When it comes to maintaining the health of public access computers and mobile devices, a passive management strategy usually does more harm than good. Poor endpoint hygiene can lead to a host of performance issues, from a lack of storage space to low system availability, which may prevent users from efficiently accomplishing their desired tasks. There is also a heightened risk of cybersecurity incidents, as IT administrators are often unable to effectively moderate how their computers are used. While basic firewalls and antivirus software can help mitigate the risk of malware, infected email attachments can slip through automated filtering systems and end up in users’ inboxes.
Despite the wide availability of cutting-edge management tools, many universities, libraries and other institutions with public access computers struggle to keep their devices optimized and secured. One of the biggest challenges is achieving 100% system uptime, which is essential to the short- and long-term performance of their devices. To understand why system availability is so important for public access computers, let’s quickly recap the basics.
What is system availability?
According to the software development firm National Instruments, system availability refers to the “probability that a system will be available to perform its function when called upon.” A computer with high availability is one that is ready and able to execute user commands and transactions, whereas low availability usually corresponds with unplanned outages, software errors and other configuration issues.
At its core, system availability is all about balancing uptime and downtime. Computers with low availability usually have a number of processes running in the background that eat up the CPU’s processing power, causing unexpected delays and sluggish browsing experiences. At a 2017 session of Google’s Cloud Next conference, Luke Stone, Director of Customer Reliability Engineering, identified 10 causes of downtime, including:
- Spam and ancillary workloads
- Retry spikes
- Unbalanced application input/output
- Scaling boundaries
- Uneven sharding
- Overmanaging pets
- Poor deployment
- Monitoring gaps
- Failure domains
What makes public access computers different from personal devices is the sheer volume of users. For example, workstations in university libraries typically experience significantly more foot traffic than an average work laptop, meaning there is a higher chance a user will experience performance issues. This is especially true when end users have the ability to update device settings, download new programs and manage software settings. So how can IT administrators secure maximum system availability on public access computers?
Improving performance with reboot to restore technology
Rather than individually managing each workstation, reboot to restore technology allows system administrators to lockdown devices in their pristine state using a centralized management platform. This can prevent users from making configuration changes and downloading applications that might negatively affect the computer’s availability and overall performance. This type of technology is especially useful for administering multi-user computing environments, as most platforms can facilitate network-wide security patches, software updates and other maintenance-related tasks. Of course, selecting the right software provider is essential to securing positive results.
Faronics’ Deep Freeze platform is an industry-leading reboot to restore solution that offers IT administrators a range of customizable features and advanced capabilities, including flexible device enrollment, tracking and control, group settings and more. Once installed, Deep Freeze is able to preserve a computer’s configuration and prevent malicious and unintentional changes, whether made externally or internally. It also allows end users to resolve many of their own IT issues with a simple reboot, reducing support tickets and labor-intensive reimaging projects. Deep Freeze can help achieve enhanced system availability on public access computers by providing:
- Centralized administration: Effectively managing downtime typically requires complete control over a computer’s settings, patch installations, downloads and browsing capabilities, which is why Deep Freeze was designed as a centralized management platform. Using this software, IT administrators are able to deploy policies and system changes across thousands of devices simultaneously, reducing the need for last minute updates and unplanned outages. By scheduling proactive maintenance outside of normal operating hours, computer technicians can maintain the health of their network without disrupting performance for their end users.
- Advanced threat mitigation: After a computer has been setup with Deep Freeze, harmful changes and infected programs can be reversed with a simple reboot of the device. This can not only remove malware, ransomware and zero-day threats, it can also ensure that inefficient background processes are kept to a minimum. For example, if a user were to download an infected email attachment, the malicious code would not be able to establish a virtual beachhead. Once the computer has been restarted, the virus and the file it was sourced from would be completely wiped from the computer’s storage.
- Application management: One of the biggest barriers to high system availability is an overabundance of mismatched software patches. Deep Freeze can resolve this issue by locking individual applications and software versions in place, preventing automated update processes and blocking alert popups. Reboot to restore technology allows IT administrators to control the distribution and visibility of all apps downloaded on their devices, and can provide useful licensing and inventory information. This can help mitigate system overload and prioritize critical applications over back-end processes and other ancillary workloads.
- Smart monitoring: As soon as a computer is enrolled in an established a device group, IT administrators can start gathering important performance data and tracking usage with a high degree of accuracy. This information can be leveraged to identify utilization trends and locate persistent errors that may affect users’ overall experiences. Under normal circumstances, optimizing public access computers is incredibly difficult, as tracking changes and downloads in real time requires significant visibility and oversight. Deep Freeze can automate these processes, freeing up more time for new device rollouts and wireless connectivity projects.
Achieving close to 100% system availability on public access computers may sound like an unrealistic goal, but Faronics’ Deep Freeze technology can help your organization secure reliable and consistent performance no matter how large your user base may be. To learn more about how Deep Freeze can support your utilization objectives, read through our customer guides or start a free trial today!