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Is ChromeOS a good fit for your organization? Blog (3/2/2013)

As a member of the IT department, you are probably asked all the time what the next big computing revolution is. If you were to ask Google they’d either say Android or Chrome OS. If you don’t know what Chrome OS is, it’s basically a computer with a web browser. There are no native apps and very little storage. The question is, is this something that your IT department should recommend for use in your business?

If you run your company’s IT Helpdesk, you are probably always looking for technology that will make the management of computers easier and faster. Chrome OS has the potential to be the best thing ever for those of us who are sick of trying to explain the intricacies of every new version of Windows to the ignorant masses.

The whole point of Chrome OS is that it is just a browser. That’s it. You do have limited access to the small amount of storage on the device, but the OS is meant to be used completely in the cloud.

This is great for users who don’t require resource heavy or OS dependent software like Photoshop or Excel. This is for people who spend their entire day working in Google Docs, emailing, or doing research. The OS comes with the Chrome Store which has tons of great web apps that allow users to do things like basic video and audio editing to document management and creation.

The Barrier
The problem for Chrome OS in the enterprise is that it doesn’t do much more than what the web apps will allow. Any proprietary software or commercial software that your business uses will not run on Chrome OS. This means that Chrome OS will most likely never be the OS that your business uses exclusively. Because this is true, it means if your company does adopt it in some part, you (as the IT department) will have to support yet another OS. This probably isn’t great news for you since you are already supporting many other OS’s: Windows, Windows Server, Linux, Linux Server, and then you have the mobile OS’s that you probably support. Adding another OS to that mix, especially one that might not be supported by your device management software could be a pain.

The Benefit
There are some benefits to having Chrome OS in your organization, however. The main one being is that it will be very easy to support. Since it is just a web browser, you won’t have to worry about supporting any software other than the OS itself. Also you will be able to control the entire use of the OS by the use of a simple Firewall.

Another benefit is that the training time to use the OS will be very low, if it even exists at all. It is just a web browser, after all, which means most users will be able to pick it up right away. The training you do do will probably consist of explaining the off line capability to users, and explaining how the cloud storage works. Another great benefit of ChromeOS is that many of the devices have built in cellular data connectivity, which makes these devices excellent for people who travel a lot.

The last benefit of this isn’t really a plus or minus for the IT department, but it will be a deciding factor for your management team. Chrome OS devices are (for the most part) very cheap. Some laptops are priced as low as $250 per unit, and that is when they are bought in single units. Buying them in bulk would significantly lower the price. There are exceptions to that rule, however. Google just released their own version of the Chromebook in the Chromebook Pixel. It costs $1300, so it isn’t anywhere near cheap. That device is more focused on the executive branch of the enterprise. Users who want a fancy and expensive laptop, but don’t need the power or Windows or Mac.

ChromeOS is not meant for power users, or for regular computer users, really. It is meant for the users in your organizations who do basic work on their computers. Things like manage and edit documents (that doesn’t require Word or Excel), do a ton of emailing, or do a lot of web work, all work extremely well on ChromeOS. The benefits for your company are more that it is easy to manage and exceptionally cheap.
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