Chromebooks are becoming more and more popular in business as a secure and cheap alternative to fully-fledged laptops on the one hand and alternative thin clients on the other. Awingu makes it possible to run – amongst others – your legacy business applications on this device.

What are thin clients

The roots of the ‘thin client’ go back to multi-user systems – typically mainframes – that needed access by some sort of computer terminal. “A thin client is a lightweight computer that has been optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment. The server does most of the work, which can include launching software programs, performing calculations, and storing data. This contrasts with a fat client or a conventional personal computer” (Wikipedia, April 2019).

The term thin client was coined in 1993 by Tim Negris, VP of Server Marketing at Oracle Corporation while working on the launch of Oracle 7.

Today, server-based computing is increasingly a default for a lot of businesses. The paradigm might have shifted to cloud-based & SaaS services, but in essence, it’s still the same. Businesses typically used to adopt thin clients and server-based computing for the following reasons

  • Cut costs (e.g. Using cheaper hardware and having a longer device life cycle)
  • Simplified device management (e.g. updates are done centrally and not on each device, backups are done centrally, …)
  • Enhanced security (e.g. Data can’t be copied to another disk, easier to monitor usage, …)

How do Chromebooks compare to thin clients

Chromebook is a laptop or tablet running the Linux based Chrome OS as an operating system. These machines are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud. With Chromebox and Chromebit there are also desktop & Dongle variants.

Chrome OS, you could almost say, is an OS that builds around the Chrome Browser. Its main usage is to access online services, via a browser. While you can access a limited number of services off-line also, the whole idea of Chrome OS (and thus Chromebooks) is to use it in Server Based Computing setup (with SaaS as a variant thereof).

Fourcast.io has analyzed how Chromebooks compare to Thin clients. What they found is the following:

  • When you use a server for virtualization, you have a single point of failure for all your thin clients. If the server experiences a lot of load, or even worse, crashes, all clients are rendered useless. With Chromebooks, while your VDI session might not be accessible anymore, you still have full access to your web-apps.
  • Direct access to internet resources is not possible with thin clients. All data passes through your session, and thus via the server. This can be a bottleneck for media and video calls (hangouts, Skype, …). With Chromebooks, you are directly connected to the internet, giving you a huge performance and experience increase.
  • Chrome devices are even cheaper than thin clients.
    • Chromeboxes come at €150 and thin clients start at €380. In both cases, you will still need to buy a monitor to display the data
    • Chromebooks start at €249, and they are good to go as is, no extra monitor needed.
  • Chrome devices are even more secure than thin clients because they are proven to be unhackable (during the Pwnium 3 hacking competition)
    • Every web app runs in a separate sandbox
    • Device reboots and solves issues when a virus would escape the sandbox
  • With the Chrome OS management console the management of the devices is even easier because they are managed in the cloud.
    • Updates are released automatically, without having to configure the server. Of course, you can configure when you want to release the updates.
    • Capability to work offline with some applications

With Awingu, you get your ‘legacy’ applications available in a Chromebook

So, you have a browser as an operating system. You might have switched to online services for productivity, CRM and collaboration. But chances are you still have a number of ‘legacy’ systems out there that will not (yet) get replaced by on online SaaS alternative.

This is where Awingu steps in. It builds on Server-Based Computing principles and uses the browser as the client of access. Awingu offers a fully secured HTML5 based workspace with access to RDP based RemoteApps, Remote Desktops, Linux apps & desktops, intranets, internal web applications and files from classic file systems. Awingu will add additional security layers: Multi-Factor Authentication, SSL encryption, usage auditing, granular controls, context-aware login, …

The architecture looks like this:

More importantly, with Awingu in place, you can very smoothly equip different user groups with different devices without the hassle. Maybe you want the admin staff to use Windows 10 desktops, the local branch staff users Chromebooks and contractors use BYOD? Not a problem.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin_client
https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-is-a-chromebook/

https://www.fourcast.io/blog/chrome-for-work-blog-series-2-chromebook-as-a-thin-client