The Windmill Library and Service Center serves as headquarters for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District (LVCCLD) in Nevada, in addition to providing library services to the community in the southwest part of the Las Vegas Valley.
Windmill technicians are charged with maintaining more than 600 personal computers provided to library patrons across 25 library branches. They must also maintain another 300 more for administrative staff.
Traditionally one of the toughest tasks faced by the library’s technicians has been keeping software current for Adobe Flash, Reader, Oracle Java, and other frequently updated applications—without allowing automated updates, so that new code can be tested before deployed.
“Preventing automated updates was a big headache for us,” says Anthony Weitz, Microcomputer Technician at the Windmill Library and Service Center. “Whenever we put a new computer into a branch we would manually change the settings to prevent auto updates, but that never seemed to work for long, so we would use policy, and that required registry changes. And some of the programs required a lot of patching and intervention.”
Additionally, the technicians at Windmill were being asked to deploy Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers—something they didn’t feel comfortable doing without a better way to control settings.
When one of the technicians did an online search for solutions, they found PolicyPak, and liked what they found. “Once we saw what PolicyPak was capable of, we knew it was exactly what we needed,” Weitz says. “We deployed quickly after finding PolicyPak.”
Windmill deployed PolicyPak On-Prem suite to support nearly all of its more than 900 computers.
Initially Windmill used PolicyPak for Java, Adobe Flash, and Reader. The organization was so impressed with PolicyPak that it soon extended its use to include Paks for RealVNC, Shockwave, WinZip, Silverlight, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer as well as managing Chrome NPAPI flags.
Windmill Library and Service Center uses PolicyPak to gain a number of benefits, including a one-stop location for managing multiple applications, the ability to safely deploy Chrome and Firefox, easy deployment, great customer support, and a resulting peace of mind.
One-Stop Location for Managing Multiple Applications
The Windmill Library likes centralized management for controlling settings across among all its applications.
“PolicyPak gives us a one-stop location from which we can control multiple programs, which greatly simplifies what used to be time-consuming work,” Weitz says. “The product is so easy to use that after rolling out management with PolicyPak for Java, Flash, and Reader, we expanded our use of PolicyPak to wherever PolicyPak could help. We’ve expanded our use of the Paks by probably a factor of three or more.”
Managing application settings from PolicyPak has reduced the time Weitz and his colleagues used to spend troubleshooting settings.
“We don’t have to babysit our deployed applications like we used to,” Weitz says. “PolicyPak has significantly reduced our troubleshooting and updating efforts.”
Java and Flash, with their frequent updates, could be especially troublesome, Weitz notes, because about the time they had settings for one version tested and applied to all computers, there would be a new update, which would often require registry resets and other efforts.
“With PolicyPak we can ensure that updates go out when we say, versus the old days when we had to rush because an automated update had broken something,” Weitz says. “These problems were multiplied because each product, of course, is managed differently than another. Java is managed differently from Flash, and Flash from Adobe Reader, and on and on with all the other plug-ins. This is why we really appreciate how much PolicyPak simplifies administration.”
Ability to Safely Deploy Chrome and Firefox
Computer users—internally, as well as library patrons—had long been asking for Chrome and Firefox to augment the default use of Internet Explorer. The problem was that neither Chrome nor Firefox provided the policy granularity that Windmill required for safe deployment.
“Chrome and Firefox lack the controls that Internet Explorer provides for settings management, so we just didn’t feel we could deploy them,” Weitz says. “We were constantly being asked for Chrome and Firefox by internal as well as our public users. We just told them we were working on it.”
That changed once we PolicyPak came on board, which enabled Windmill technicians to offer all three browsers to all users.
“We couldn’t have safely deployed Chrome or Firefox without PolicyPak,” Weitz says. “PolicyPak gave us the granular control we needed to lock down features and settings so we could do a safe deployment of Chrome and Firefox.”
Windmill uses PolicyPak to disable auto updates, lock down the homepage, block pop-ups, disable certain sites, prevent use of unauthorized plug-ins, and in other ways secure the browsers. PolicyPak also makes it easy to deploy separate settings for public-facing and internal machines.
“We also use the granular settings that PolicyPak enables for our RealVNC remote access software,” Weitz says. “PolicyPak has been a game changer for us.”
Easy to Deploy
Deployment of the on-premises version of PolicyPak was a breeze for the techs at Windmill Library. “We worked with some great people at PolicyPak who helped us put everything in place,” Weitz says. “So the deployment was a piece of cake, and it’s stayed that way. Never a problem. And PolicyPak is completely transparent to our users. They don’t even know it is there. And that’s exactly what we want. PolicyPak never gets in the way.”
Great Customer Support
When it comes to customer support, Weitz has been impressed by the dedication he’s seen from PolicyPak. “The customer support is fantastic!” Weitz says. “Whenever I’ve sent a question to PolicyPak support, I get a confirmation within a minute or two, and will have an answer, usually within the hour. So the support is outstanding.”
Weitz was especially impressed when he requested a customization from PolicyPak—to enable NPAPI settings for flags in Chrome.”
“I was afraid the answer would be no, but then two hours later, PolicyPak delivered exactly what I needed for Chrome NPAPI flags,” Weitz says. “That was very awesome. In a word, customer support at PolicyPak is outstanding.”
Peace of Mind
When considering the benefits he’s seen from deploying PolicyPak, Weitz says there’s another one that is harder to quantify: Peace of Mind.
“I know how hard it was to stay on top of all of these products without PolicyPak,” Weitz says. “I used to have to babysit every new version of these program. So it is nice to know that with PolicyPak you can control the environment, keep your settings uniform.”
He also appreciates being able to work at his own pace—and not have to do things in emergency mode because something has broken.
“Having PolicyPak in place means I can make sure that everything works before I put it out there,” Weitz says. “PolicyPak stops all of the engines from moving forward with updates, until we’re ready. This provides great peace of mind.”