City of Staunton, VA - a Pano Logic customer profile

The City of Staunton, VA, needed a way to offer public access computing that reduced its costs, made systems easier to manage and kept public access computing available.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

From time to time, I like to speak with an organization that is actually using virtualization technology to get their take on a company or product. I had a chance to communicate with Kurt Plowman of the City of Staunton, VA. Thanks for taking the time, Kurt.

Introduce yourself and your organization

Kurt Plowman is the Chief Technology Officer for the city of Staunton, Virginia. As CTO, Kurt is responsible for setting strategic direction, overseeing security, and managing the IT team. He maintains servers, local area network (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN), telecommunications systems and software applications that connect departments in over thirty locations around the City.

The City of Staunton is located in the beautiful, historic Shenandoah Valley of Western Virginia. The city proper counts just 24,000 residents but as the seat of Augusta County, Staunton plays host to the region’s 100,000-plus residents. In particular, the city’s public library became a magnet for residents seeking free Internet access when the recession took hold.

What were you doing that you need this type of technology?

Staunton experienced a steady increase in foot traffic at the library throughout 2009 and the facility’s aging and problem-plagued PCs were unable to keep up with demand. Only about half of the library’s PCs were functioning at any given time and our resources were stretched thin trying to keep them operational. Our library patrons were frustrated and unable to use the troublesome computers.

The nature of public access computing presented another problem that we needed to solve: Library patrons seeking to access the Internet were assigned a computer and had 45 minutes at a time for personal use and when the time expired, the new user stepped up. The problem was that the next user sometimes had to contend with a corrupted environment caused by viruses or other downloads the prior users had added to the PC during their session. Our technician had to spend a whole day every couple of weeks performing software maintenance on the library PCs. This was the same person assigned to supporting the city’s 400 PCs located in different locations throughout the municipality.

What products did you consider before making a selection?

We considered replacing the PCs, but I thought there has to be a better way than spending several hours a week fixing software problems and replacing parts. It was a nightmare.

I heard about virtual desktops and began to research them as an option for public access computing, even though the traditional use case is office environments. We looked at thin clients, but we decided the the endpoint device had to be maintenance free. Thin clients still represented a device we would have to support and we knew we could find better.

Why did you select Pano Logic?

The ability to centralize 100 percent of computing management in the data center combined with a zero client device that would eliminate support and maintenance trips to the library made Pano Logic the perfect choice for Staunton. We were able to institute controls that reboot the computing environment and reset the defaults before each new user begins their session. This has guaranteed a uniform end user experience and a more secure one, as any keystroke loggers or viruses a person may have downloaded are wiped away. Further, the IT staff was able to divert the several hours a week they spent fixing the problem PCs to other, more strategic projects.

What tangible benefits has your organization gotten through the use of this product?

Security was one of the biggest wins in the project. Even with previous lock-down tools, PC’s were still quite vulnerable. Malware was an issue; patrons leaving personal information on the PC, and even theft of PC components. By implementing non-persistent drives, each patron receives a new desktop to work with. When their session is over, we know that the next session will be clean and ready for the next patron.

Based on cost savings, we were able to almost double the number of workstations available to patrons at a time when there are more demands for internet access for education and job seekers. Reliability has improved with the Pano solution; we no longer have PC’s out of service waiting for repair or malware remediation. Patrons are happier and Library staff is not longer burdened trying to resolve PC issues for patrons. Trouble calls to IT have virtually been eliminated.

What advice would you give others facing similar issues?

This was small, well defined project that gave us a great opportunity to explore virtualization, especially virtual desktops. While it was a high-visibility project, it provided a good sandbox to understand the benefits desktop virtualization could provide to the rest of the organization. Centralized management is really a key to maintaining an environment like this at a remote location. IT staff can remotely resolve most of the issues that have come up.

And buy Pano Logic!

Snapshot analysis

Virtual desktop solutions, such as those offered by Pano Logic, can be deployed in many ways. I've seen them used as the tools used by task-oriented staff, management staff and anywhere that strict controls are placed on the maintenance and use of PC-based solutions.

Over the years, the virtualized desktop solutions have improved a great deal and are able to serve the needs of a greater number of people. The City of Staunton, VA, by stepping up to trying something different, appears to have gotten a number of important benefits. Including easier installation, updating, better security and making computing available to many who would have trouble accessing it in other ways.

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