Being a Gmail and Google Apps fanatic, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of Chromebooks and Chrome OS in general. And with every 3 minute reboot of my aging Windows laptop this past spring, I became more tempted to take the plunge and go 100% web with a Chromebook, at least for the large portion of my day when I’m working in Google Apps and not installable software programs. So when the new Samsung 550 Chromebooks came out this past June, I made my case to the bossman that we should order a few of these devices. They’re cheap, and if we’re true Google Apps experts developing for the Google Apps ecosystem, we need at least a basic understanding of how Chromebooks function and are managed in a business environment.
What I didn’t expect, however, is that I’d be using a Chromebook nearly 100% of the time in the months to follow – we’ve even converted the office’s Controller, an Excel power user, to a Chromebook and Google Spreadsheets.
So with about 4 months of Chromebook experience under my belt, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the top reasons why a few of my coworkers and I find Chromebooks indispensable.
You’ve heard the stats, “8 second boot, instant wake from sleep” etc. etc. I can tell you this: you won’t fully appreciate this kind of speed until you use it. I used to come into the office, turn my laptop on, go get a cup of coffee and chat with a couple coworkers, then come back to a laptop that was still rolling out of bed. The Chromebook is ready to go when you are, and over the course of days, weeks and months, saving a few minutes here and there really adds up. You can get similar speeds with any computer using a solid-state drive, but if you don’t have $1,000 to spend on a new MacBook Air, you can get the same speed with the new $249 Chromebook.
While the simplicity of Chrome OS is certainly a big reason for its speed, the simplicity in and of itself actually makes working in Chrome OS a very nice experience. The tools you need to access consistently throughout the day, like Gmail and Google Drive, are always at your fingertips in the launch bar. Obviously you can do this on a “real” laptop with hot keys, browser shortcuts, etc. but with a Chromebook it’s just so easy. And I find that the stripped-down nature of Chrome OS creates far less distractions.
Security and Standardization
There’s definitely a security benefit for personal Chromebook users, as the device doesn’t truly store local files (more security by limitation) and the OS only boots from a read-only version, but the security benefits are even greater for an organization deploying Chromebooks. As an IT administrator, not only can you implement security settings like restricting sign-in to accounts on your domain only or wiping local files after every log out, but you can also standardize certain aspects of the Chromebook experience by proactively pushing out useful Chrome extensions, or even pre-configuring WiFi network logins for every Chromebook on your domain, or particular Org. Units (useful if you use geography to group your OUs).
Using Chromebooks has been a great experience for our team. Not only do we get lightning-fast, affordable laptops, we also have seen Chrome OS evolve significantly over the past 4 months alone. The user experience has improved pretty significantly every few weeks, while the Chrome OS team continues to add more “traditional” PC features like extended desktop and better multimedia support. It’s certainly a Google-centric solution so we wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but if you’re a Google Apps customer and are already spending the majority of your day in a web browser, it’s worth checking out a Chromebook.