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Move toward simpler IT systems with Chrome OS

Andy Wolber believes your next system setup can be as simple as powering on and logging in.

Recently, I deployed new computers for three different organizations. The organizations have six, seven and fifteen users, respectively. All three organizations have an on-site Microsoft Windows server.

Setup of these new computers is straightforward. Connect the system to the network. Join the computer to the domain. Deploy anti-virus software. Install applications. Set up printers and device drivers. Uninstall "bloatware" if required.

Then the updates begin. Download and install operating system and application updates. Reboot. Download and install more updates. Repeat until there are no more updates to install. With a slow Internet connection, the process may take hours.

The setup process is faster for IT staff at large organizations. These organizations buy hundreds of similarly configured laptops. The IT staff creates a standardized disk image containing the operating system, applications and necessary device drivers. Then, the staff copies the standardized disk image to each new laptop. When updates are required, the IT staff "pushes" system, application, and security updates to client systems.

But small organizations typically don't have access to the expertise needed to create disk images or push managed system updates. Many small organizations don't choose to purchase these consulting services, either. So they're stuck with the traditional install, download, update, and reboot cycle.

Chrome OS drastically simplifies the setup of new systems: turn on, log in.

Chrome OS

Setup of a Chrome OS stands in marked contrast to Windows systems. Connect the system to the network and then login to the device with a Google or Google Apps account. Enable Chrome Sync and the Chrome OS updates happen silently in the background. (Extension or app updates may prompt the user to approve modified permissions.) Reboot and the updates are installed. There is no anti-virus software to install. There are no device drivers to install. And there is no bloatware to uninstall.

A successful move to a Chrome OS - Google Apps environment requires organizations to make changes in four areas: Internet speeds, data storage, application selection, and device deployment. I refer to these steps as "iDAD" - with apologies to Apple. Organizations moving from a traditional Windows client-server environment typically should address the steps in sequence:

1. Get a fast Internet connection

An organization needs to have sufficient bandwidth to access large quantities of data over the Internet. For small organizations, this typically means upgrading from a slow DSL or T1 connection to a much faster cable or fiber connection.

2. Move your data files online

Next, I typically see organizations supplement or replace their on-site file server with web-based storage. Google Drive can be an excellent replacement for a file-server for small organization. (I've also seen some organizations use Box or Dropbox.) Once files are stored online, people can access those files from a variety of traditional devices: Windows and Mac laptops, as well as iOS or Android smartphones and tablets.

3. Move your applications to the browser

Organizations next typically adopt Google Apps. For many small organizations, this is the first time that employees have consistent access to email and shared calendars. Staffs tend to continue to use Windows or Mac systems, and many also continue to run traditional Microsoft Office applications.

Organizations should carefully review applications used. Choose web-based applications when selecting new applications. And, where feasible, gradually phase out locally installed applications in favor of web-based tools.

Small organizations also should attempt to centralize user authentication. In most small organizations, staff login not only to the file server, but also maintain individual accounts on various websites. Choose apps that can be added from the Google Apps Marketplace, so that users don't have to remember additional usernames and passwords.

Typically, organizations stay at this stage for a significant period of time. Organizations have the benefit of web-based collaboration tools, in addition to traditional installed applications.

4. Deploy Chrome devices

Users can fully move to a Chrome OS device when they can accomplish their work using only a web browser. For many knowledge workers, this is possible today. Many reporters, academics, technologists, and businesses have already moved to Chrome OS. I've made the move myself: I use a Chromebook and Chromebox as my laptop and desktop, respectively. However, sometimes, this move is not possible for organizations because of software or systems required by customers or partners.

For small businesses, there is much to gain by moving to Chrome OS. No more complicated setup of new computers. No need to constantly monitor and deploy updates to the operating system, applications and anti-virus software.

I encourage you to update and reboot your infrastructure, data storage, applications, and devices for the cloud computing age. Once you do, your next system setup can be as simple as powering on and logging in.

Also read:

About

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

31 comments
aliinoa_81
aliinoa_81

I agree with many of the responses on here.  While Chrome OS offers a great alternative to MDM, device management, and diminished prep & deployment for small entities.


Using a PC with a prepped disk image (utilities, drivers, software, etc), Windows Server & Domain, support for peripherals that require FLASH AND JAVA, compatibilities with presentation hardware/software for smartboards, wireless peripherals, etc.


