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Thin Client vs Thick Client: Pros and Cons

Alexei Chizhmakov

Published on September 6, 2022

Generally speaking, there are two types of clients: thick clients and thin clients. While both serve different purposes, it’s essential to understand the differences to make the most informed decision to address specific computing needs.

The most significant difference between the two is that thin clients rely on a network connection for data processing and don’t perform much processing on their hardware. A thick client does not require a constant network connection and can process the workload locally.

What is a thin client?

Thin clients work remotely in environments where most applications and sensitive data reside on servers rather than on local machines. Thin clients access powerful servers with the memory and storage space needed to run applications and internal computing tasks. The purpose of a thin client device is to act as a virtual desktop and utilize the processing power of a networked server, which can be a local or cloud-based system.

An example of a thin client network.

Thin clients are an excellent choice for the perfect balance of performance and portability. The idea of thin clients is to limit computing power to necessary applications. Additionally, machine learning solutions can help companies optimize resources by analyzing data across their networks in real-time. Thin clients are easier to control, easier to guard against security risks, and reduce maintenance and licensing costs.

Thin client applications are web-based programs that do not require client installation. It is primarily a gateway to the network. Thin clients are also suitable for the smallest workloads, as they cannot handle large amounts of data processing. The most typical thin client we see today is a web browse

Pros of thin clients

Lower costs

Thin clients are less likely to break down because they have fewer internal parts than a regular computer. They have no hard drives and typically use less powerful processors, resulting in a lower cost per device. Connecting and setting up thin clients takes less effort and time, reducing IT costs.

Better security

Thin client devices are more resistant to malware because users cannot install programs or store files on their devices. Thin clients ensure that only trusted software is installed on the computer.

Minimal space requirements

Thin clients are small machines that don’t need powerful hardware as demanding processing happens at the server. 

Protected data

Organizations can control who can access and use centrally stored files. In particular, thin client systems can be configured so that devices can access files without copying or deleting them.

Streamlined management

Installing new software, patching an application or operating system, or upgrading a network only requires work on the server instead of each client. Also, because user files are stored centrally, files can be found by searching in a single location. Thin clients make it easier to install software and ensure computers are up to date.

Effortless scaling

To scale a server-based system, all that needs to be done is to add a thin client and connect it to the server.

More efficient

Thin clients have a lower carbon footprint than regular computers because they have fewer moving parts. With simpler processors and no hard drives, thin clients also require less power and generate less waste heat.

Cons of thin clients

Single point of failure

Because everything a thin client does is delivered over a network connection, the network becomes a single point of failure and the most significant performance bottleneck in the system. If the network slows down, experiences delays, or fails completely, thin clients can do anything from delay to stop working altogether.

Requires powerful servers

Thin clients rely on powerful servers to do their jobs, and the entire system suffers when they don’t have enough power or performance. Even if a company already has servers, upgrading to handle thin client loads requires specialized hardware, which is a substantial initial investment.

Possible network problems

Thin clients cannot run without connecting to the server. If most employees’ work is done through thin clients, they can be affected by network latency, even on local computers. 

Not ideal for power users

For users who only occasionally need to check email or access web content, thin clients will meet their needs without difficulty. But engineers, graphic designers, and others who frequently work with multimedia content or graphics-intensive software may be limited by thin clients.

What is a thick client?

A thick client is a workstation containing most or all components required for it to run independently. A thick client is a component that has access to resources on a server but does not require computing power to use them. It has been the preferred choice for many years due to its customizable features and better control over system configuration.

Comparison of thick and thin client architectures

For thick clients, most resources are installed locally rather than distributed over the network. Thick client devices use their hard drives, operating systems, and software. Most, if not all, of the essential components, are included in the thick client.

Thick clients are more suitable for workstations that require customization and more control over installed programs and specific system configurations. Workplaces often provide employees with thick clients so that they can work offline because thick clients do not require constant server communication.

Pros of thick clients

Better offline performance

Thick clients can work offline because they don’t need to connect to a central server constantly. Thick clients typically have the hardware and software required to work on demand and sometimes do not need to connect to a central server at all. 

More server capacity

Thick clients allow access to files and applications anytime, providing more server capacity for other tasks. Since servers receive a lower workload from each individual client, they can serve more clients.

Less costly server needs

The final performance of an application depends on the server it connects to. Since thick clients do most of the processing locally, they are cheaper and perform better because they don’t have complex needs.

Better individual performance

Any resource or bandwidth-intensive application should perform well because resources are acquired from a single computer, not allocated from a central server, enabling work with multimedia content or graphics-intensive software. 

No costly upgrades

Many organizations may already have local computers fast enough to implement an infrastructure that can easily run thick clients.

Cons of thick clients

Continuous maintenance

Every computer needs maintenance. Thick clients must be updated for security or any hardware and software fixes and necessary updates of each software program. Each computer’s hardware must be maintained at a level acceptable to its software applications.

Demanding software changes

Because new software requires more resources, every computer that uses the application must be updated. New applications that employees may need may also need to be uploaded to other workstations.

Data security problems

Data needs to be backed up from thick clients to ensure that if something goes wrong, information isn’t lost forever. Thick clients also increase the responsibility of individuals for the security and protection of their computers.

Higher cost per unit

Organizations must continually invest in each workstation to ensure the hardware can run the latest version of the software.

High network traffic

Since each workstation handles all the data locally for each user over the network cable, there is usually a lot of network traffic. In modern networks, this may not be a problem. Still, when there is a considerable amount of data or multiple physical locations to communicate, the bandwidth capacity of the network may not be able to transfer all the necessary data quickly.


Companies should consider their entire computing infrastructure when choosing between thin and thick clients. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with a deep understanding of the fine-grained requirements, the best solution for each organization can be determined.

At Itirra, we provide companies with customized solutions and opportunities to explore potential improvements to support their business goals. For a personalized recommendation based on your unique business model, don’t hesitate to get in touch or schedule a meeting.