The provision of computers and internet access by public libraries has helped the institution survive the technological leap and remain relevant in today’s digitized world. Such libraries seamlessly compliment their core purpose of facilitating access to information. The facility is used by patrons for a wide range of activities — research, enroll in online learning programs, access public databases, and so on. In other words, the significance of public libraries in people’s everyday lives cannot be undermined. Computers are at the heart of it. Therefore, consistent performance of these workstations is crucial for libraries to sustain visitors.
People use library computers to download various files, upload files from their external drives, install extensions, and alter device settings per their requirement. Hence, maintaining the configurational integrity and security of the workstations is a major challenge for the IT admins. Imposing restrictions on usage and access entails the risk of driving away patrons. Delivering a positive and uninterrupted computing experience is essential for libraries in order to maintain user satisfaction. However, thin budgets also prevent library IT managers from employing a sufficient number of IT personnel required to manage the overload of IT support tickets. Public places with multi-user computing environments require a solution that has advanced capabilities but is also easy to execute and can resolve issues quickly.
To help IT administrators better manage shared computing environments, Microsoft launched Windows SteadyState. It enabled IT professionals to maintain a steady configuration of the operating system across reboots. However, after its discontinuation by Microsoft, public libraries and other institutions that relied on the software were left in a precarious state amidst constantly evolving cyber threats.
Windows SteadyState Functionality
Windows SteadyState Reboot to Restore software was launched for 32-bit versions of both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Regardless of what a person used a workstation for, Windows SteadyState ensured that the admin-defined clean and safe configuration was restored as the device rebooted. As a result, it quickly became the solution of choice for public libraries, educational institutes, and similar organizations.
The main component of Windows SteadyState was Windows Disk Protection (WDP), which cached all user-generated changes when enabled. The cache was cleared when the device restarted and the configuration that existed prior to enabling WDP was restored.
Windows SteadyState offered three modes – Discard, Persist, and Commit. In the Discard mode, the software cleared the cache on a restart and reverted the system to its prior state. The Persist mode retained the cached inputs across reboots for a specific period to let IT admins decide whether to save or discard them. When the Commit mode was enabled, Windows SteadyState permanently saved all the changes.
Windows SteadyState was compatible with only the 32-bit variants of Windows Vista and Windows XP. So, despite its effectiveness, SteadyState had limited applicability and was eventually discontinued by Microsoft in December 2010. In this context, Deep Freeze deserves a mention for stepping in as a Windows SteadyState alternative. The software leverages patented Reboot to Restore technology and has a number of additional features that make it a complete solution for maintenance and protection of library computers.
Deep Freeze – A Proven Windows SteadyState Alternative
Deep Freeze is a tried and tested Windows SteadyState alternative. Embedding patented Reboot to Restore technology, the software makes endpoint maintenance simpler with additional admin-oriented features such as centralized management, auto updates, hardware control, power management, and more.
The reboot to restore technology of Deep Freeze prevents end-users from making any permanent system-level changes. The technology does not restrict accessibility. Instead, it immunizes the admin-defined configuration from the effects of all types of inputs – online or offline, intentional or automatic – generated during user sessions. The Reboot to Restore technology creates a temporary partition to store the user-defined changes and content, allowing people to work on computers normally. However, once the device is restarted, the technology discards the temporary storage allocation and reloads the configuration set by the IT admin. As a result, the Reboot to Restore technology effectively maintains the system integrity while allowing unrestricted access to the devices.
Deep Freeze starts working as soon as it is installed. It scans the system configuration immediately after installation and marks it as the original baseline. On reboot, it restores the systems to that preset baseline configuration, thus maintaining their pristine state. All inputs during users’ sessions, be it online files (malware, cookies, add-ons, etc.) or settings changed by users, all the data generated during sessions are redirected to a temporary allocation table. When the device is restarted, Deep Freeze clears the temporary storage and rolls back the system to the baseline. Therefore, the software makes system restoration a matter of simply restarting the computer.
Deep Freeze serves not only as a reboot to restore software, but also as a more robust Windows SteadyState alternative with extended endpoint management capabilities. Some of the unique features of Deep Freeze that complement its core capability are:
Ease of Use: Considering SteadyState’s complex system-level functionality, Deep Freeze shines when it comes to ease of use. Unlike other high-end computer maintenance and management software, Deep Freeze reduces the involvement of IT professionals in troubleshooting by enabling end-users to restore systems with just a push of the restart button.
OS Compatibility: Deep Freeze is compatible with all the latest variants of Windows and macOS, unlike Windows SteadyState, which worked on only specific 32-bit Windows OS versions. This allows public libraries to make their workstations unbreachable regardless of the operating system.
Enterprise Cloud Console: Deep Freeze Cloud enables libraries to provide a consistent experience across all their locations. The Enterprise Console enables IT admins to manage Deep Freeze computers within the same premises as well as in other locations. It allows them to remotely launch applications and run executable files on specific computers as required.
Automating Maintenance Tasks: Any system upgrade/third-party software patches or other maintenance tasks can be pre-scheduled in Deep Freeze. This spares IT admin from the hassle of installing upgrades manually on each device. It also ensures that the workstations always remain in a protected and compliant state.
ThawSpaces, Thawed Partition, and Thawed State: Deep Freeze has the ability to save user changes even when it is enabled. The software allows users to create ThawSpaces or Thawed Partition to do so. A ThawSpace is a virtual storage space which can be created using Deep Freeze. It is meant to retain user data across multiple restarts. Thawed Partitions are user-specified hard disk drives that Deep Freeze keeps out of its functionality, allowing inputs to be permanently stored in them. The Thawed State is that admin-specified period during which Deep Freeze automatically allows scheduled updates to permanently install. The software then creates a fresh baseline which includes these updates.
Hardware and Power Management: Using Deep Freeze, library computer managers can disable the keyboard and mouse to promptly stop unauthorized actions. The software is also capable of executing functions like Wake-on-LAN and more to optimize power management as per the requirements of the IT admins.
Deep Freeze preserves the desired state of library workstations and prevents all unauthorized changes, making the systems virtually indestructible. This enables the library computer managers to ensure that the devices function optimally and offer a consistent experience to all its patrons. By restoring the clean state with a simple restart, Deep Freeze reduces the instances demanding IT intervention and maximizes uptime. The centralized control panel and the other unique features increase the efficiency of the IT admins, enabling them to handle all the devices more effectively. That is why Deep Freeze continues to be a favorite Windows SteadyState alternative for public libraries.