Maximize Computer Up Time

Question: How can we maximize lab computer up time and minimize the time required to fix problems by technical support?

The IT Guy says:
Like death and taxes, software and hardware problems with computer lab equipment are inevitable. Hours of time can be wasted on a regular basis fixing problems that crop up from the unintentional as well as intentional actions of students as well as school staff, if sensible policies supported by administrative purchases are not followed.

Some schools opt to lock down computers with security software to prevent students from tampering with settings or mis-configuring software. Others utilize software which restores the default condition of the computer’s hard drive every time the machine is restarted, thus avoiding many troubleshooting dilemmas by “wiping the slate clean†with every restart. Another option is to utilize imaging software, which uses a "pristine" drive image containing all necessary configuration settings and software programs. Computer imaging software solutions can be used on a periodic basis, or as-needed when a computer starts to exhibit problems or abnormal behavior. Use of imaging solutions allows for students to use computers in an open and autonomous fashion, with a minimum of restrictions. Yet the needs of the campus teachers can be readily met when something is messed up and a computer no longer behaves properly: its hard drive can simply be re-imaged. For small problems, this may seem analogous to taking out a single sniper with an atomic weapon, however, disk re-imaging is generally a consistently successful “no-brainer†strategy for fixing software problems which inevitably come up in the computer lab.

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