For some libraries, the simple act of restarting the computers may be the most effective maintenance and troubleshooting technique…thanks to disk-protection software.
Disk-protection is a way to revert back to the way a computer was configured at a particular point in time. Ideally, you want to start off with a solid configuration that has all the elements to serve your patrons well. This is the configuration that disk-protection will revert back to when you restart your computer.
- Take some time to plan and think about all the elements you want to have on these computers before installing disk-protection. These include:
- Patron-use software such as office productivity software, games, or alternative browsers such as the Public Web Browser
- Antivirus or anti-spyware software policies that you use to customize the look-and-feel of the computers
- Accounts for patron use (e.g., you may want several different patron accounts — one for children, one for teens, one for adults, etc.)
- Patron management and lock-down software such as the Fortres 101, CybraryN, or CASSIE
- Set up your patron computer accordingly, so that changes to the computer will not stick. This brings up some issues that do not apply to a “normal” computer setup. For one thing, as mentioned previously in this section, patrons wishing to save work or downloads from the Internet should use their own media or online. If they save on a disk-protected computer, it will get wiped away when the computer restarts.
Also, by nature, disk-protection makes it harder for you to change your patron computer's configuration. You must turn disk-protection off before you install new software or upgrade software. For example, if you want to upgrade Microsoft Office to the new version, you will have to turn disk-protection off before you can install it, then turn it back on once its installed.
- If your patrons use a certain kind of software that needs to update configuration information as it is used, configure your setup to accommodate that. For example, a typing tutor program might include a feature that saves the progress of its students so when they return at a later date to do more exercises, the program will know where the student left off. If you don't configure the typing tutor software to save this progress data to an unprotected area, disk-protection will wipe out this information when you restart the computer. How disappointed your hard working typing students would be!
- Along with planning, test the disk-protected setups to make sure things are working as intended, especially after you restart your computer. First, test the computers yourself. Once this is done, ask one or more of your patrons to sample the computer with the new features and setup. If the patrons identify problems, you can address them before installing and setting up the other patron computers. Patron Computer Software Comparison Chart The chart on the following pages compares some of the better-known titles that are currently in use in small libraries. They have been grouped by family, based on the most prominent patron computers’ management features. The pricing and support terms reflect discounts for public library licensing and 15 workstations (where applicable).