SA school learns thin client savings

Support reduction delivers immediate benefits

Tenison Woods College in Mount Gambier, South Australia, has slashed its PC support costs by moving to a new generation of streaming thin clients.

With some 1200 students and 140 staff, the school's IT manager Olu Deyaolu said the large campus is not the easiest site to walk around and do maintenance on PCs.

"We started with PCs but we had to stay up to date with software so we were rolling out new images twice a year," Deyaolu said. "We always required software updates for clients which was quite hectic."

The school first looked at thin clients about two years when it deployed 50 Wyse S50 terminals in the staff work areas, however, to be suitable for students the thin clients needed to support more PC features plug and play for media devices such as cameras.

The school is now in the process of migrating the bulk of its remaining PCs to the more modern Wyse Streaming Manager solution, which allows more PC-like functionality.

By the end of the year the school will have some 380 thin clients in production.

With 169 converted so far, Deyaolu said the savings in terms of maintenance costs equates to one extra technician and the hardware replacement costs are likely to reduce from $25,000 to $5,000 over the next year.

"The Wyse Streaming Manager solution takes up about the same space as a monitor and has proven to be a reliable system in terms of delivering XP to the desktop," he said. "Management is centralized and there are no moving parts in the devices so you avoid disk failures."

Another immediate benefit is with image changes as IT staff now do not need to physically check each machine.

Every machine that is assigned to an image has the same software and can be changed centrally on the server.

"Once it is streamed it is in cache so it's like a normal PC," Deyaolu said. "Where you have issues is with the amount of data people want to move [but] it does everything a basic education institution would require and can run Adobe Photoshop and Publisher."

The thin client solution won't alter the school's software licensing arrangement but Deyaolu said the architecture makes it easier to manage.

"Our computer labs used to have a definite hum and the room would be a lot warmer but now they are silent," he said. "Schools should be aware it's really worth looking into. It will really help the smaller schools as well because you don't have to change the hardware. You can stream to PCs."

Wyse Australia's regional sales manager Richard Eccles said the biggest push back for thin clients has typically been user acceptance but streaming technology is changing this by providing a PC experience.

"We've done a good job in the past of selling PCs but the thin client is like a light bulb - if it breaks you just replace it," Eccles said. "The information is still kept securely on the server so if a terminal is stolen none of it is lost."

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