Thin clients and virtual desktops are known to be easier to secure and support than PC’s. But there are significant sustainability and cost benefits in eliminating PC’s and adopting virtual desktops and thin clients as the primary end-user computing device. First, the use of thin clients and servers dramatically reduce power consumption and carbon emissions. There are also significant reductions in both the amount of energy and materials consumed for their production, packaging, shipping and disposal, as well.
When compared to PC’s, thin clients consume 60% to 90% less power. Thin clients also have a longer useful life, i.e., 6 to 8 years, compared to a PC which is typically used for 3 to 4 years. This is because thin clients have fewer, if any, moving parts. Being much smaller, thin clients require less materials to be mined and processed to create them and use less packaging and energy to transport them. Lastly, containing much fewer heavy metals, thin clients are less toxic in landfills than PC’s. These other factors are significant, especially when considering that one thin client will replace two PC’s given their useful life.
PC’s use power inefficiently and generate significant heat. By virtualizing desktops and servers into a few power efficient physical servers, power consumption many be reduced by as much as 90%. The more PC’s that are replaced by virtual desktops, the greater the power savings.
Certainly, the power savings and reduced carbon emissions are dramatic when using virtual desktops. But there are other indirect benefits, such as transportation, packaging, production and disposal, in addition to their use. These benefits should be considered by any organization as a means to support their sustainability goals.