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How to keep tabs on mobile computers … without being sued for ‘spying’


Brick Township schools doubled their laptop return rate with help from Absolute Software.

A Pennsylvania school district was sued last year for remotely activating the webcams on student laptops to find missing machines. In nearby New Jersey, the Brick Township Public Schools had a problem with missing mobile computers, too—but not any more. And it won’t be in any legal danger from spying on students, either.

This district of 13 schools manages some 4,000 computers in all, about 1,000 of which are mobile computers such as laptops and netbooks. To keep track of the devices they loaned out to students and staff members, district officials used to use a binder and a paper sign-out sheet—a solution that was “not always up to date, and definitely not searchable,” says IT Director Leonard Niebo.

That was a problem, because “students seem to lose or misplace devices all the time,” Niebo says. The result was “bedlam,” he says, with district officials having to scramble to find as many as half of the devices they loaned out.

By taking advantage of an asset-tracking program called Computrace, from Absolute Software, Brick Township now has “a 100-percent return rate” on its mobile computers, Niebo says.

Like a “Lojack” for laptops, the software is loaded onto the mobile computers the district buys right at the factory, so district officials don’t have to install anything themselves. What’s more, the program also includes a data protection feature to keep sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.

With help from this software, Niebo and his staff have satisfied a request from board members and other stakeholders “to know where all mobile devices are at all times,” he says—and they don’t have to worry about unauthorized users accessing personal files on machines that are lost or stolen.

(Editor’s note: For more information about Brick Township’s use of Computrace to keep tabs on its mobile devices and safeguard information, register for this free webinar: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/01/06/how-one-school-district-doubled-their-laptop-return-rate.)

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