Business-like, isn't he?



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    From Deep Freeze to software marketing success

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver  February 3-9, 2009; issue 1006

    High Tech Office column

    Mark Twain once wrote that Montreal was the only city he’d visited where you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a church. For a long time, I’ve felt that for Vancouver the equivalent might be small computer retailers.
    A decade or so ago, one of my favourites was Coquitlam’s Faronics. I bought a pentium-powered system from the company, running at the then blazingly fast speed of 166 Mhz.

    There’s always been a lot of turnover among the local computer retailers: companies fold, new ones pop up regularly. Rather than folding, Faronics evolved. No longer a hardware vendor, the company has morphed into a software marketer and moved from Coquitlam to downtown Vancouver. With about 100 employees, it also maintain a U.S. office in Santa Monica and 50 international resellers.

    According to Faronics president, Farid Ali, in 1999 HyperTechnology, a customer for Faronics’ computers, showed the company its Deep Freeze software. Faronics got a licence to sell Deep Freeze. In 2001, Faronics dropped the hardware side of its business to focus on software sales. By 2003 the two companies merged.

    Deep Freeze remains Faronics’ main product. It has more than 7,000,000 licences in more than 50 countries, including all but one of B.C.’s school districts. When installed, Deep Freeze “freezes” a system. Users can make changes – install software, delete files, infect the system with viruses or other malware – but when the system is restarted, the system rolls back to its state at the time it was “frozen.” (User documents saved to the frozen system would also be lost, but Deep Freeze can be configured to include a “thawed” partition or drive or users can save to an unaffected network folder.)

    While many IT departments might wish they could freeze their users’ systems in a known-good state, Deep Freeze , with versions for Windows, Mac and SuSE Linux, is most widely used in schools, libraries, hotels, web cafés and other places where multiple users access computers. At least one hotel, according to Ali, uses it on business centre computers, restarting each when a customer logs off to ensure that no customer information is left behind – and that the customers have not inadvertently infected the systems or messed up their configurations.

    Another product, Anti-Executable, allows users or IT staff to “white list” software already installed on a computer but block any additional executible files – i.e., programs – from running. This could help prevent virus and spyware covert installations, while helping to keep employees on task. (Parents might consider this for home computers.)

    BC Hydro estimates that 40% of employees leave their computers on after working hours and fail to use the power saving features built into Windows and Mac operating systems. The result: a waste of 500 gigawatt hours of electricity each year in B.C., costing users an unnecessary $29 million.

    Faronics’ Power Save software gives Windows and Mac users and system administrators more control over power management than either Microsoft or Apple provide in their operating systems, optimizing power used by computer CPUs and hard disks. According to Faronics’ marketing vice-president Dmitry Shesterin, savings on power consumed typically pay back the software cost in five to six months.

    A built-in reporting tool can demonstrate savings based on local electricity costs, and users qualify for rebates under BC Hydro’s PowerSmart program.

    Other Faronics products include:

    •Insight: primarily aimed at computer labs;

    •WINSelect: controls what applications can be accessed by users on public or corporate computers;

    •Device Filter: controls what devices are allowed to connect to computers; and

    •SystemProfiler: provides a detailed inventory of installed software (including updates) and hardware.

    Free downloadable functional evaluation versions are available. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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