Machines at Work: Why Chromebook May Be a Valuable Option for Your Business

chromebook1In a market saturated with machines with countless uses and features, Google is beginning to get ahead of the competition. Google’s Chromebook, an alternative to the wide assortment of Microsoft Windows netbooks or pricey Apple products, presents itself as the cheapest, most efficient option for everyday computing. Due to their popularity in educational programs and with both younger and older consumers, more Google Chromebooks were sold than Macs in the United States in 2016. This is possible because of their innovative ratio of price and performance.

Why are Chromebooks so cost-effective?

Google Chromebook provides more powerful hardware than notebooks of the same price point. For years, Microsoft dominated the under-$500 laptop market with sluggish products whose small processors and memory struggle to run the full extent of Windows programming. Because Chromebook doesn’t yet support third-party programs or applications, its slimmer processor can run more efficiently than that of Windows laptops with more capabilities.

Chromebook also streamlined the user entry process. Logging into the machine signs users into their Google account and provides access to all Google programs and cloud data. This feature makes it extremely attractive for educational programs due to the amount of classroom time saved with instant data retrieval and access to the web. As schools aspire to provide hands-on technological resources for every student, the low price and technical simplicity of the Chromebook makes it a practical option.

In the business world, Chromebook may not be the best option for heavy users. The features that make Chromebook such a wonderful option for students and average consumers limit more complex functionality, like programs used in graphic design and photo or video editing. We may eventually see these programs adapt to the expanding cloud-based realm. However, unless your business primarily uses web-based programming—such as Google Docs, Sheets, or Keep, all of which can be used offline and synced later over Internet access—Chromebooks may not be an optimal replacement for your everyday workhorse machine.

Are Chromebooks a secure option for your business?

Chromebooks run ChromeOS, a fast-paced operating system specially designed for Chromebook’s minimal hardware. ChromeOS uses cloud technology designed for web-based computing, which is a great way to back up personal data but comes with a disadvantage. A single security breach would allow access to everything stored locally and online. However, unlike a typical Windows or Mac computer, ChromeOS has built-in safeguards to protect your machine: automatic background updates that patch any potential security concerns and the “verified boot” feature, a self-check malware procedure performed every time the machine reboots.

Google’s Chrome browser is heavily reliant on extensions, which come with their own set of security complications. These third-party browser add-ons are less regulated and can come with permissions or malware that allow access to personal data and browsing history. Though every extension runs native code and has to pass Google’s approval process, snooping on passwords or data would be virtually invisible to the average user once one is installed. While ChromeOS is still considered to be more secure than Linux, Windows, or OSX, users should take the same precautions to protect their personal data as with any machine.

Should your business make the switch to Chromebook?

The answer to this question depends solely on what tasks employees perform. Unless your business works primarily with browser compatible or cloud-based Google programs, you may not get as much use out of a Chromebook as you would a more expensive product. Though programs like Google Docs are compatible with commonly-used programs like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages, it may be more convenient for employees to work on machines that can do more with those files offline at their leisure. The limitations of a web-based OS become even more apparent when dealing with system administration. The range of system administration tools is much smaller on a Chromebook than with other machines, especially with device management and application or web development.

Senior system administrator Luke Bragg of Anderson Technologies, a St. Louis IT consulting firm, says that the wisest commercial uses of Chromebooks are as inexpensive solutions for mobile employees, for Internet-only situations like Internet kiosks in hotels or libraries, or under any circumstance requiring Internet access to customers without going over budget for costly infrastructure. “I do see this becoming more applicable in the future as more and more applications are moving to a cloud-based solution, but there are still quite a few that just aren’t completely there yet.” This doesn’t mean we won’t see major changes in Chromebook’s practicality over the next few years, especially when it comes to business and corporate tasks. As Google broadens its spectrum of applications, Chromebooks may become an even more cost-effective solution for any business wanting to upgrade machines for faster, more streamlined daily use. The disadvantages of Chromebooks for one company may be exactly what makes them an indispensable alternative for your individual business.

Anderson Technologies provides IT support in St. Louis with services ranging from system and network administration to custom software engineering solutions.

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