Note: Microsoft no longer offers Windows MultiPoint Server. However, Windows Server now has a MultiPoint Services role that has no limit on the number of users.
Windows MultiPoint Server (WMS) is a special version of the Windows Server operating system that allows multiple users to simultaneously share one computer. In this blog post, I'll compare costs and energy usage for a WMS setup versus a conventional setup in which every user has a laptop or desktop computer.
A WMS computer system has less upfront hardware costs, as well as less maintenance and software costs. It also uses a lot less electricity than a conventional multiuser setup.
A WMS system provides an overall cost and energy savings of 66 percent compared to a traditional 1:1 computing environment.
Table: Cost and Energy Comparison — Traditional 1:1 Computer System versus Windows MultiPoint Server
The bottom line overall savings in the table above very much agrees with Forrester Research’s results in their Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Windows MultiPoint Server 2011 study.
They found that the largest cost savings categories are hardware (62 percent of total savings), energy (29 percent of the total cost reduction), and labor (11 percent).
In a conventional computer system, the hardware required is one computer, monitor, keyboard, and mouse for each user. With WMS, only one computer is needed to support up to 20 users.
A WMS system requires one high-end computer, such as a desktop with an i7 processor, to support up to 20 stations. Hardware with less processing capabilities can be used, such as a computer with a Core 2 Duo, but the number of stations that it can support is reduced.
Each station served by WMS requires a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The least expensive connection option is direct connect, which means the monitor’s cable is directly connected to the desktop.
A small USB hub might be required for each station for the keyboard, mouse, and speakers. These hubs cost from $5 to $20 per unit.
Another type of connection is a USB video hub. These hubs are connected to the server via USB and generally have a VGA port on the hub. USB video hubs cost from $50 to $80 per unit.
Thin clients offer another form of connecting to WMS. They can be networked and are best suited for large offices or classrooms. They cost from $150 to $200 per unit.
WMS can also use legacy hardware, such as old laptops or desktop computers. This means a laptop or desktop with an older operating system can be repurposed as an access device, running Windows Professional, and extend the life of the laptop or desktop. Repurposing old hardware is another costs savings benefit of WMS.
Because only one computer is needed to power a system that serves multiple users, WMS reduces energy consumption and is regarded as a green IT technology.
Each desktop computer requires 60 to 250 (average 155) watts, depending on its level of processing. Monitors require 15 to 70 watts (average 41). Combined average is 196 watts.
A thin client, by comparison, uses about 2.5 watts, which is about one-sixtieth the power consumed by a desktop computer and roughly one-tenth the wattage of a laptop computer.
It’s very difficult to calculate software costs because Microsoft offers several different licensing options, and users can elect to put different software on their computer systems.
Long story short, though, WMS saves licensing costs because it doesn’t require putting Windows on each client station.
For a conventional computer system, an operating system must be purchased for each computer. This can cost up to $199 for Windows Professional commercial licensing, for example.
Both WMS Standard Edition and Premium Edition require a server license for the host computer.
Each user station that connects to WMS must have two types of client access licenses (CALs): a WMS CAL and a Windows Server CAL. These two CALs, licensed per user station, are available as a single donation through TechSoup.
In all licensing arrangements, CALs are much less expensive than the licensing for the server. If the host computer is used as a user station and not just for administration, organizations must have both a WMS CAL and a Windows Server CAL for it as well.
Licensing for Microsoft Office costs essentially the same as on a conventional 1:1 computer system. Each station needs its own full license.
Only specific versions of Office will run on a WMS system. They are:
All of them are available as donations on TechSoup for eligible nonprofits and libraries. And WMS Standard Edition and Premium Edition are available to nonprofits and libraries on TechSoup as well.
Maintenance savings for WMS are simple. The fewer computers to maintain, the lower the maintenance costs. Most users will be connected with devices that have no moving parts.
According to the market research organization TechAisle, maintenance costs per computer are between $326 and $401 (average $364). These costs include the cost of repair and ongoing maintenance for desktops over three years old. Maintenance costs tend to increase as computers get older.
The most common maintenance issues, in order of leading cause of failure, are software crashes, power supply failure, hard drive failure, network card failure, and finally, motherboard failure.
Prior to any hardware failure, a computer can have degraded performance as a result of security issues or not getting proper updates. Degraded performance results in loss of productivity and therefore additional business costs.
WMS significantly reduces maintenance costs, since only one computer requires maintenance. The devices connected to the server, either USB hub or thin client, have no moving parts and require no maintenance.
Another maintenance advantage of WMS is it can be easily accessed remotely, and tech support does not need to be onsite to repair a station that might support up to 20 users.
It’s a pretty easy case to make that WMS is an excellent solution for nonprofits, schools, libraries, and computer labs that are on limited budgets.
The cost savings, energy savings, and ease of maintenance make it a solution that I’d urge more people to consider. It may be that the age of thin client computing has finally arrived.
Special thanks to Charles Brennick from InterConnection in Seattle for calculating the cost and energy comparisons above.
Jim - An excellent contribution. We've been installing Multipoint servers for our clients since late 2010. It's an amazing product for small and larger organizations. It is also highly integrated into Microsoft's small business line of servers.
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