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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Should schools issue laptops? Privacy vs access

A news item caught my attention a few days back:  a Pa. school district was accused of using the webcams on school issued laptops to spy on a student at his home.  This raises an interesting issue of where to draw the line between access and privacy - especially as several school districts are considering issuing laptops to middle and high school students.

The reason schools want to provide students with computers is benign and noble - they want students to easily have access to all the software programs and tools they need to do their school work without having to buy and install these themselves. But the question is, should schools be issuing laptops?  Not only does this raise privacy issues, but it also adds to management and oversight headaches - schools now have to keep these laptops patched and up-to-date, they have to track these assets, update them, etc.

There is of course a better way - school districts could provide students with virtual desktops that have all the software applications and tools the student would need to do their school work.  Students can access these virtual desktops from anywhere - from their home computer, from a computer at the library, etc.  This solves several issues: i) schools don't have to be in the business of managing physical laptops or patching them - they simply update the templates for these virtual desktops periodically and the changes get propagated automatically the next time the students login, ii) privacy is ensured since the virtual desktops can be locked down to restrict access, so schools can enforce policies easily using the desktop templates, and iii) this option provides students with anytime, anywhere access without having to carry around a laptop and manage it.

All the school districts we speak with are very receptive to virtual desktops - they love the simplicity, the ease of management, and the affordability that solutions like Kaviza's offer.  Don't take my word for it, try it for yourself.

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posted by Kumar, Kaviza CEO at


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