Managing Public Computing · 13
With so many computers deployed across so many
different locations, maintaining and upgrading
hardware and the software on them is at times a
daily task. Survey respondents schedule this work
in a variety of different ways. Twenty-two librar-
ies (35%) manage additions, updates, or changes
to software applications by scheduling the work
before each semester begins. Seventeen (27%) do it
on an as needed basis nine (14%) do it during holi-
days and breaks. More important changes and up-
dates, such as Windows and anti-virus updates, are
done much more frequently. At night, after hours
is the time preferred by 18 libraries (28%). Slightly
fewer do these critical updates either as needed or
weekly (14 or 22% each) and 12 (19%) do so daily.
Software upgrades on the other hand, are done
much less frequently. Of the 61 libraries respond-
ing, 19 (31%) upgrade software once a semester
and 6 (10%) upgrade just once a year. Fifteen of the
libraries (25%) upgrade software when a new ver-
sion appears. Others upgrade as needed, or at the
request of faculty, staff, and students.
In order to actually make software changes, most
of the responding institutions (36 or 57%) push the
software changes out from a server. Eleven (17%)
touch each computer with a fixed image, while
three use a list of changes and modify each ma-
chine accordingly. The remaining respondents use
a mixture of these methods to keep their software
current. Software deployment applications are a
popular utility used to facilitate deploying, chang-
ing, and updating software. Fifty-five institutions
reported using one or more of these applications.
Windows Active Directory is the most popular fol-
lowed distantly by Novell Zenworks, Microsoft
Systems Management Server, WinINSTALL, Altiris,
Symantic Ghost, and custom scripting among other
applications. Use of imaging software, another way
to maintain computers, was reported by 57 librar-
ies. The most popular imaging software is Ghost
and DeepFreeze with the majority of respondents
using some combination of one of these and Mac
OS X Server.
Metering software is used to control access to
software that limits the number of simultaneous
users. Of the 22 libraries that reported using some
form of metering software, the majority (13 or
52%) use Keyserve. A few use NetSupport, Citrix,
Express Meter, or some locally written code. Twelve
(52%) report that the library controls the metering
of software. At nine institutions (39%) an external
IT department controls the metering.
Unlike software that may be upgraded at least
annually, the upgrade cycle on equipment is signif-
icantly longer. Of all of the public computing hard-
ware maintained by the responding libraries, desk-
top computers are on the most regular replacement
cycle. Twenty-one respondents (36%) reported that
they upgrade or replace their desktop computers
every three years, 26 (44%) replace them every four
years. Printers, on the other hand, are replaced on a
much less regular schedule. Of the 55 respondents,
23 do not have a regular printer replacement sched-
ule and 16 replace them on an “as needed” basis.
Only a few have printers on a regular two year (4
respondents), three year (6 respondents), or four
year (6 respondents) schedule. There is also typi-
cally no particular replacement schedule for other
equipment, such as scanners. For some libraries,
available funding or equipment failure drive the
replacement schedule.
Survey respondents were also asked what they
do with equipment that has been retired. The most
common procedure is to discard them to a recycling
program. Computer manufacturers often run such
programs and may reuse some materials while en-
suring the rest are disposed of environmentally.
Slightly more than half of the respondents canni-
balize old equipment for parts. Roughly a quarter
either rotate the machines to staff, sell them, or give
them to charities. Many institutions reported that
the equipment is sent to university surplus, often
for sale or redistribution.
Public Computing Budget
The availability of funding has already been men-
tioned as a key driver of the replacement schedule
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