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Note: Microsoft no longer offers Windows MultiPoint Server. However, Windows Server now has a MultiPoint Services role that does not have the 20-user limit of MultiPoint Server.
Microsoft's Windows MultiPoint Server is a thin-client or shared-resource-computing software solution in which one host computer is shared by multiple users simultaneously. Basically, it allows one computer to serve several people in a lab or library at very low cost and with minimum maintenance.
TechSoup and InterConnection, one of our Refurbished Computer Initiative partners, teamed up to supply a group of nonprofits and libraries with everything they would need to set up a MultiPoint Server lab in their environment. In most cases, we sent them the instructions, hardware, and software they'd need and then stood back and watched how the installation went. We then did check-ins on how the MultiPoint Server system held up under use.
La Conner Regional Library was one of our test sites. It is a small, rural library that serves 5,000 people in the Skagit Valley in northern Washington State. Joy Neal (right) is the library director and Lane Fernando (below) is their tech support person. Joy was previously the librarian in a large, five-county district library system and when she took the La Conner position, she found that she had no IT support on site and a limited budget. She became the library tech person by default.
She is a favorite on TechSoup for Libraries because she is always open to new technology. For instance La Conner has been using thin clients since 2008, and recently installed an open-source integrated library system.
Like most libraries, La Conner Library provides public access computers to patrons to use however they wish. They also have a homework help program for school children and offer a variety of digital literacy computer classes. Patrons can also bring their own laptops and tablets and use the library's free WiFi.
TechSoup and InterConnection teamed up to supply La Conner Library with everything they would need to set up a bank of MultiPoint Server-based public access computers. Joy and Lane Fernando worked to together to set up the new 5-station donation:
Installation Date: August 24, 2012
Existing public access IT system the new MultiPoint Server system replaces: 6 HP thin clients connected to a Windows server. Internet connectivity was via a T1 line.
Joy Neal and Lane Fernando who worked to together to set up the new system, regard themselves as medium to advanced in IT. It took them 25 minutes to plug everything in get the software configured. They liked the tiny size of the USB hubs. Like most of our test sites, they didn't read instructions until half way through the process. They plugged in peripherals first and then read instructions mainly for software configuration. Having had previous experience with thin-client computing, they liked the idea of attaching the USB hubs to the monitors.
This was our first test installation, so we had more problems than with the others. Over time we refined our instructions. At La Conner Library, it took some experimentation to get the stations to appear in admin console. The solution was to properly register the MultiPoint Server software with Microsoft.
Also the admin station had full Internet access, but the four user stations had limited Internet access. They could get to sites like Bing, the library website, and some other sites, but most others were blocked. Rebooting the system did not work. The solution turned out to be to disable the security settings in Internet Explorer. Firefox didn't have this problem.
Intended Use of the New MultiPoint Server System:
The New MultiPoint Server System will mainly be used for open access to the Internet for patrons, computer classes, and a place to do after-school homework for school children,
Lane Fernando maintains and administers the new Multipoint Server system day to day. He installed Faronics Deep Freeze, which is system restore and recovery software, mainly to clear out the browsing histories for each user. He reports that very little maintenance is needed beyond insuring Microsoft updates, and clearing browsing histories.
Recommendations to Others From La Connor Library:
Joy and Lane recommend MultiPoint Server to other libraries. They hope to expand their system to 10 stations. They also find that their lab is easy enough to move when needed. Space is an issue in their library.
Lane is planning to do a game design class and is excited about using the MultiPoint Server system as a teaching tool. He values the ability to see exactly what is going on at each station from the server terminal.
image: by Charles Brennick of Joy Neal and Lane Fernando
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.