Advice on Managing Public Computer Terminals

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Nonprofits with Public Computers Toolkit

Does your organization have computers available to the public? Do you lack the technical expertise to keep them 100-percent operational? You’re not alone. While thousands of nonprofits are serving their communities by either offering classes or making computers available for casual use, most don’t have a dedicated IT person to perform the necessary maintenance public computers need.

This toolkit addresses many of the problems organizations with public computers face, highlights success stories of public labs around the world, and offers some free and low-cost software suggestions. This toolkit also provides links to TechSoup's own forums, a useful tool for sharing ideas and getting community-generated solutions.

Tips and Public Lab Management

These articles offer tips to keep your systems running smoothly, applications to ensure kids are safe on public computers, and software to help make your job easier. 

Five Timesaving Tips for Computer Lab Managers
Strategies for reducing maintenance hassles on public machines.

Content-Filtering Tools: An FAQ for Nonprofits
Advice to help you choose software or hardware for your computer lab.

Understanding Content Filtering: An FAQ for Nonprofits
Answers to a handful of frequently asked questions about content filtering solutions.

Cloning: A Fast, Easy Way to Set Up Multiple Computers
Learn how you can automatically set up the same software configuration on dozens of computers.

Five Steps to Extend Your Computer’s Life
We'll show you optimum protection and maintenance practices for keeping your computer healthy.

Securing Your Computers for a Public Computing Environment
A comprehensive primer on how to secure your lab and workstations.

Case Studies

Learn how organizations around the globe are using public computers to reach out to the community, teach adults and children new skills, and make a difference.

Caminos Learning Center
A San Francisco-based nonprofit teaches immigrant and low-income Latina women computer literacy.

One Economy: Bringing the Net to Those Who Need It
Nonprofit provides Web access, content, and training to low-income communities.

Teens Work to End Digital Divide in Jamaican Schools
Teens For Technology brings computer labs to the country's schools.

Uddami Project: Giving Hope to Disadvantaged Youth in India
India's UCTC provides locals with free computer training, access to a better job, and a better life.

Free and Low-Cost Software

TechSoup Stock offers discounted software to qualified nonprofits and non-governmental organizations. Only qualified organizations are eligible for TechSoup software donations and eligibility varies among each vendor. Please review the requirements for each vendor prior to placing your order.

If your organization does not qualify for TechSoup Stock products, the following online vendors offer competitive prices: PC Connection, CDW, and Amazon.

Free Downloads

Free software can make a world of difference to a cash-strapped organization. Some of the following downloads are only free for home and personal use, but check the vendor’s site for nonprofit and educational pricing.

  • Ad-aware
    Free tool finds and removes adware and spyware from your computer. Free version for personal use. Academic and nonprofit discount available.
  • CCleaner
    Free system-optimization tool that removes unused and temporary files from your system, allowing Windows to run faster and more efficiently.
  • Dan’s Guardian
    Free, open-source Web content filter runs on Linux and Mac operating systems.
  • K9 Protection
    Free Windows filter designed for easy set up.
  • OpenOffice
    Free multi-platform, multilingual office suite is compatible with all other major office suites.
  • SteadyState
    Locks down public computers and protects them from unintended changes and unwanted installations of software.
  • Spybot Search and Destroy
    Free tool removes adware, malware, and checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders.

Join the TechSoup Community

TechSoup's Community is a place to share and learn more about technology. Here, you can ask questions and get answers from an enthusiastic team of technology and nonprofit experts.

Digital Divide Forum
This forum is dedicated to discussing the importance of access to technology, how technology can help people with disabilities and members of low income communities.

Virus and Security Forum
Discuss ways to keep your computer secure and virus-free.

Volunteers & Technology
Learn about working with technology volunteers and how the Internet connects volunteers with the organizations that need them.

Additional Resources

The following organizations offer advice, articles, and resources for organizations with public computers.

America Connects Consortium
ACC supports community technology centers nationwide to improve programs, support community development, and improve adult literacy and achievement in education.

CTCnet
A national network of organizations united in their commitment to strengthen the social, economic, educational, and cultural life of their communities through technology.

HUD Neighborhood Networks
From the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, this expansive site provides a variety of information, including resources for starting your own community nonprofit.

NPower
A national network of local nonprofit organizations that provide unbiased, affordable, and appropriate technology assistance to other organizations.

One Economy
A multi-national nonprofit organization that brings broadband to the homes of low-income people and provides a multilingual Web portal called The Beehive.

Web Junction
Geared toward libraries, this site offers advice, forums, and articles.