We all know that in practice Windows roaming profiles suck like a limpet*, they might be useful to the administrator, but for users and programmers (yes, the programs you install aren’t designed to be used with roaming profiles — why should they be, RP is bad tech. — which explains why they refuse to work) they hurt.
Scenario: you have a department of 150 staff at various campuses, you implement roaming profiles because 50 of these staff use a computer other than the one in their office for a couple of hours a few times a week (it’s the one at the reference desk). The net result: broken accounts, frustrated employees, draconian “security” policies, irritated IT people, constant errors when using printers, oh — and my personal favourite — “we can’t fix this printer driver issue because the IT-engineer who does this is away on a course this week”. In the midst of this, you actually have to work.
Enter the solution: Web OSes. What’s a Web OS? It’s often billed as a virtual computer hosted on the net, but this isn’t quite true in any of the cases I’ve looked at. The services offered typically comprise storage and an integrated suite of applications and interaction (upload/download) with applications on the computer you’re actually sat at.
The big thing is that these services work on any computer with a web browser and an internet (broadband, realistically) connection. This means that you can access your profile anywhere, without having to rely on the vagaries of IT mismanagement. Oh joy. It’s just like having a notebook that you brought from home (well almost).
You can take a look at the following offerings:
I’m not sure that I’d recommend either right now, but that’s maybe because I opted out of the roaming profile scene by not using Windows when I’m doing serious work.
* And they do suck, except — according to some, though I’d disagree even in these cases — in instances where you’ve got every computer with exactly the same hardware/software configuration and all the software is RP-aware. And no-one is using a laptop.
Of course, a far better way of implementing user accounts that can move from machine to machine is to drop Windows and use UNIX; Sun’s Solaris can be recommended if you want to pay for support. Oh, and you have the benefit of actual security based on a proper system infrastructure, rather than Microsoft’s single perimeter approach.
Tags: Web OS