Desktop PCs, though still dominant in the information technology infrastructure at U.K.-based insurers, are rapidly giving way to alternative platforms.

So concludes IGEL Technology in the “Thin is in! The IT Desktop Strategy in the U.K. Insurance Industry” survey. Conducted by Dynamic Markets, the survey polled 50 U.K. insurance companies representatives — owners/founders (9 percent), C-level executives (26 percent), directors (23 percent), senior managers (29 percent) and middle managers (13 percent) — all of whom have full or partial responsibility for the desktop IT infrastructure at their companies.

The survey shows that nearly 8 in 10 insurance companies (78 percent) currently run a centralized IT infrastructure. And 80 percent of these organizations have at least some thin or zero client desktops deployed. While PCs still dominate the desktop landscape (they’re at 42 percent), thin/zero client deployment has risen to 20 percent.

Thin/zero clients are computers or software programs that depend on an enterprise- or cloud-based server to carry out their functions. Traditional “fat clients” like PCs, in contrast, rely on their own hardware.

Other platforms cited by the IGEL include notebooks (23 percent of users prefer these) and tablets with 19 percent of the user base. IGEL expects, however, that thin clients will rise to 39 percent of desktops by 2017 because of the advantages they offer in regard to flexibility (56 percent), improved security (46 percent) and speed of deployment (44 percent).

Despite the near doubling of thin and zero client deployment predicted, obstacles to broader adoption remain. Primary among these are concern over user frustration if the system goes down (42 percent), the cost of implementation (40 percent) and user resistance to adoption (40 percent).     

Ninety-four percent of the IT managers surveyed say the number of thin and zero client desktops at their company will likely or very likely increase. One third (32 percent) of them noted that using software to convert their existing hardware into centrally manageable thin clients is an attractive option and would very likely constitute part of their thin client expansion.

Insurance companies that took part in the survey count multiple thin client brands among their desktop devices. Seventy percent have more than one brand, 58 percent use three or more brands and 28 percent have four or more deployed.

Adam Brush, Vice President of Sales and Alliances in North America, notes that the research results from the UK would probably be similar if conducted in the U.S. “There is no doubt that flexibility, speed and security are prime drivers in thin client desktop implementation,” he says. “That’s not to say that thin client vendors don’t still have a lot of convincing to do in regard to the benefits, both in the insurance industry and in other industries.

“The advantages of thin clients are tremendous, but vendors have to demonstrate that clearly in order to overcome the concerns many management teams raise when considering their desktop options,” he adds.    

For an executive summary of the research, click here.