How I’m learning to do business with a Chromebook

Integrating Chromebook into business

Google Chromebook logo

I love to play around with new devices. Not like some professional reviewers, but if I can figure out a place where a new device will fit in it sticks in my mind and I want to know more.

For the past 2 years I’ve recognized the potential for both Chromebook and Chromebox. Colleges are a natural. Students don’t always need a fully functional laptop to take notes in classes and the long battery life of the Chromebook is ideal for a full day of college courses. Google has done a good job positioning these devices and the potential use, especially in business continues to expand.

Worldwide Chromebook* sales to end users is on pace to reach 7.3 million units in 2015, a 27 percent increase from 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. Education is the primary market for Chromebooks and represented 72 percent of the global Chromebook market in 2014.” more

Some areas I can see Chromebooks being used included:

  • Companion device
  • Temporary contractor device
  • Virtual client
  • Remote worker machine

The problem for me is proving it can function the same for a professional. How do you convince a business owner that a device that only has a browser and won’t load Microsoft applications can be beneficial for their business?

Obviously, you can’t unless you spend some time with it yourself and that is exactly what I intend to do.

I want to be realistic about my plans; I have no intention of totally replacing my work computer with a Chromebook, but I do intend to augment it, a new companion device.

Is this something you can do with a tablet or smartphone? Sure, and I’ve doing it, but with limitations. A Chromebook actually provides an experience closer to a laptop.

What is it I’m really trying to accomplish? To find out if I can do “productive” , really productive work with a Chromebook.

The hardware

Acer C720 Chromebook

I’m not going to spend a lot for this test, besides, the whole idea behind Chromebook is inexpensive hardware, so after some research I’ve chosen an Acer C720 Chromebook with 4 GB of RAM and a 16 GB SSD drive. You can find these relatively cheaply at Amazon,  Ebay and other online retailers.

A base configuration for most Chromebooks is 2 GB of RAM and either no storage or a 16 GB SSD. Remember these devices are cloud-based so on-board storage is not a necessity. Still, I anticipate I will be storing some content on the device. I don’t imagine it will be a lot, but I want the option. The Acer C720 is also expandable. I can upgrade the SSD drive if I find I need more storage. I can’t do the same with the memory, which is why I went with the 4 GB unit.

The Applications

No computer is of any use without applications. Chromebooks are no exception, still, I intend to use as many of the same applications that I use on my laptop. The goal is “interoperability” with no translation to another format. [By the way, that is the same goal I’ve set for my smartphone]

Google made sure these devices have access to Google Docs, a complete office productivity suite and for some that will be enough. For me, I need and want access to the Microsoft Office suite too. Remember, this is not a laptop replacement for me, its meant to augment what I use on my laptop and I use both.

Thankfully, the Microsoft applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are available in the Chrome Webstore.

What else is on my must have list?

  • Google Drive – there should be no doubt this would be available
  • OneDrive – Most of my business documents are stored here
  • Dropbox – I use this to store all my reference material
  • Feedly
  • Hootsuite
  • Evernote

Some of these I was already accessing through Chrome, so they were available immediately; others needed to be installed.

I also use a number of web applications, so far I’ve not seen any compatibility issues.

Summary

So far I’ve spent 3 days with the Chromebook. There are definitely differences between my laptop and the Chromebook I’m going to have to get use to, but so far I’ve not seen any lost in productivity that I would consider a showstopper.

The experience working in Chrome is pleasant, but a little different. The one thing that stands out is the lack of a “backspace” key. Still, it’s something I can work around.

I find navigation to be at first challenging, but there are keyboard shortcuts I’m learning that really smooth that experience.

I intend to take a weekend trip with this machine and see if I survive. Check back to see if I survived and a report on my progress.

 

 

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