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Thin Client/Server Technology (TCST)

Thin client server technology (TCST) came about as a result of the constant need to upgrade PC desktop along with the high cost of maintenance and manpower that is needed to ensure a continuous flow of information. Although the desktop PC is a useful tool that enables its users to increase their productivity, there are many who believe that it has become rather complicated and bloated , hence the name ‘fat client’.

The thin client is a simple desktop device that consists of a processor, some RAM and an input device with a monitor. It comes without a hard drive, CD-ROM or expansion slots and relies on the server for processing power and loading of applications. Network computers and Windows-based terminals (WBTs) are two types of thin clients that are currently available.


Some of the advantages that the TCST has to offer the healthcare industry include:

  • Ease of deployment: Because of their simple architecture thin clients computers are easier to setup, especially since they can be configured centrally by the administrator. All the applications needed by the clients reside on the server, so there is no need for any application installation to be done at the setup point.

    Central administration also makes it possible to streamline software application upgrades and seamlessly integrate any network add-ons with already existing hospital information systems.

  • Better support: Thin clients are easier to support as they have no moving parts such as fans, hard drives, clocks, floppy or CD-ROM drives, thus are less likely to break down. Trouble shooting applications can be done centrally at the server instead of having to it at the device itself.

  • Total cost of ownership (TCO): Research has been done to back up the claims by supporters of TCST that its adoption reduces the total cost of ownership. Some of the research done shows that tend to be lower where TCST has been implemented.

    The TCO model consists of basically four elements:

    1. Capital and non-human resources - hardware, software, electricity and so on.

    2. Technical support cost – design, installation, help desk, maintenance and repair cost.

    3. Administrative cost – This includes the cost of administration of the applications, network, servers and desktop devices.

    4. User operations costs: The time users devote to learning about and maintaining their systems.

    The costs are monitored over the period the devices’ usefulness to the organisation.

  • Better security: Security is easier to maintain, since all applications and data are maintained centrally. It is also possible to disable a login account, centrally, for a user, which disables the user’s access to the entire organisation’s information. Another added benefit to note is, since thin clients do not have a floppy drive, it is impossible to copy data using them.

There are however some disadvantages with TCST are:

  • The lack of local storage means that remote users cannot download files in order to work offline.

  • Software for thin clients has not yet matured, so it is hard to gauge their full impact.

  • Network requirements for effective information transfer with thin client server networks (usually that of a T-1 bandwidth) are more than that found in majority of the healthcare networks available.



International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Knowledge Center
Biomedical Informatics
Health Informatics
Healthcare Technologies
Hospital Information Systems
Computer Networks Topics
Client/Server Networks
Intranets and Extranets
Peer-to-Peer Networks
Thin Client Server Technology
Virtual Private Networks
Wireless Technology

Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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