Non-Restrictive Technology for Computing Environments

Non-restrictive technology is used in many computing environments. However, it is most often seen in publicly accessible computing domains. Non-Restrictive technology is often referred to as the traditional Reboot-to-Restore concept. This concept has also been referred to as hard drive write protection.

As technologies have advanced the techniques for implementing a Non-Restrictive computing environments have grown beyond the simple Restoring on Reboot process. More progressive techniques such as sector mapping technology have enhanced the administration of enterprise workstations.

Today’s Public Access Computer Environment

Schools systems worldwide recognize the necessity of computing in the educational environment. Educating computer skills is vital for today’s students, but there are many issues that school systems must address regarding their management of computer labs. Furthermore, there are two district schools of thought for how student PCs should be managed:

External Threats

Alongside viruses, the biggest threats to computer users today is malware. It can hijack your browser, redirect your search attempts, serve up nasty pop-up ads, track what websites you visit, and mess up your system settings. Malware programs are usually poorly-programmed and can cause your computer to become slow and unstable in addition to all the other havoc they bring.

Most malware will reinstall themselves even after you think you have removed them, or hide themselves deep within Windows, making them very difficult to clean. This article is intended to guide you with basic preventive measures.

Internal Threats and Inadvertent User Errors

Students today are sometimes more computer and Internet savvy than their teachers and sometimes even their IT co-ordinators. They pose an aptitude to download and install sophisticated applications such as P2P sharing, social media keyloggers, and malware that directly affect their shared workstations. Unsuspecting users can inadvertently cause severe changes to a PC’s operating systems and configurations.

The IT Administrator

IT administrators are continually playing a cat and mouse game with their student users. They are always trying to stay one step ahead of their users in trying to more effectively manage their public access computer systems. Unfortunately, the ratio of IT support staff to workstations is less than one support person for up to 400 shared computing devices. Traditionally their time would be consumed by constantly re-imaging computers in order to keep them up and running.

Traditional Approach: Lockdown With GPO and Desktop Security

In the late 90’s most IT staff would prefer to lockdown their workstations using Windows policies or using GUI applications that simplify desktop security such as FoolProof software. This technique was designed to prevent users from damaging the PCs by only allowing them to only use the PC for certain tasks. Thus restricting the access to all windows functionality.

Disadvantages of the Lockdown Approach

Locking down or restricting PC access is like putting blinders on a horse in the hope the beast continues to travel in a straight line and does not go off track. By limiting the functionality of Windows, the user cannot effectively learn how to use the computer.