By Aaron Molen, DDS, MS
I believe that the thin client workstation is the most underappreciated and underutilized tool in many people’s IT toolbox. A thin client is a mini-computer about the size of a paperback book that depends on an external server to perform its computations. Most of us are used to working on fat clients, which is simply another name for a personal computer that does all of its computations. Simply put, if a fat client was to lose its network connection it could still function on its own, but if a thin client loses its network connection it is dead. Why would you want a mini-computer that can’t function without a network connection? One word: scalability. Due to their size they can be placed just about anywhere; plus, because they take their orders from a central server they can be swapped out with ease and don’t require reprogramming. Adding workstations becomes easy instead of a chore and allows you to scale your practice upwards as it grows.
I personally use Wyse thin clients, (now owned by Dell), and link them to my primary server using Microsoft’s Terminal Services. The latest thin clients even contain graphics cards which allow you to support multiple monitors and 3D imaging software. To get the best performance newer thin clients, like the Z90, should be loaded with Windows 7 RTE and then coupled with a server running Remote Desktop Services 2012 R2. When using higher end thin clients though the cost can increase per client making thin clients a great option for larger multi-location practices looking for scalability but may not offer as many benefits to a single-location practice versus traditional fat clients. There is no question though that the capabilities of thin clients have slowly blossomed under the radar and should be considered by any orthodontist looking to add workstations.