Calculating the savings of thin client computing

Thin client computing is solving the growing management problem of fat clients, allowing employees to telework/roam more easily and is introducing huge savings on support, hardware and upgrade costs. A study conducted by Bloor Research shows that “Deploying thin client technology across enterprises can cut costs by up to 70%”.

This fat2thin calculator allows you to calculate how much you could save by joining the thin client computing revolution. Detailed workings are also included.

Savings using thin clients – How we obtained the formula
We take the number of PCs that you will replace by thin clients and apply the following formula. X represents the number of PCs replaced.

The result shows how much lower the Total Cost of Ownership is of thin client desktops compared to fat client desktops. Following is an explanation as to how these amounts were reached:

*1 Explanation of savings on administration
These were calculated at $1000 per PC. Many research studies indicate that the amount is between $800 and $1,700 per year. Beyond day-to-day maintenance of installation of patches, software upgrades, etc, there is also the 3 year upgrade cycle which requires an administrator to move all the data and profiles to the new PC. On average this will cost $300 per PC, making for an additional cost of $50 per year (over a 6 year period). Since administration is simplified, an enterprise will require fewer IT staff to perform the same number functions. This means lower training costs and fewer salaries to pay. Bloor Research estimates that the number of helpdesk staff needed can be reduced typically by 50% and often by 75%.

*2 Explanation of savings on client hardware
These were calculated to be $208 per PC per year. You can get an adequate thin client for $250, in contrast with the average price for a PC of about $750 – this results in a saving of $500. Since PC hardware has to be upgraded approximately every 3 years as opposed to a thin client which only needs to be replaced every 6 years, the savings increase to $1250 over a span of 6 years ($1500 spent on 2 PCs as opposed to $250 on 1 thin client device). This amount is then divided by 6 to calculate a yearly saving. If you are using existing PCs instead of thin clients, the hardware savings can still be applied because you would be extending the life span of the converted computers. Furthermore, the MTBF of a thin client device is higher and it uses far less energy.

*3 Explanation of extra server hardware costs
These were calculated at $50 per user. Because all processing is done on the server, when using thin clients you will need to buy additional servers to act as terminal servers. On average 30 users will need a dual processor server with 4 gigs of RAM and SCSI hard disks. A brand name server should cost around $4,500 and will depreciate on average in 3 years (in reality you can use them for longer than that).


  • A thin client device uses less power and generates less heat.
  • Added cost of doodling: Fat clients allow users to play around with settings, which is an administration headache, but also wastes employee time. See (esp. slide 26 onwards) for a case study.

About fblauer

Fred Blauer is a senior consultant with more than 20 years of experience providing information systems consulting, ERP implementation, syste
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