At the end of last month, I posted about locking down the public computers  in our new youth lobby. I’ve found a new possible software solution, that seems to be comparable to Faronics DeepFreeze  in some respects, but may have some additional useful features. This one is from a company called Fortres Grand  and there are three different pieces of software that might be useful in some combination:
- Clean Slate 
This appears to be comparable to Deep Freeze in its function, but from what I’ve read it gives you more flexibility about not having to lose all changes on reboot if you’re an administrator, rather than having to reboot to “unlock” the computer and then make changes that you want to keep. Fortres Grand also claims that Clean Slate will allow Windows Updates and anti-virus signatures to be updated while in a “locked-down” state, persisting across reboots.
- Fortres 101 
Rather than allowing all changes and discarding most of them during a reboot, Fortres 101 instead locks down the computer from having certain items changed in the first place. This would appear to be a complement to Clean Slate above if run together, but I don’t see an indication of whether this is a supported configuration on their site. I can see the benefits to this where a user might change the wallpaper to something inappropriate; with Deep Freeze or Clean Slate it would be there until a restart, but with Fortres 101 it could be prevented in the first place.
- Time Limit Manager (TLM) 
Fortres is promoting this heavily to libraries on their product pages, but I can see how it might be useful to us as well. It would keep students from using the computers for an extended period of time, displaying a countdown and enforcing log off at a certain time. That may not be enough reason to purchase it in and of itself, but I do like the ability to remotely view screen captures of what users are currently doing, see which computers are actively in use, and even send messages to users if needed to warn them about certain content or behavior. I also like the usage history logs and the auto-shutoff at the end of the day. It also integrates with Clean Slate to clear all traces of the prior user when a user logs off! My concerns are that we’d need to buy a printer for the “reservation tickets” and also that the solution might be overkill for our current setup, although the clear-prior-user functionality integrated with Clean Slate may make it a worthwhile solution.
This is just my first impression of this company’s programs. They offer demo versions of all three, and when time allows I will likely grab them and try them out now that the computers for this purpose have arrived. I still need to unbox and set them up, which will likely happen next week at some point. Fortres also offers a Central Control product to control their Fortres 101 and Clean Slate software remotely, which looks promising but is also probably overkill for our environment. Unlike Deep Freeze, which must be the Enterprise version to support central management, this solution appears to be an add-on purchase that we could buy down the road when we expand.
Do any readers have any past experience with Fortres Grand software to share?