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Could you run your business on a £200 Chromebook?

At O2, we work with businesses of all sizes to identify and supply the products that best suit their needs. Sometimes, it isn’t about the most expensive or hi-tech – but which will be best to do the job you need it for.

Rob Stirling, Mobility Sales Specialist at O2, turned a shopping trip to Costco into a full-on technology challenge: Could he work effectively, and without compromise by switching to a Chromebook for the week?

With Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 early next year, many of the businesses I talk to have already migrated to Windows 10, with others planning to do so over the coming months. It is, after all, the default choice. But is it the only choice? That’s something I sought to answer after a chance shopping expedition to Costco last November.

As I pushed my trolley around the store I spotted a pallet piled high with Chromebooks, decent looking hybrid devices designed to blend the capabilities of a laptop with the convenience and portability of a tablet. Could I install and run all of the applications I use for work on a Chromebook, and what would the experience be like?

Within an hour I had connected it to the internet and downloaded and installed my OneDrive, Office 365, Salesforce and all the other, smaller productivity applications I wouldn’t want to be without. I’d also had my email configured and downloaded.

The name ‘Chromebook’ suggests that this is a browser-based device, entirely dependent on connectivity for any useful functionality. But this is not the case at all.

Although it uses Chrome OS, an operating system designed by Google that uses the Chrome web browser as its principal user interface, it’s perfectly capable of accessing and editing documents offline in the way that most current smartphones do. It may not sound as snappy, but if they had called it the ’Androidbook’ then you’d have a much better idea about what this device can do.

More capable than many tablets, this Chromebook runs full versions of everyday applications, including Office 365. I was able to install Outlook, and start writing and replying to emails in a matter of minutes.

What impressed me?

The first thing that impressed me was the spec. My machine came with a Full HD 14” display, 32GB of local storage and estimated battery life of 12 hours.

Second was the build quality. This was a solidly built machine, with an all-metal case and soft touch keys.

In use, I was impressed with how quickly it booted up and how easy it was to configure. It was effectively an Android device, so I could access applications from the Google Play Store. It’s also a versatile machine, with USB and HDMI ports, as well as a regular headphone socket.

What didn’t impress?

It may be capable of offline editing and document management, but this isn’t its natural territory. With just 32GB of storage, it would require a disciplined approach to accessing and editing files in the cloud wherever possible.

The Chromebook comes with a bespoke charger, but I would have preferred a USB-C charger that I could share with other devices. As someone who travels a lot, I am looking for any opportunity to cut down on cables and leads.

So who might this Chromebook suit?

If the majority of the work you do relies on the core knowledge work applications like Office 365, SAP, Salesforce or any application you access via the web, then an entry level Chromebook like this one might suit you well.

Having played with it for a while now, I reckon it would work for me and the majority of my colleagues in Telefónica. I’d have to adapt one or two working practices, like how much data I store locally, but at the price there is every incentive for me to do so. What’s more, from a corporate IT perspective, you manage ChromeOS just like Android or iOS, using a Unified Endpoint Management solution (MDM).

If I hadn’t been browsing at Costco in November then I doubt I would have considered a Chromebook as a viable business device. But given its ability to run standard business applications and its mouse and keyboard, there’s every reason for it to be on your shortlist. Especially when the end of support for Windows 7 provides an ideal opportunity to consider the alternatives.

 

Want to find out more which business devices will best suit you? Or, need help with deploying, securing and managing your business devices? Talk to us, we’re here to help. Find us on Twitter at @o2businessuk.

 



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