|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Does a Chromebook Make Sense for Your Small Business?
A laptop that relies on cloud services can be a useful small business tool, if you understand its potential drawbacks.
As more small businesses use cloud apps in their daily operations, they're finding chromebooks offer a cost-effective alternative to full-featured notebook computers. They're not the best choice for every user, but chromebooks can be suitable for some or as a secondary computing device.
The Cloud Comes First
With a chromebook, the cloud provides the applications your machine runs, as well as the primary storage for your files.
Unlike a Windows or Mac laptop with a propriety operating system and the ability to install applications, a chromebook offers its computing power through a web browser. You access programs online, and, for the most part, store your files in the cloud.
This cloud-centric style of computing matches broader trends in the computing marketplace. More and more companies are relying on cloud-based email, productivity, CRM and financial services. Once these programs are loaded, their appearance and functionality is pretty much the same on chromebooks or full-featured laptops.
Various estimates place chromebooks' overall share of the computing marketplace at about 5 percent as of early 2015.
Chromebooks are gaining popularity among small business users for a number of reasons, starting with their affordability. Most chromebook models cost between $200-300, making them an effective choice for a company that needs to purchase or upgrade several computers at once.
In addition, because most of their computing power comes from the cloud, chromebooks have a very lean operating system that lets them boot up within seconds.
If you already use Google apps such as Gmail or Google Docs for a portion of your small business needs, logging into a chromebook will seem pretty much like a full-featured PC or Mac.
And if you use a cloud service with a companion mobile app, using a chromebook allows you to access data created on one device easily on another. This lets you switch devices and settings nearly seamlessly.
Their low cost and cloud storage makes a chromebook a good choice for business travel. If a chromebook is lost or stolen on a business trip, it will be easy to replace and, more importantly, you have a much lower risk of losing critical business data.
Chromebooks also "wall off" data in one browser window from other windows, so if you visit a website or cloud service that's infected with malware, the risk of an infection spreading throughout your machine is limited.
Despite the advantages, it's important to understand the tradeoffs as you consider a chromebook purchase. Because the device relies in cloud access, your functionality can be limited if you don't have internet access. Some apps offer online modes where you can enter or update data, but the true power of the device will only be available online.
Chromebooks also don't run the installed versions of popular productivity applications (like Microsoft Office) or media creation programs such as Photoshop. If you rely on those apps, a chromebook isn't a good choice.
But if your computing needs are more basic or primarily cloud-based, a chromebook can offer a cost-effective alternative (or complement) to a full-featured laptop.
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