Non-Official FHC Computer Management

Issues related to the use and operation of Family History Centers
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jepeneter
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Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#1

Post by jepeneter »

Our stake has four buildings, each with a room dedicated to family history work (they are even labeled "Family History Center"). Church HQ does not recognize these "centers" or their computers (we have 25 or so total) and from what I can tell has no policy specific to them (our attempt to get advice from FH Dept concerning what they install on official computers so we can match was met with a short "you do not have any official family history centers in your stake") and no guidance at all.

I have been tasked with coming up with a management plan so we can 1) image them, 2) keep software footprint small (i.e. deny install of any unauthorized software; all family history functions the members need can be done with web browser), 3) monitor/report/be alerted 4) manage them (patch, software updates, remote control/management, etc.), and 5) most of all do all of that with as little effort/time as possible.

I am looking at free management software (Action1, ITarian/Comodo One, ManageEngine Endpoint Central) and culling the forums here for best practices. Any advice would be gratefully accepted.
-John-
russellhltn
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#2

Post by russellhltn »

I think the first thing would be to see what it might take to get an official FHC in your stake. Having an official FHC means getting access to resources you can't get otherwise. I'm not sure what the status is now, but at one time they were trying to minimize the number of new FHCs in the US to concentrate resources into areas that didn't have any. Also, the travel time from the proposed FHC to the next FHC would be an issue. At the time, a travel time of under 30 minutes wasn't conducive to getting a FHC.

Next, I'd take a good look at what's being done. Are they actually running Windows apps, or is everything web-based? If everything is web-based, you might want to consider ChromeOS. It seems to have a lot of advantages for the educational market which has much of the same issues. Or, you might consider fielding a severely locked down OS such that running a browser is about all they can do.

Lastly, to avoid confusion, you might want to rename your unofficial FHC's. I'd suggest FHWR - Family History Work Room.
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johnshaw
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#3

Post by johnshaw »

You have an interesting situation there and without knowing where you are, I'm not quite sure the purpose of having those not-really-family-history-centers is? It's pretty rare these days for members NOT to have their own computers and Consultants visiting in members homes would be better and more efficient than meeting at an unfamiliar computer, often very slow computer, relying on often slower internet performance, etc... The reason there are FHC's, often, is to take advantage of the software subscriptions the church purchases and manages for research that is installed on a normal FHC computer. I'd agree with Russell, if this is really the purpose, push back on your leaders to create them as actual Family History Centers with all the trimmings that come with them.

If there really is a good reason for having them there, I would suggest getting them all upgraded to the correct Windows OS for them, probably Windows 10, get a list of all the software currently in use, as around about what software is used and get a list of the licensing for all of it. Put Together a budget to get everything licensed and legal on the church network. And don't take guff from people, if you're being asked to do it - it HAS to be legal. If they are OK with the Budget, then creating an image isn't all that hard. Depending on the types of computers you have, use something like Clonezilla (there is a simple procedure to set the Windows Computer to be imageable so you can put that image on all the other ones and just enter the licensing information. Long before the FHC computer system was 'reliable' I managed 5 different FHC's this way, one thing to point out is that you don't need to do this with official FHC computers, they have their own system and manage all of this for you.

Good luck
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sbradshaw
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#4

Post by sbradshaw »

Do you ever actually have all 25 computers in use at a time? That's a full-fledged computer lab. Since it's not an official Family History Center, I wonder if you could take advantage of the room for other purposes that would benefit the community, like computer literacy classes, etc. I agree with the above that if there's no special advantage to the computers (like access to additional family history resources), members are better off learning how to do family history on their own computers (members with laptop computers could bring their computers to the lab for group activities).
Samuel Bradshaw • If you desire to serve God, you are called to the work.
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jepeneter
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#5

Post by jepeneter »

Thank you all for your insightful comments. We are in Draper, Utah, so y'all are right in that we have plenty of official FHCs in the area so getting blessed as official FHCs is unlikely. I think the High Councilor over technology in our stake already tried to charge that hill without much luck.

I completely agree that getting the members to use their own computers makes way more sense. I will coordinate with the High Councilor on this but I think it makes sense for us to find a simple & free software that will inventory the computers and track login/logout/usage. We can run that for a couple of months and see whether the data matches the anecdotal comments (that the rooms are useful/helpful). If we find all or even some computers are being used often enough, then we can move forward with managing those.
-John-
russellhltn
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#6

Post by russellhltn »

jepeneter wrote: Sat Jul 30, 2022 10:08 am software that will inventory the computers and track login/logout/usage. We can run that for a couple of months and see whether the data matches the anecdotal comments (that the rooms are useful/helpful).
That's a good starting point - just keep in mind that at a standard FHC, all the computers would be turned on/logged in when the room is opened. You probably want something that will tell you if someone is actively using it.

As for bootups and shutdowns, those are kept as part of Windows System logs. Looking at them with a filter will give you an idea of usage without waiting a couple of months.
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jepeneter
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#7

Post by jepeneter »

I started a cloud instance of ManageEngine Endpoint Central (MEEC) over the weekend. I have USB stick with the agent and will install it starting this afternoon and throughout the week. Gives me hardware/software inventory, ability to remote control, manage, etc. Best of all, it can tell me when computers are booted, shutdown, logged in/out, and even gives software metering (what apps are used and for how long). They have an add on that allows to track what websites people go to so I am investigating that.
standard FHC
I have learned these rooms in our stake are not a standard or recognized FHCs so we have no official status and none of the benefits thereby.
computers would be turned on/logged in when the room is opened.
That is another challenge in this situation, the member(s) who have keys to these rooms usually turn them on right before 2nd hour so they are not up long enough to be updated, etc.
You probably want something that will tell you if someone is actively using it.
I have only looked at one computer so far but it wasn't turned on since 2018 (as far as I can tell). It will be interesting to check other computers/sites where the computers may be in better condition and used more often (those two factors may be tied).
... bootups and shutdowns... are kept as part of Windows System logs [and] will give you an idea of usage without waiting a couple of months.
That is a good idea. I will see if I can use MEEC to capture those and get them into some kind of report.
-John-
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sbradshaw
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#8

Post by sbradshaw »

jepeneter wrote: Mon Aug 01, 2022 3:22 pm
computers would be turned on/logged in when the room is opened.
That is another challenge in this situation, the member(s) who have keys to these rooms usually turn them on right before 2nd hour so they are not up long enough to be updated, etc.
Are the computers being used during second hour? If so, note that the family history class was removed from the Instructions for Curriculum in 2016, and in the latest edition of the General Handbook, the only approved Sunday School class is Come, Follow Me (see 13.3).
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jepeneter
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Re: Non-Official FHC Computer Management

#9

Post by jepeneter »

family history class was removed ... and ... the only approved Sunday School class is Come, Follow Me
Thank you, Bro. Bradshaw, for that good point. I will drive that point home with our stake presidency, and high council. When they make a decision this month on the direction we should go, I will report back.
-John-
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