Saving public access
Last year, the Staunton, Va., Public Library began to experience an increase in foot traffic as the recession took hold. As demand for free computing resources rose, the library’s problem-plagued PCs became a serious issue for the city’s IT staff. Only half of the library’s eight PCs were functioning at any given time, and Kurt Plowman, the library’s CTO, found his resources stretched thin trying to keep them operational.
The PCs had Windows software, yet they were inundated with issues from users hacking the computers and downloading various items, which led to viruses and other major problems. The aging computers also were prone to hardware failures. “Spending several hours a week fixing software problems and replacing parts was becoming an endless nightmare,” Plowman says.
Plowman began looking into virtual desktops as an option for providing public access computing in the library. He wanted to eliminate IT staff trips to the library by completely centralizing the computing power in the data center. With funding from the city and a grant from the Gates Foundation and the Friends of the Staunton Library, Plowman purchased 15 virtual desktop devices from Redwood City, Calif.-based Pano Logic and supporting virtualization infrastructure from Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware, all of which cost less than 10 new PCs.
The virtual desktop devices were installed by November 2009, shifting all of the computing onto the server, where it is managed from a single interface that IT managers can access from their desks or from any Pano Device on the system. The device, called a zero client because it contains no processor, operating system, storage, nor any moving parts, eliminates endpoint management, failure-prone hardware and potential security breaches. Yet, library visitors still see a familiar Windows desktop. “We can now manage the desktops from our offices and set controls so that individuals cannot corrupt the settings or software and spoil the next user’s experience,” Plowman says. “And with [the] zero clients, there’s nothing in the library we have to support.”
The project recently won the city recognition during the annual Commonwealth of Virginia’s Innovative Technology Symposium. Staunton received the Governor’s Technology Award for Innovation in Local Government.
Project: Library computer replacement
Jurisdiction: Staunton, Va.
Agency: Staunton Public Library
Vendors: Redwood City, Calif.-based Pano Logic, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware
Date completed: November 2009