What are Industrial Thin Clients?

What is a thin client?

A thin client computer is an ultra-compact form factor compute device that relies on the host server to process resources. Typically, thin clients only have enough storage capacity for the operating system as all data will be stored within the server. This allows an organization to manage and monitor all thin clients with ease and ensure uniformity within the network. This system architecture is better known as a client-server model where the server processes all the resources while the client simply relays the data.

Characteristics of Thin Client Computers:

  • Simple client-server model
  • Client management ease
  • Reinforced security
  • Low power consumption
  • Small form factor

What are industrial thin clients? (Industrial thin clients vs thin clients)

Industrial thin clients follow the same principles as traditional thin clients. Both have low power consumption and are ultra-compact. However, industrial thin clients utilize a ruggedized fanless design to operate reliably in harsh environments such as factory floors. These devices are purpose-built and utilized in numerous enterprises and commercial applications where traditional thin client computers will fail. Some key features that ensure industrial thin client reliability for rugged edge computing are:

  • Wide operating temperature ranges
  • Ubiquitous I/O configurability
  • Shock and vibration resistant
  • Dust, debris, and containment resistant
  • Wireless connectivity


How are industrial thin clients used in enterprise/industrial applications?

Enterprise applications examples such as industrial automation and intelligent manufacturing require large quantities of computing units to operate large-scale productions. These industrial thin clients allow technicians to monitor, update, and record data with ease due to all the data processing being done through a host server. This allows technicians to manage hundreds, or even thousands, of industrial thin clients efficiently without having to tend to each computer individually. As mentioned previously, industrial thin clients are specialized to be sustainable in harsh factory, or even outdoor, environments where traditional thin and thick clients fail.

What is a thick client?

Thick client computers, also known as heavy or fat client computers, are traditional desktop PCs. Unlike thin client and zero client computers, all resources are processed and stored locally within the system; without the need to rely on a wireless connection to a server.

What are the 5 differences between industrial thin clients and thick clients? (Industrial Thin Client vs Thick Client)

1. Manageability

Manageability is the most crucial differentiator between industrial thin clients and thick clients. Because industrial thin clients communicate directly to a server, security updates and protocol changes are quicker and easier to manage as it can all be done within the server. Thick clients tend to operate independently, sometimes offline, therefore they require a technician to physically adjust or update each client.

2. Connectivity and Bandwidth

Industrial thin clients are dependent on the status of the server. If the server is offline or there are connectivity issues, these industrial thin clients will not be operatable. Because of the reliance on the server, industrial thin clients require a scalable server depending on the number of clients connected. Larger operations require a high-performance server that can handle the bandwidth and amount of thin clients connected simultaneously. Thick clients on the other hand, have localized processing capabilities that allow them to operate with or without a wireless connection. There is limited to no bandwidth utilized with thick clients.

3. Security and Data Integrity

Security and data integrity are vital assets when working with sensitive material. Thick clients are more vulnerable and susceptible to data compromises because the client has more control over the data and software. Since data is stored and processed locally, unauthorized software can infect the client much easier. Industrial thin clients are restricted to the server and unauthorized software must be validated by the server. As said previously, thin clients are more manageable than thick clients, security updates can be rapidly installed onto the server, and all the thin clients will be up to date. In addition, there is a less likelihood of theft when utilizing industrial thin clients because data is stored on the server, not on the device itself.

4. Cost Efficiency

Industrial thin clients do not need much computing power or performance since all the data is being processed through the server. This client-server method makes thin clients cost efficient but requires a high-performance server. Since all data is processed and stored locally on thick clients, they are much more expensive than thin clients. Organizations that will be utilizing a wide range of clients will find thin clients to be the most cost effective and practical as they are must easier to manage.

5. Deployment Versatility

Deployment is a key factor at the rugged edge. Most thick clients will utilize active cooling, cooling using a fan, and makes them less reliable for edge computing. Since thick clients need storage and other data processing components, they have a larger form factor. Industrial thin clients are purpose-built for rugged edge computing, with an ultra-compact, fully enclosed, cableless and fanless design. These characteristics allow industrial thin clients to be versatile in their deployments. Whether there is debris and contaminants, space-constraining limitations, or shock and vibration present, industrial thin clients are designed to be resistant to the harsh conditions.


