Thanks to this newsletter, I get to talk about technical subjects with a lot of genealogists. One vexing problem that I hear over and over concerns setting up publicly-accessible computers in a public library, a genealogy society's library, a school, or a local Family History Center.
The biggest concern that I hear is how to limit access. Library users (patrons) should be able to access specific servers on the society's network, but not other network devices. At some libraries, patrons also should not be able to insert a floppy disk, a writeable CD-ROM disk, or a USB jump drive to improperly copy large amounts of data from the network. Perhaps your library wants patrons to be able to print on the black-and-white laser printer but not on the expensive color printer that is on the same network. In some cases, patrons should be able to access specific, predefined web sites, but they should not be allowed to "surf the web" to visit other sites or to download files that might be virus-infected.
The question is: How to limit library patrons to only access the specific programs, web sites, and data that the society wishes to make available? Perhaps even more important, how does the library control viruses that may be picked up by users surfing the web or from floppy disks or jump drives that users insert into the computer? How can a library keep from spreading that virus to other patrons or to the library's own internal systems?
Luckily, the answer is easy: on Windows XP computers, the system administrator just needs to install one software tool that is designed for use on shared computers in libraries, schools, Internet cafes, and other public places. It will do all of the above and more.
With this software tool the typical library patron has no user name or password and receives limited access to web sites, network resources, USB ports, and floppy disk drives. However, library employees and administrators can log on at any time with a user name and password and then enjoy greater access or even full access, as determined by the system administrator.
This software tool lets you configure a PC to search the Internet, look up resources, and run only approved programs. It stops users from making permanent system changes, running arbitrary programs, or introducing viruses or other malware. Optionally, it can also disconnect floppy disk drives, CD-ROM drives, network printers, and USB ports from user access while allowing system administrators and other library personnel to still use them. Through another option, it can control access to network printers, networked CD-ROM drives, or other shared resources.
Best of all, this software tool is available free of charge.
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