Public Access Computer Management – What Is It?

Public access computers are defined as those computer systems located in the public domain and is made usable for patrons/students for their shared usage. The most common places you will find publicly accessible computers would be in Libraries and in School systems.

Managing Public Access Computers: Libraries

Library patrons expect to find secure and well-maintained computers that have simple, stable, and predictable interfaces. Most libraries have public access computers readily available for the use by its patrons. In most cases, libraries will manage their users computing time so that others can also share in the use of the public access computers. Many libraries will offer additional services, such as scanning and print services for a nominal fee.

Managing Public Access Computers: Classroom Computers

Many educational systems worldwide are granted funds specifically to purchase computers for educational applications. The workstations designed for public access computing will usually be easily accessible in a shared environment, usually with Internet access on these machines. Many schools systems will limit or block certain web services so that only educational resources could be utilized. (Wiki, library catalog or Google).

Software Applications and Utilities for Public Computing Environments for Better IT Management

Managing Public Access Computer is a difficult task if you do not have the right set of tools for the trade. In these shared computer environments, it is the mandate of the technology co-ordinator to control the content students and users are viewing. Enforcing these restrictions can also help to keep the computers safe by preventing students from downloading malware and other threats. However, the effectiveness of such lockdown systems is questionable since it does not allow students to have full access to all the functions and thus hampers the learning experience.

Many non-profit organizations and libraries realize that managing public access computers are an important first step towards simplifying their shared computer environment. The IT manager is now tasked with the burden and responsibility for both the computing assets as well as the security of the public users. These IT managers need a balance of security using utilities that allow their users to have a complete computing experience.

How Can Management of Public Access Computers Be Made Easy

Computer Instant Restore Solutions: Alternative terms in the industry for thiese types of software include “hard drive write protect software” and “Reboot Restore Software”. These technologies prevent persistent changes to a computers hard drive. In a nutshell, these types of applications overwrite the hard drive to a clean slate on a regular schedule (such as every reboot, logoff, end of day etc.). When the user ends the current logon session by logging off or shutting down the P.C., the software wipes the contents of the written data, and the hard drive returns to its baseline settings.

Alternately, some systems restore a pristine copy of the system administrator’s preferred hard drive configuration using virtualization technology such as that used in RollBack Rx.

Instant Restore Software Designed for Public Access Computer Management

Instant recovery software, as the name implies refers to immediate restore of a complete PC within a single restart. Instant PC Restore software range from freeware to commercial grade solutions. Here is a list of the most notable instant recovery software solutions.

Free Reboot Restore Software Solutions

The most notable freeware utilities used for restoring PC’s on every reboot are as follows:

Windows SteadyState: SteadyState (formerly called Shared Computer Toolkit) was part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s ongoing drive to put computers into schools and libraries. SteadyState, was offered by Microsoft as a free alternative for preventing unwanted changes to public PCs. Microsoft has discontinued developing SteadyState since 2010.

Reboot Restore Rx: Reboot Restore Rx™ is a Freeware utility that makes it easy to maintain PC’s in small public access computing environments (classrooms, computer labs, kiosks, internet cafes, libraries, etc.). Every time you restart the PC’s – they will automatically reset to your desired baseline settings on every restart (hence Reboot Restore technology).

Commercial Solutions that Can Restore on Every Reboot

The only time you would look at commercial software designed to restore on reboot would be if you were looking are more advanced features or functionality beyond restoring every time the workstations are restarted. The most feature rich yet cost effective solutions are as follows:

Reboot Restore Rx Professional: Reboot Restore Rx Professional immunizes your PC’s from any changes being made – making PC’s bullet-proof and unbreakable! It is designed for public access computing environments, such as computer labs, kiosks, internet cafes, libraries, etc.

RollBack Rx: RollBack Rx™ is an instant time machine for your PC. A Comprehensive Windows System Restore solution that empowers users and IT administrators to easily restore their PCs to any previous state within seconds!
View the Reboot Restore product comparison chart for a full list of available features