Monday, July 8, 2013

Neverware: Tech start up to help schools with their technology problems

“Those who fail to learn from history, you will be doomed to repeat it” - Sir Winston 
Churchill.  Sound familiar?  A lesson we learn almost every time we make a mistake in search of our goals.  But what if the way something was done in the past that will help our future?  Introducing Neverware, a small startup company that is hoping the old school way of mainframe computing will help public (maybe private schools as well) deal with shrinking budgets will still trying to provide up to date technology for kids.  

Neverware is a six person start up company founded by CEO Jonathan Hefter that wants to “produce innovative technologies that make life easier for our clients, and save them money along the way” specifically by taking older, sometimes completely out of date, PC’s and laptops and turn them into thin clients (dummy terminals) running a virtual version of a desktop operating system, all running off one or more servers they call Juiceboxes.  The terminal clients, formerly their very own standalone stations, will run a virtual version of an operating system that is running on the Juicebox so that the clients will not need a working hard drive and need very little RAM and processing power.  Add a monitor, keyboard, and mouse and you have a desktop that runs with the power of the Juicebox and can surpass even the best mid level computer that might cost a school $500 to $700 per station.  

The savings potential to a school can be huge if the annual school budget is only 
$15,000 a year or less.  With that little money, a school wouldn’t even be able to hire a part time IT professional to help keep up with twenty to thirty individual stations that are independent of each other and mostly independent of the schools server.  When a piece of hardware fails it’s easier to figure out (mouse pointer not working, ‘T’ on the keyboard not typing but all the other letters work, monitor not turning on) but when something goes wrong with the operating system (OS) or one particular program on that client, then it has to be tracked at the client.  Worse, if that program fails on multiple clients but works on others, that IT professional will spend hours going from client problem shooting. With a small budget you might have only 2 terminals running Windows 7, 12 running Windows XP, and 11 running Windows Vista all needing different skills correct problems.

Enter thin client computing and Neverware’s Juicebox to streamline software trouble 
shooting in one place, on the Juicebox.  Will there still be hardware failures?  Absolutely, but again those are much easier to troubleshoot, especially on a thin client where hard drive failures are no longer an issue nor is the time replacing them, formatting them, and installing the OS and programs take hours.  The hardest software problems can now be tracked at the Juice Box's terminal.  New software installations are done once at the Juicebox where each client can run their own instance of a word processing program, spreadsheet, or even internet browser.  Older computers donated to schools that are seven to ten years old can now be made useful as a whole instead of just as spare parts.

Right now Neverware is only in one school, Brooklyn’s East New York Family Academy 
but according to Assistant Principal Robert Hornik:  

“For the first time in our school’s 20 year history, we will have a high capacity instructional computer network that will support the kind of access to technology that 
our students deserve. [Our] teachers and students will tell you that the system is blazing 

Hopefully this type of optimism will spread into world of mouth so that many other underfunded schools with aging computers will have a chance to give their students access to the better side of the technology rather than the outdated and falling apart side.  With technology changing every other day and the world changing with it, schools desperately need technology to teach kids how to keep up with it.  The people at Neverware are onto something great with schools and here’s hoping it continues.


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