Sorry, in my much very humble and beginning IT career opinion, the iPad has a far more versatility to all facets when it comes to prep, deployment, MDM, and support for this type of computing or user interface on a larger scale.  Whether it be enterprise, education, or even a small entity or soho.

sdjcs
sdjcs

I hate "moving parts" in a system - the more of them the more points of failures, difficulty in resolving issues, and a greater sense of urgency placed on malfunctions with the small parts. In an ideal scenario, all apps and data would live in centralized, highly controlled, very-well maintained, and very reliable data centers such that a user could pick up any sort of computing device to run their apps and access their data without skipping a beat. If a device craps out, you just use a different device, or easily "plug" a new one into the system. This is a Utopian solution that cannot yet be achieved in the small business environment. What is a small business? The example was given of businesses with only a few PCs, and for the most part that is representative of my typical client which ranges from 3 to 25 computers. I can tell you that moving to the cloud is not even close for my customer base due to these reasons (as much as I wish I could): 1. Cost - Fully hosting a business in the cloud is VERY expensive when compared to the REAL costs of what a typical small business actually spends on IT over a 3-year period. Yes, some parts of cloud computing are reasonably priced and many of my clients are using "pieces" of it such as email, email security, cloud storage and online backup. 2. Internet speed and reliability - in my area Internet speeds are on the upswing thanks to services being offered by Comcast, Verizon, and a few others, but only in the larger communities. A lot of customers are in areas where DSL or slow cable is the only option, and speeds likely won't be faster anytime soon. And the number one concern I hear from business owners regarding "cloud computing" is "what do I do when the Internet is down?" (a far too common occurrence in the northeast). I actually have one customer with redundant Internet connections, but that's because the nature of his business is online, but all of my other clients an appropriate alternative is either not available or doing so is too expensive. Without redundant Internet or highly available connections, apps and data need to have local availability (such as what some of the cloud storage vendors provide, or even with email systems such as Exchange/Outlook and Google Apps). 3. Line-of-Business App availability - the "traditional" LOB apps that my clients use are simply not available as "web-apps," at least not in the fully-featured form that my clients are accustomed to. Quickbooks, Peachtree, MAS90, etc. would all have to be in the cloud, along with many other industry-specific apps such Time Matters, Camelot, SoftPro, and others. Until this happens, my clients need Windows clients and a Windows server at their physical location. I wish it was cost effective to host their server(s) in a data center in a virtual environment, but it just isn't. And finally, perhaps someone can educate me on how they make it cost effective and practical for these small clients to have an "image." Doing so requires a volume licensing for a Windows client OS and Office Suite. Comparing the costs of buying OEM licenses vs. MS volume license costs, and what it adds to the expenditure of one or more new PCs, owners across my client base would justifiably laugh me out of town. The imaging strategy also doesn't work well for small clients because they don't switch out their PCs every 3 years - they will run on their systems for 5+ years!

jasonaedwards
jasonaedwards

I have deployed Google Chromebooks and/or Google Drive as a *complimentary* offering in a number of schools. The online collaboration is great. Would I REPLACE my existing Windows client computers with Chrome OS? Not a chance. It just doesn't offer the functionality most staff and teachers require. For students, however, it has worked very well.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"But small organizations typically dont have access to the expertise needed to create disk images or push managed system updates. Many small organizations dont choose to purchase these consulting services, either." I submit small companies without IT resources or the financial assets to hire them most likely don't have the expertise to move to the web either. I further submit the acquiring the expertise to create and deploy system images is cheaper than getting / buying the skills necessary to migrate to the web (especially if you already own the server, Windows clients, and software).

Gisabun
Gisabun

Has Andy Wolber ever bothered to properly deploy Windows computers? First, if you have as many as fifteen computers, maybe it's time to have an image of your own ready instead. Install Windows, install updates, install applications, do some adjustments. Create image. Deploy to the 15 computers. And of course no bloatware to remove. Oh what bloatware? Last 3 systems that I worked on [2 Dell and 1 HP] had almost nothing in bloatware. Closest was Office 2010 STarter edition. Andy: Take a course or learn how to deploy computers. You could use the same image for multiple organizations [as long as you don't insert the serial number when building the image]. Finally, you want small organizations/companies to drop their infrastructure and switch over to Chrome OS? Who is this benefitting? You probably to support them.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

How is Chrome’s auto update feature different from that of Windows or Linux? Windows does give more control, but if you want updates that will happen silently in the background and install when you switch off at the end of the day, they will. Linux and Android are much the same. As everything else in the article can be achieved with any of the other popular operating systems, this appears to be the only thing that justifies the title “Move toward simpler IT systems with Chrome OS”.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Places where people don't actually use their computers for much of anything, and places that make shit loads of money and can get multiple fibre lines to an office. Small business? No way, typical residential and commercial internet would not work for more than 1 user simultaneously, and would be horribly slow with just 1 user. Don't believe me? According to speedtest.net, I am in the top 75% of internet speed for Canada. http://www.speedtest.net/result/2479658050.png Why would I want to move backwards in speed? Big business? Why give away control to google if you can afford to control it yourself? And finally, if I was going to dump Microsoft, I would go Linux or Apple, An online only OS is just stupid.

