10 “wins” for your school: from the classroom to the server room

Persystent Suite is uniquely positioned to help Schools, Colleges, and other Educational Institutions

Educational institutions face unique IT challenges that derive from servicing the diverse IT needs of faculty, staff and students. These include under-supervised multi-user PCs in places like kiosks and libraries, the need to regulate and restore classroom computer labs, the oversight of loaner PCs to students, and support a variety of faculty and administration business needs.

Persystent Suite offers schools an effective solution that provides distinct “wins” across
the organization in support mission critical goals such as:
Ensuring PC availability and productivity
Preserving a compliant & secure environment
Solving a multitude of break/fix issues
Expanding ROI /doing “more with less”

Persystent Suite simplifies the restoration and recovery process by applying an automated self-healing capability that repairs and recovers any PC without manual intervention. However, it is much more than that. Primarily considered a repair or imaging tool, Persystent’s wide array of integrated capabilities and proprietary technological differences make a qualitative and measurable impact for schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions of various sizes and scopes. Here are 10 “wins” that will help schools achieve many of their IT management goals:

 1. Reducing support incidents with Self-healing or on demand repair automatically fixes a corrupted OS back to the last known desired state in a single reboot…about 45 seconds. This not only addresses the multitude of break/fix help desk calls from students and faculty, but is also the same process that allows computer lab PCs to be reset to desired settings before the beginning of every class.  Essentially this key capability allows you to fix first, troubleshoot later and  resolve issues in seconds.

2. Easily migrate to new and updated platforms like Windows 10/ In-Place PC Refresh:  As many schools are looking to migrate the majority of their PCs to the latest operating system o, Persystent applies its proprietary automated imaging capability to configure the necessary changes and distribute the updated and approved base image to every machine. This process also addresses patching systems, updating applications, user profiles and setting, and other required maintenance. With the hundreds of PCs owned by the school, not only is this an efficient way to centrally control  Whether you are updating 1 or 100s of PCs, the imaging capabilities of Persystent are faster and more accurate than anything else on the market.

3. Maintain the integrity of multi-user PCs like self-serve kiosks and libraries. Because most of these independent  PCs are under-supervised,  they’re often open to a variety of abuses including the introduction of unauthorized downloads and files, malware, and other activities that are outside of school usage policies. These abuses often lead to catastrophic hard drive failure, potentially spread virus infections  and require intensive repairs.  However, IT can schedule that these devices are rebooted daily (applying Persystent’s self-healing capability) and automatically returned to their complaint, desired state.

4. Ensure hard drive sanitization with NIST/DoD recommended wipe When retired or recycled, hard disks still contain sensitive information, Persystent  quickly and seamlessly erases data and sanitizes the drive. It sanitizes a 256GB device sanitized in less than 40 minutes: about 10 seconds per gigabyte. Additionally, if a student reports a school-owned  PC lost or stolen device is lost or stolen, the Sys Admin can even wipe a drive remotely. So the next time the device is turned on, it will no longer be a viable.

5. Get IT support team out of the “re-imaging business.”: Re-imaging is a lengthy and tedious process. In most cases it takes a user’s device out of commission for hours if not days. Typically, the re-imaging process typically rolls back to a Day Zero fresh start. This means data is lost, applications removed; authorized and personal settings gone. Persystent Suite provides multiple levels of repair (so student PCs can be addressed differently than faculty or administration PCs). This not only save data, application and settings, it removes problems and performance issues by restoring a desired state in near real time.

6. Remove shadow IT: You see this daily! Students and faculty love to download and deploy applications –but do it without the blessing of IT. This creates a variety of configuration, malware and security issues. This opens the floodgates to a variety of competing computing agendas and compliance problems. Persystent Suite manages images on the individual level so IT can always know what is supposed to be on a device. All unauthorized applications get removed.

7. Avoiding  zero-day rollback: School IT spends a great deal of time re-imaging performance-deficient PCs. However, often times a zero-day rollback  loses important profiles, settings and applications.–sometimes even critical files like a student’s semester-long research or a professor’s lesson plan are lost.  Persystent’s capability of returning to the last known desired state avoids this. Applied against individual machines, defined user groups or entire environment,  our  multiple levels of repair ensure the necessary flexibility for how invasive the repair/recovery must be. Your school policies determine what OS registries, applications and files will be automatically corrected back to an approved ideal state upon reboot. This way if a repair is required, it doesn’t roll back to factory settings. The user receives their recovered system with their files, settings and profiles intact.

8. Provides 4 functional features as a single solution for much less than cumulative cost of the 4 separate functions: Persystent Suite provides feature-rich, enterprise-powered capabilities as a single centralized source solution (repair/recovery, imaging, change management, drive sanitization)  at a price point typically less than a single function alternative currently on the market.   Not only does Persystent Suite’s budget friendliness  look good on the school’s balance sheet, but simply outperforms market options many school’s current deploy; does it faster, more accurately, with more automations, without over-complexity, and does it in alignment with current IT best practices

9. Promotes continuous reliability and expanded PC Life Cycle: By reducing on-site tech visits, operational downtime, service desk case resolution times, repeat instances and configuration management issues, the devices under the school SysAdmin’s purview maintain a near 100% availability. Not only are the PCs up and running, but they are operating at optimum capacity for longer and they are based on the school’s usage policies and security protocols.

