Google Shows Businesses Its Mettle With Chrome

Chromebooks are the hottest-selling PCs on the market. In 2014, Chromebook sales shot up 85 percent over the previous year, and seven out of 10 of those machines ended up in a classroom, with the balance bought by consumers, according to analyst firm Gartner.

While these numbers may lead many solution providers to believe Chromebooks are exclusively for the classroom, that’s not actually the case. The Chrome-based portables are also finding utility in the boardroom and other business settings. According to Gartner, Chromebook had a 1.1 percent market share of business PCs in 2014. While that doesn’t seem like much compared to the market leading platforms, year-over-year sales did jump 22 percent, and the upward trend is expected to continue.

These rugged, compact portables are gaining traction in a variety of verticals, from hospitality and healthcare to government and engineering. Businesses are taking a closer look at Chromebooks – particularly the 13.3-inch models – because of their portability, productivity, and value. The list of vendors offering Chromebooks continues to grow as well, with Samsung a market leader.

What does a Chromebook have that legacy notebook PCs don’t? For one thing, a price tag that won’t make buyers wince. Starting at $300 or less per unit, Chromebooks are inexpensive compared to even the lowest-end leading platforms, so they won’t compromise an organization’s budget.

They won’t compromise networks, either. Chromebooks rely on multiple layers of security. Automated updates and cloud file storage greatly reduce the risks of malicious infection and data loss. That’s good news for overburdened IT staffs normally tasked with security management and monitoring of traditional laptops.

For those businesses that prefer a more hands-on approach, there’s Chrome for Work, a version of the Chrome operating system aimed at the enterprise. Chrome for Work gives businesses control over group policies and configurations, allowing IT administrators to choose between automatic and manual security updates, and to set auto-update frequency. The business-centric OS also allows organizations to run and manage the latest cloud apps, and offers support for legacy browsers.

Google has steadily been fine-tuning Chrome to make it ideal for business deployments. Google had made multiple improvements to the operating system, including simplified identity control (single sign-on), enhanced virtualization options, improved certificate management for wireless networks, and expanded device management.

Discount retailer Ocean State Job Lot, for one, appreciates all the benefits that Chromebooks brings to the business world. The Rhode Island-based company, with the help of Samsung and Google partner Cloud Sherpas, replaced legacy laptops in 20 of its stores with Samsung Chromebooks, focusing on staff whose jobs involve a lot of traveling. Job Lot road warriors especially enjoy the devices’ portability and long battery life.

Meanwhile, employees of Pediatric Home Service, which provides in-home nursing and medical care for sick children in Minnesota and Wisconsin, are enjoying many of the same Chromebook features – compactness, ease of use, and security, among them. Several years ago, when PHS was contemplating a refresh of its email server, IT manager Rick Mueller found that the organization would be better off adopting Google Apps and Chromebooks.

Mueller said the Samsung Chromebooks “put critical information, including charts, medication lists, and treatments, at the nurses’ fingertips.” Encryption and application sandboxing help keep data secure, as does Google’s certification of certain Google Apps as HIPAA-compliant.

Now, PHS’s 160 nurses are using Chromebooks for administrative tasks and communications. Light, portable, and very easy to get up and running, the Chrome-based laptops are also saving PHS a lot of money. Mueller estimates that the organization has pocketed more than $17,000 in hardware savings alone. He says the savings in “soft costs” – in managing and maintaining the laptops – has exceeded $50,000, and he expects that number to grow as time goes on.

“Our nurses and clinicians have one top priority, taking care of the child,” said Mueller. “They don’t want to fiddle around with technology. They want technology that just works, and with Chromebooks, they’re empowered to help kids and families thrive at home.”