Thin Clients Yield Large Returns

The long-term care of PCs, just like people, can be expensive.

The long-term care of PCs, just like people, can be expensive.

For New London Hospital, which needed to replace several hundred aging desktop PCs recently, thin clients were the answer. The hospital now has nearly 300 ClearCube blade PCs.

The machines, which are located in the data center and accessible only via a desktop port that connects a display, keyboard and mouse, offered to lower management costs—promising a return on investment in as little as one and a half years, while lasting some five years and better protecting patient information, said Dave Foss, CIO of New London Hospital, in New London, N.H.

"Theres a lot of research that I did that supports the fact that the purchase of the hardware—the desktop itself—represents between 5 and 10 percent of the total cost of ownership of that workstation throughout its life," said Foss, who wouldnt detail dollar figures. "You start looking at what the other costs are."

Indeed, even though the ClearCube blades, which the hospital began rolling out in 2004, cost the hospital roughly 1.5 times more than a standard desktop, Foss said that other factors weighed in. Each blade can support up to five users while "cutting down on the mileage on [IT] peoples shoes," he said.

Now "we dont have hard drives under peoples desks or in public access points where they can get to it," Foss said. "We can also disable the ability to plug in memory sticks."

However, there were challenges.

One was in the hospitals server rooms, which had to be expanded and which Foss had to ensure could address additional heat removal and electrical supply issues to accommodate racks of ClearCube blades.

"Initially, we met with curiosity and a little bit of apprehension," Foss said. "We worked through it. We got over some bumps. My desktop support staff, specifically, is very pleased with being able to support all of those users from [one] location."


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Foss expects the hospital to move to nearly 100 percent ClearCube machines by the end of its current fiscal year, which ends on Oct. 1, 2006.

"Im confident that were going to get a five-year cycle" versus a four-year cycle for standard desktops, Foss said. "Even an extra year makes a big difference."

Ultimately, the hospital which has a total of 83 beds—including 58 as part of a long-term-care facility—expects to use the machines for finance, medical records and even areas such as operating rooms and the radiology department.

"We will use them in ORs to view medical imaging during procedures," Foss said.

Security, space, heat and fans—which can suck in contaminants in areas such as operating rooms, where the hospital intends to eventually tap the blades as well—were among Foss major concerns.


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