Industrial Thin Client 

Thick Client 

Manageability w/ multiple devices 












Resource processing 



Data Security 

More secure 

Less secure 

Local Storage 


Fully scalable 

Power consumption 



Form factor 


Tower design 


Passive (fanless) 

Active (fanned) 

Why and when to use industrial thin clients?

Industrial thin clients are most effective to large organizations that operate with sensitive data over a large quantity of devices. This allows technicians to manage all instances within the server and ensure data security. Additionally, this option becomes cost effective because industrial thin clients do not require any significantly expensive components.

Industrial Thin Clients by Premio

Premio offers a unique selection of reliable industrial thin clients purpose-built for Industry 4.0 edge applications. These rugged fanless industrial computers are engineered and designed to provide the necessary processing power necessary in challenging environments like factory floors. Although ultra-compact, the industrial thin clients offer scalability and flexible I/O configurations with universal I/O daughterboards.

RCO-1000 Intel Celeron J1900 Mini Industrial Computer

RCO-1000 – Mini Industrial Thin Client

The RCO-1000 Series is designed to deliver reliable processing power in the most space-constrained deployments. This mini industrial thin client offers extreme power efficiency and flexible I/O configurations all within a ruggedized ultra-compact form factor.

  • Low-power Quad core performance 
  • Ultra-compact form factor 
  • Expandable I/O modules 
  • Longevity (15-Year Intel Embedded Roadmap) 

Discover more about the RCO-1000 Series >>

BCO-2000 Series Mini Fanless Industrial Computer

BCO-2000 – Advanced Industrial Thin Client

Purpose-built for Industry 4.0 deployments, the BCO-2000-WHL-U provides rich I/O with two universal I/O brackets for further I/O configurability. Capable of withstanding harsh environments with a wide operating temperature range and shock and vibration resistance, the BCO-2000 is edge compute ready.

  • 8th Gen Intel WHL-U Processor
  • Small Form Factor
  • 2x Modular I/O Daughterboards

Explore the BCO-2000 >>


VIO-200 Series Rugged IP65 Industrial Touch Panel PC and Monitor


VIO Series – Touch Screen Industrial Thin Client

Simplifying portability and upgradability with MDM modular technology. The VIO series is an all-in-one rugged industrial thin client solution with flexibility and scalability. Configure from a wide range of display screens, processing power, and touchscreen technologies to maximize cost-performance efficiency.

  • IP65-Rated front panel 
  • MDM modular technology 
  • Cost-effective upgradability & flexibility 

Learn more about the VIO Series >>


Why use thin clients?

  • Thin clients are used to managing large quantities of computers simultaneously through a host server. It provides robust data security, efficient manageability, and versatility in deployment.

How do thin clients work?

  • Thin clients operate similarly to a traditional desktop PC, except all the processes are done on the server side. A use case example is desktop virtualization where the server runs an instance of an application, and the thin client interacts with it.

What is a thin client application?

  • A thin client application is software that is installed into the host server for thin clients to use. For example, an enhanced security application has been installed onto the host server. This application will operate and ensure data integrity for all thin client instances.

Can a thin client be used as a PC?

  • Yes, however, thin clients will require a host server to access most applications.

Do thin clients have hard drives?

  • Because thin clients are ultra-compact, it usually has M.2 SSD or 2.5” SSD storage options rather than hard drives. The storage drives are primarily used as an operating system while all other resources and data are stored onto the host server.

Can you use a thin client without a server?

  • No, thin clients rely heavily on a server for resource processing. Without a host server, the thin client will have little to no computing capabilities since all data are stored onto the server.

Do thin clients have operating systems?

  • Yes, thin clients use a specific operating system to access the host server and provide flexible features for OEM designer to incorporate.

What is a zero client?

  • While thin clients are capable of minimal local storage for an operating system and system configuration files, zero clients (or ultrathin clients) do not have any local storage capabilities. Instead, it requires an Ethernet connection to boot and operate through the host server. Because of the lack of an operating system, a zero client uses firmware to boot and connect to the server. Zero clients offer the highest level of data security since there is no sensitive data saved onto the device and are the most cost effective due to its bare minimum components.