A thin client refers to either a software program or to an actual computer that relies heavily on another computer to do most of its work. It operates as part of a network, with the client software or computer acting as an interface and the network server computer doing all the real work, like saving files, processing data, and controlling certain functions of the clients, like whether they can download things or not. This type of setup is commonly used in places with lots of people simultaneously using computers, like businesses or schools. Though this system is often easier to maintain and use, it also has some downsides, including the lack of peripherals and limited performance.
A physical thin client can be something as minimalistic as a graphic display and an input mechanism like a keyboard, mouse, or touch screen. Generally speaking, these devices contain just enough information to start up and connect to a more powerful computer, the server. Many do not have the peripherals that come with personal computers like an optical drive or input/output ports, which are where wires connecting the computer to other devices come into it. They may also lack a hard drive, which means that if the client computer needs to use a program or save a file, it will connect to the network server computer to do so.
The software version is interface-based program. The user of the client software sees all of the data, tools, and features that would appear on a normal piece of software, but another program running on a remote server does the work.
Thin clients are typically used in settings where a lot of people need to use computers. This includes public places like libraries, airports, and schools. The thin client setup is also popular in places where people need to be able to save and access information from a central location, like an office, a call center, or a manufacturing plant. For instance, an office might use this type of setup to allow all employees to save all their work on an office server, or to control the programs and information that they can access.
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