10. It is like having additional headcount without the additional cost: The automations within Persystent Suite removes the burden of constant repair, imaging, troubleshooting, desk side visitations, and update distribution so that the time and effort spent on routine, resource-draining repairs can now be re-assigned to higher-priority tasks that support the school’s mission. Persystent Suite helps achieve this goal in three ways:

  1. Extension of the device lifecycle through automated self-healing not only reduces cost per support incident, but keeps a device (PC and server) healthier for longer.
  2. Reduction of downtime incidents make end faculty/admin/students more productive, happier
  3. Implementation of procedural efficiencies in things like scheduled updates are applied faster and with greater accuracy,

Fighting Application Drift with Self-Healing

The ability to conduct and on-demand or automatic self-healing repair of a corrupted PC  and bring it back to the approved desired state is one of the many advantages Utopic’s Persystent Suite offers. In these cases it is easy to imagine a user clicking on a suspect link and infecting their system, or adding an unauthorized application fraught with spyware and other performance-hindering elements, or perhaps accessing their registry and adjusting a standard setting. Persystent Suite is perfectly scaled to directly remediate these issues on a single reboot of the system to return the affected PC to the desired state.

Although these scenarios happen too often and are extremely problematic, the more likely service desk call will be from a user experiencing slow performance or an application performing out of character. There are dozens of potential root causes, but a likely culprit is application drift. This indicates the affected PC is not using the most updated version of the application, an update did not correctly apply during the last upgrade, or, over time, has become misconfigured from its optimum standard. In some cases, it represents unsanctioned modifications made by the end-user or third party.

The best practice is to get the user back up and running immediately. By conducting an on-demand reboot of the PC, the user can return to productivity in about a minute. From the end-user’s perspective, it will be as if the issue never happened. The reboot restores the last known desired state. This desired state, maintained and controlled by IT, contains the proper version and the correct configuration for not only the application, but for the PCs entire operating system.  It also removes any unauthorized changes that may have contributed to the PCs performance issue, yet leaves the end-user files and profiles untouched. From a security, asset management and compliance standard, it ensures each user is using the appropriate version of an application to which they are given rights to access.

However in terms of best practice (and compliance satisfaction), it is important to know why the PC was affected. Every time the desired state is reapplied, Persystent Suite creates a file change report. This report lists all the items that differentiated from the desired state settings. It allows IT to see and document (without having to sift through thousands of event logs) the delta between the approved policies, registries, applications, infrastructure configurations etc…  from the time of the issue and the approved state. This way, IT can pinpoint root causes more clearly and adjust policies or procedures to prevent or mitigate such occurrences in the future.

Self-healing automations allow CIOs to meet new challenges

According to CIO magazine one of the “Top Actions CIOs should take in 2016″ is to redesign the workforce. They say “to maximize IT talent and meet digital needs of the future, changes to the roles and responsibilities must be considered. IT work is evolving beyond managing programs and developing software…”

This has several ramifications. One of which is the IT specialist must now (more than ever) wear multiple hats. However, this is not as burdensome an issue as once thought. With the application of automation for certain tasks once exclusively reserved for hands-on attention, the IT specialist , can transcend beyond the plugger of cables or writer of code. The article agrees: “CIOs also need to develop a workforce strategy that reflects increased automation. Intelligent machines can augment higher-end skills and automate routine tasks and decisions.”

One area that could obviously benefit from greater (and smarter) automation is IT Support. Help desk tends to be heavily dependent on hands-on techs (whether in house or off-shore). Many companies already implement some sort of self-service automation for Level One issues like forgotten passwords. However, it is the Level Two break/fix issues where significant improvements in time and resource management could allow CIOs to adapt the article’s stated best practice.

Sure, but computers can’t fix themselves.

In this landscape of automationthey can. In fact, a device can be self-healed in about 45 seconds; the time it takes a machine to reboot.  It is part of an automated process that restores a desired image to a corrupted or damaged OS or other break/fix issues  malware/ATP infestation, poor performance, and mis-configuration.  The significant difference with an existing platform is in this automated repair is that the profiles, files and settings remain intact. This isn’t a Day Zero rollback.

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The automation comes with the development of an updating desired image. An IT team can schedule an update anytime. Most companies do so on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in conjunction with a Windows security patch or application update. There are two time-saving automations that ensure the most current image is available. First is that the repair/restore/imaging component takes a snapshot of the approved image and only adds what has changed since the last update. So IT is not reimaging an entire workstation and the process is infinitely faster. Second is, any patches can be tested against a single image rather than every case of the distributed image. This is because of single-instance file storage to ensure that only one copy of any one file is stored across the organization. You have many licenses for Word, but only a single instance is captured for an image. What this means is that the organization always has a recent authorized image that won’t take days to rebuild. It is restored in moments.

So if a workstation can heal itself, is their still a role for IT help desk?  First off, help desk is now involved in the discovery of root causes rather than fixing symptoms. Fixing the symptom simply gets the user back to productivity almost instantaneously. When a user does call with a break/fix issue, the IT specialist can resolve the issue in seconds by initiating the reboot with the correct repair level. However, once the user is back up and running, the IT team can investigate causes so that they can be prevented in the future. Part of the solution is that it has granular reporting so the logs can be reviewed and ideal states compared to show how and where the performance issue occurred.

The end result is a new baseline of automations that reduce the number of support incidents, reduce the time to resolution, increase uptime activity, improve compute landscape integrity, but with relevance to the CIO article, create new bandwidth and greater visibility to allow for the changing roles and responsibilities of IT.

Of course, Utopic Software is happy to perform a demo of these automations in a live presentation to prove self-healing is not only possible, but generates the necessary ROI and bandwidth expansion a CIO needs to achieve their vision.