Chromebook™ notebook computers have been generating a lot of buzz lately. Their popularity has been on the rise over the last few years. This is in pace with increasing adoption of the cloud. The attractive price point, under $300, is no doubt a factor in their growing success. Last year, Chromebooks topped Windows® laptop sales for the first time.

Can Google’s cloud-based laptop replace the traditional laptop or desktop? Is switching over to Chromebooks the next big thing for your small business?

Chromebook: How they work and what they do

Chromebooks are streamlined machines in both look and functionality. They are designed with one basic but powerful goal: to access the internet and run web-based applications. Because the average computer user spends the majority of their time on internet based tasks, this concept makes perfect sense. The Chromebook is not intended to run downloaded software. This allows for smaller processor and memory specs. But thanks to the streamlined ChromeOS™ and solid-state drives, these lightweight laptops run fast.

Benefits and Features

In many ways, the enthusiasm surrounding Chromebooks is well-deserved.

  • They are lightweight, extremely portable, and have great battery life (about 8-9 hours on average).
  • Although their built-in storage capacity is limited, Google provides 100GB of free cloud storage for the first two years via Google Drive™.
  • It comes with Google’s productivity suite which includes Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Your basic office tasks are covered out-of-the-box.

The Chromebook scored major points in both security and convenience. It has built-in virus/malware protection. It also has automated operating system security updates which install in the background. In fact, they are like Macs® in that they are virtually immune to the malware that regularly plagues Windows.

Limitations and the Learning Curve

Like any new innovation, Chromebooks have their drawbacks and criticisms.

  • Chromebooks are designed for the web, and are not as useful offline. This can be offset to some extent by using apps that support offline work. Nonetheless, this can be frustrating and definitely puts a dent in productivity.
  • It may be hard to get used to the complete reliance on apps and browser-based tools. The typical user may find themselves spending time searching for and learning to use unfamiliar apps.
  • Web-based applications are almost always less flexible and lack features compared to their traditional software counterparts.
  • A top complaint of Chromebook users is that it does not support the full-featured version of Skype™, a popular communication app.

Adapting Chromebook to the Workplace

Is Chromebook right for your small to mid-size business? Is it the game-changer we’ve all been searching for? The best answer now is “it depends.”

There are many factors to consider before implementing Chromebooks on a wide-scale in your business. Certain types of businesses will find it a bad fit. Because it depends only on web applications, companies that rely on feature-rich programs, such as graphic design or video editing software, will not get any return on their investment. Similar difficulties arise if your business uses custom in-house applications. Homespun software would need to be altered to work in a browser. Depending on the scope of that development, any savings gained from the reduced hardware costs could be canceled out in the end.

If the majority of your employees perform typical office work, or are already using cloud-based applications in their daily work, the Chromebook could be a great fit. It could also be implemented in a limited fashion, with remote users or employees who spend most of their time on the road.

Another operational change to consider is printing hard copy documents with the Chromebook. If your printers are not Google Cloud Print™ ready, you may need to upgrade or spend time dealing with setup and compatibility.

The best way to reduce any user concerns is to implement Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) with your fleet of Chromebooks. DaaS allows your Chromebook to act as a workstation for a virtual Windows® desktop. This online, value-added solution provides a cost-effective way to reduce the Chromebook’s learning curve. It gives end-users a familiar Windows experience, allowing them to use all the applications with which they are comfortable. It also includes many convenient options such as moving their current setup to the cloud and automating data backups.

Read more about the potential of virtual desktops.

The Final Word on Chromebook

Chromebooks are remarkably inexpensive and could have long-lasting benefits for small businesses. The hardware is well-designed, well-built, and reliable. Many happy users love their speed, consistent performance, and low-maintenance security features. Business leaders and IT professionals will both appreciate the reduced reliance on physical servers that this cloud-based technology provides. Our current verdict about Chromebooks is that they offer many benefits and conveniences, but business owners should first consider how (and if) they will fit into their current operations. Don’t forget to account for the cost of subscription-based services in your final cost analysis. Then be prepared to manage change. If you’re thinking of adopting Chromebooks in your workplace and would like some friendly advice, eSOZO is happy to help.

Author: Aaron White, Date: 9th May 2016


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