5 reasons why you should try ThinLinc instead of VNCs
Written by Andre Lopes
14th March, 2022
Both VNC and ThinLinc are tools used for remote desktop sessions in Linux. While VNC (Virtual Network Computing) is just the name of the famous open source protocol for remote desktop connections, ThinLinc is a "server/client" solution from the Swedish company Cendio, that focuses on providing a remote desktop connection.
ThinLinc is based on open source software and also uses the VNC protocol. Two examples of FOSS software included in ThinLinc's code are TigerVNC and noVNC, both also maintained by Cendio. And with a lot of other VNC based solutions, such as TightVNC, TurboVNC, RealVNC, UltraVNC and others, what makes ThinLinc unique?
So, here are 5 reasons why you should try ThinLinc instead of VNCs.
VNC protocol does not include sound redirection by default. You can workaround this VNC limitation by using other means, such as forwarding audio through PulseAudio on another connection. Some VNC applications are already combining audio forwarding with VNC, but still most VNC based applications don't have an integrated way to redirect the sound from the server to the client.
ThinLinc, fortunately, has already implemented this audio forwarding for years and does the trick by providing image AND sound by default. This enhances the experience of remote desktop access.
2. Image quality and responsiveness
Because VNC is built for providing graphical access, it uses a lot more bandwidth and needs a better latency than a SSH connection does for example. On most VNC based applications, you can sacrifice some image quality to get some better responsiveness if you are far from the server or are using a limited bandwidth connection. In most applications, these settings are not dynamically configured, so, you have to try a myriad of configurations to balance quality vs responsiveness and still you may suffer some lag if your connection is unstable.
ThinLinc dynamically changes these settings to offer the best image quality without sacrificing speed to provide a smooth experience, even if you are using a limited network or if your network is unstable. You feel almost as if you're sitting right in front of the remote machine and input lag is minimum or imperceptible.
The VNC protocol was created in the late 90s and has a lot of found and fixed vulnerabilities over the years. There are some hardening actions that you can do to provide a safer experience for VNC users, even if your VNC software does not mitigate those vulnerabilities by default. But you must pay attention to the configuration, to prevent encryption keys and passwords being sniffed through the network, 8 characters limited passwords, picture data being transmitted without encryption, etc. It is not uncommon to see people tunneling VNC over SSH or VNC connections to add an extra layer of security. Not all VNC servers are implemented the same way, so, you may need to check the best configuration of your VNC implementations to provide a safer use.
ThinLinc on the other hand is accessed over a SSH connection, known as a more secure way to connect to a Linux computer remotely. You can easily improve the SSH security by forcing other authentication methods, such as public/private keypair, Kerberos ticket, or smart cards and all these methods work with ThinLinc. Instead of VNC that needs you to double-check its configuration, ThinLinc is secure by default.
4. Easy configuration
VNC is very robust and offers a myriad of ways to use it. But depending on the VNC software you're using, changing those options and to get it working the way you want may take a lot of time. And don't forget that you'll need to open VNC ports on your firewall: for each virtual desktop user connected on VNC, one more port is needed. If your machine is on a private network and you're not the IT professional responsible for port forwarding, you may not get permission to access your machine remotely.
ThinLinc is also very robust, but you can have it set and running in a few steps. ThinLinc client connections use just port 22 (SSH) by default, so, if your computer is already open to SSH connections, ThinLinc is going to work without the hassle of opening more ports on the firewall. The client by default also gets sound redirection, local printer redirection and the best balance between picture quality and responsiveness.
5. Redundancy, Load Balance and High Availability
VNC provides you a remote graphical access for a single machine. It means that if your remote machine is not working, you need to connect to another one. And if you have multiple users and multiple machines available to connect to, how can you know that you're using the machine with most available resources or if you are using a machine that is being shared with other heavy users?
By using ThinLinc, you may set up all your remote access servers to work together and provide your network a reliable remote access cluster that will offer redundancy, load balance and high availability. Those are essential if your employees can't risk being unable to access their remote computers. Redundancy will make sure that all the remote machines will provide you the same experience. Load-balance will make sure that every user will connect to the best available server. And high availability will be responsible for always having an available server for your users to connect to, even if some of the servers are not accessible at the moment. All of this in a single entry point for your users.
"ThinLinc is much smoother for the GUI experience over long-distance connections. Even from 2000 miles away, ThinLinc provides a good experience, in our past NX can be more choppy. The ThinLinc installer is much nicer too, it’s much better at solving the dependencies on Linux systems. The built-in security in ThinLinc is a huge win, now we don’t have to deal with trying to secure/tunnel the insecure software protocols like VNC."
The fully-featured version of ThinLinc is free for up to 10 simultaneously connected users per domain, so you're welcome to give it a try. It is not a trial, a demo or a limited version, it is the full version that you can use for free when you have up to 10 users connected at a time on your company or your personal machine. If you need more users for evaluating purposes, please contact our support team. If you have any questions, please, contact us or feel free to ask in our community forums.