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Rural ICT4D Sustainability with DeepFreeze Software from Faronics

By Wayan Vota on August 8, 2011

In places where Internet access is hard to come by but computer viruses spread like wildfire, protecting a single PC or an entire computer lab is a huge challenge. When files are shared between friends and colleagues, so is malware. This is not necessarily a problem if the user has taken proper measures against viruses and other types of malicious programs. However, in the developing world many computer owners are either unable or unwilling to purchase good anti-virus/anti-spyware software, and even with the proper software installed, limited Internet access means less frequent download of the critical updates. Without these updates, anti-virus and anti-spyware software are essentially useless.

To mitigate this problem, Inveneo has adopted the Faronics DeepFreeze software. DeepFreeze is a software program that creates a “frozen” snapshot of a workstation’s configuration and settings. It can freeze entire drives or select files, allowing a computer to boot to a pristine Operating System every single time.

Viruses can be malicious, disrupting the current session, modifying the registry, destroying user content, but when the system is restarted the effects of the virus or malware are wiped away. This is the only solution that Inveneo has found to be bulletproof in low resource settings, keeping the computers up and running over an extended period of time.

The Cisco Community Knowledge Centers (CKCs), scattered in eleven locations across Kenya and Ethiopia, are a great real-world example of Inveneo desktop installations utilizing DeepFreeze. The CKCs are community centers, places where locals from a village or region can gather to learn, explore the Internet, print or copy documents and socialize through events like movie nights. Even after two years, the CKC computers are still up and running with little to no maintenance from Inveneo or our local partners. This is a huge accomplishment considering the harsh environment and number of infected external media constantly cycling through the centers, all a testimony to the effectiveness of DeepFreeze.

DeepFreeze is valuable because it is both flexible and secure. Here are a few of the key features:

  1. Password protected software so that non-administrators cannot access the software to make changes or thaw a drive
  2. Choose which drive(s) to freeze. Further, the administrator can take a more granular approach, freezing/thawing only specific directories and files.
  3. Create up to eight thaw spaces, leaving frequently updated program files or system files thawed.
  4. Schedule a maintenance window so the system will reboot thawed for a specific time period, possibly synched with automatic system maintenance.
  5. Specify a WSUS (Windows Software Update Server) and batch file for scheduled maintenance period.
  6. Create embedded events schedules, like scheduling the system to reboot everyday at a specific time. Configure network settings, security options, and administer License Keys.
  7. There are many other more advanced options available with the Administrator Console. Examples include pushing configurations and installations from a centrally located or remote console.

We are grateful for the generous donation that Faronics has made to our efforts in Haiti, contributing complimentary licenses for use in the 40 rural schools participating in the “Haiti Connected Schools” program. This contribution is already making a great impact on the sustainability and longevity of the technology Inveneo is deploying, ensuring use by deserving Haitian schoolchildren for years to come.

For more information on DeepFreeze, please see the Faronics DeepFreeze Enterprise product page. From there you can see more product details, screenshots, read user reviews, and download user guide/tutorials.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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3 Comments to “Rural ICT4D Sustainability with DeepFreeze Software from Faronics”

  1. Ross says:

    Our company would like to help ICT works by donating our product LiveEnsure (http://www.liveensure.com) for free. It should complement the Deep Freeze product by ensuring that only legitimate users have access to your system.
    LiveEnsure is an authentication solution that provides a secure layer around your log-in.
    Let your techies go to the website and download the code and mash it up into your log-in ( It is that simple !) It works across all platforms and devices.

    Let me know if of interest.

    kind regards

    Ross Macdonald

  2. Paolo Brunello says:

    I came across the same problems in Burundi and I have seen a similar software work (http://www.skanix.com/Products/Skanix_Illusion/Skanix_Illusion.htm). The lab administrator from an European cooperation agency was complainin that it did work well until he made the “mistake” – in his words – to give the software administration password to the local lab administartor who will often forget to re-activate the protection and eventually screw up the machine configuration. So the optimal solution, according to this fellow expatriate, was to keep the admin password secret until the very last day of the project, centralising the control in order to ensure the functionality of the lab, and then give it to them on before leaving… “and then it’s their business, I don’t care any more”. Personally, I find this attitude to be at the very opposite of my concept of training and capacity building or knowledge transfer.
    I would like to know better how Inveneo has managed to overcome this issues in the schools mentioned in the post and whether the DeepFreeze administrator was a local or an outsider, and if a local, how advanced her/his expertise in troubelshooting all sorts of Windows related issues, in order to ensure that the system configuration was evolving with the needs of the users.

  3. jen says:

    Hello Paolo.

    You pose a very good question, something that we struggle with as well. We want to give the password to the managers to empower them to grow and change the systems to meet their evolving needs. At the same time, if the password is abused it can cripple the systems.

    Typically, we do not give the password to the local managers. If there is a local manager who is very computer literate, and fully understands the challenges of leaving a system unprotected, we may give them the password after a very thorough explanation and warning. For the most part, managers of most of the centers do not know the DF password.

    Without the password the centers cannot evolve and change to meet new demands. With this in mind, we make it a point to communicate with the local managers frequently to assess what their needs and pain points are. If there is a need for a new piece of software or something has gone wrong with one of the systems, we will send a tech or engineer to the site to refresh the systems. We happen to have local techs trained to deal specifically with our systems and the importance of DF which makes this a bit easier. Sending someone on site can be costly but the time spent installing a piece of software is much less than the time spent re-installing all of the systems from the ground up.

    I have just been on a tour of all of the schools mentioned in the post above, and it is very apparent which of the locations knew (and have abused) the DF password. Their systems run slow, with unnecessary software, very apparently infected, and they ask us for help. The sites where the managers did not know the password are still running as smoothly as the day we installed them.

    I hope that helps!

    Inveneo Engineer