RNR1995
RNR1995

Do you really trust your data with a 3rd party? Especially Google?

havachip
havachip

Is any discussion safe from conspiracists and political pundits spoon fed distortion of the political atmosphere? That being said, I think this is a fantastic idea for a small organization. Not only would the system be easy to maintain, the productivity of the team would increase at a fraction of the cost.

charlie
charlie

terrible idea. so google can give your data to obummer and his evil crew. no thanks

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you seriously considered deploying Chrome OS and Google Apps in your organization? What are the stumbling blocks? Would making such a move really simplify your IT management?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

can be done without a volume license using SysPrep and Norton Ghost.

andy
andy

I'd be interested in seeing any studies that look at this issue! Every study I've typically seen shows SMBs perceive benefits of moving at least some specific systems to the cloud (most often email, calendaring, etc.). And I do track lots of studies re: cloud, economics, etc. -- see my bookmarks: https://www.diigo.com/user/andywolber/study%20cloud. But I haven't see a cost comparison of the "get the support/expertise you need" for a conventional setup vs. "get the support/expertise you need" to move to the cloud. Anyone have any good economic/cost data to share?

andy
andy

Actually, I'm very familiar with Windows imaging, deployment, etc. I mentioned it in the article because in my experience most SMALL orgs -don't- properly deploy systems or use WSUS for updates, etc. What's interesting to me about the Chrome OS environment is that endpoint/client deployment is amazingly simple once an org has made the migration of data and apps. And, yes, I think we're already seeing individuals and startups move 100% to the web.

Gisabun
Gisabun

Seriously? With their privacy issues? Where is the management tools so that Linda in accounting doesn't install something she has no business to install or restrict Paul in shipping and his constantly playing around with network settings? Do you really want people to log into Google's sites not knowing what they are actually doing?

sdjcs
sdjcs

If you are building/selling PCs then yes, as part of the System Builder license you can create an OEM image and deploy to multiple computers. Otherwise, legally imaging Microsoft software is only granted to volume license customers. We may be talking about different situations in this thread, but my customers purchase "name-brand" PCs (Dell, HP, etc.) which of course already have an OEM installation for Windows. Re-imaging these systems requires a volume license.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The vendors bought you a good lunch as well then? The effort involved in switching OS is never identified correctly by those who want to make the switch. If it was, no one with anything worth switching would do it. They've already decided that it's worth doing. They don't want to hear problems they want to hear solutions, yada yada yada. The cost of doing it for anyone with any real embedded IT in place, vastly outweighs any benefit real or otherwise from doing it over a period any competent business person would deem sane. You should switch to Chrome and the cloud is no different to "Go Linux" There is no justifiable business case, tell it like it is. You don't like Bill, you think Stallman is a commie, you will get paid a shed load of money for doing it. Just stop with the crap already. Would Chrome be a suitable solution from scratch, maybe. Would it be something you might want to hybridise with and move towards, maybe. Just up sticks and switch in toto is bollocks.

Bob_n_TN
Bob_n_TN

It's obvious from the comments that most of the comments come from people who have absolutely no idea how Chrome OS works or how it can be managed. Most of you are stuck in this ridiculous Windows world where end users are supposed to know how to design and build the car to drive the car. On what planet do you goobers live? Snap out of it.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Did you say that really fast, or really quiet, you know verbal fine print... Archetypal propeller head thinking.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

One isotope says to the other, "Have you lost weight? You look positively lighter!" I'm here all week! Tip your liberal arts major!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Two of my biggest rivals negging each other out of future contention. :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

An old farmer was relaxing on his verandah one evening, watching his rooster in the yard running around chasing after the hen. They circled the yard half a dozen times, the cock in what seemed to be fierce pursuit of the hen... Suddenly, the farmer's wife threw some scraps into the yard. The hen kept right on running, but the rooster stopped for nourishment. Sadly the farmer lamented and said, "Good Lord in Heaven, I pray that I never get that hungry"!!!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and raise you a pos. Speaking of neg and pos, a neutron walks into a bar and asks, "How much for beer?" The bartender says, "For you, no charge."

Slayer_
Slayer_

For using a colour to describe someone, and for the word bollocks, which is funny sounding.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Sold that facility to google for the amount of money their opinion is worth. About the same as a git I should think... Sometimes I pink them enough they actually work up the bollocks to post back, then I can slaughter them again. It's fun.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

If they can't take the time to tell me why they voted me down, I can't take the time to shive a git about their opinion.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

only rigid control of their emotions allowed them to manage several clicks to wrong vote button..... Still if you can't beat 'em join 'em.... I just reversed all your votes. Irritating isn't it? Except for my posts.. I may get really sad and create another user and do that as well. While I'm doing that. I might as well do another round of votes. Hmm that gives me an idea I wonder how many me's I could add I was thinking on a set of aliases how about Wad Sanker1 to 1000?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

gut tends to be way more reliable than someone trying to sell you something...

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

works? Really? Are you new, or have you been away a long time?

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