for its Capio and Eon products, as well as NeoStation, @workStation and ViewStation models. Neoware also offers our customers Full Advantage, Full Advantage Plus, extended warranties, and advanced replacement programs, which enable free technical support and the latest software technology.

One of the potential disadvantages of server-based computing is that if the central server fails, all the client’s applications are in trouble. How do you get around that?

As with other mission-critical business resources, application servers are most frequently installed in redundant clusters called server farms. That can be as few as two, or as many as thousands, depending on the nature of the applications being deployed and the number of desktop users being served. Most of the software development by companies like Citrix Systems over the last several years has been focused on making the management of server farms seamless and the serving-up of applications fail-safe for users.

At what point is it feasible for small businesses to turn to a server-based system?

Some customers with as few as five to 10 desktop users find that server-based computing makes more sense than supporting individual desktop fat clients.

Tell me about your host access software. How does it work, and which types of business is it suited for?

Neoware TeemTalk host access software is the most popular terminal emulation software in the thin client appliance market. It provides the ability to connect and communicate with applications on mainframes and midrange systems including servers running proprietary OSes, UNIX, and Linux systems.

These connections can be made from virtually any desktop running Microsoft Windows, Linux, or UNIX. Installed on PCs, on servers running Windows Terminal Services, or Citrix MetaFrame Access Suite, TeemTalk enables desktops to emulate more than 40 different green screen terminals, including IBM 3270, 5250, DEC VT, HP, Wyse and more. And it’s 100 percent compatible with the terminal emulation software built into more than 85 percent of the millions of thin clients that have been shipped worldwide.

What are some other Neoware products that are especially popular?

There’s Capio, a line of thin client appliances with a rich set of pre-configured features; Eon, a expandable, flexible and upgradeable line of thin clients; ezRemote Manager, an enterprise-class management tool designed to lower the cost and time associated with administering large networks of thin clients; and ThinPC, which converts a PC into a thin-client appliance, allowing companies to achieve the security and management benefits of thin client computing while preserving their capital investment in their personal computers.

Are there thin-client packages for consumers, or isn’t that practical?

Neoware focuses on producing the desktop devices and thin-client software for business applications.

What does Neoware have planned for the future?

Our goal is to continually enhance the usability and effectiveness of thin-client appliances. Neoware will continue to develop and acquire technology that can be sold through the same channels to the same customers that expand our current product offering.

Future innovation will not only apply to product innovation but transformations in the services provided to thin-client users. Neoware offers investment protection with software upgrades and enhancements to product lines internal to Neoware and those from acquisitions. We’ll continue to provide appliance platforms that can be upgraded in the field to run virtually any thin-client operating system.

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