They're slim, they're lightweight, and more and more businesses are using them. Chromebook, Google's bare-bones, browser-based laptop, is often overlooked for its limited, web-only capabilities and lackluster design. No, users can't install Windows applications. No, they can't save Google Drive files offline. And sorry, Java and Silverlight are not supported. Nonetheless, Chromebooks have found a niche in business users who only need to perform basic tasks on an ultraportable, cloud-based device. While Chromebooks won't be replacing full-featured laptops and tablets anytime soon, for some businesses, the Chromebook is the right tool for the right job. Here are five reasons why.
1. Super affordable
At first glance, the most enticing thing about Chromebooks is that they are cheap. Chromebooks start at less than $200, like the 11.6-inch Acer C720. More advanced Chromebooks are also a steal, like the touchscreen Acer C720P or the larger 14-inch HP Chromebook, both priced at $299. Chromebooks also come with several freebies, such as 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years for all new Chromebook purchases. Other perks include free Gogo Inflight passes, free cloud storage and free tech support, depending on the device. [Read related article: Top Online Tech Support Services]
Chromebooks are not only cheap at the point of sale, they are also cheap to maintain. Their simplicity lends to reduced deployment, security and management costs, allowing businesses to save money in the long run. According to Google, in comparison to traditional PCs, Chromebooks can save businesses an average $5,000 per Chromebook over three years.
2. Built-in apps
Chromebooks are equipped with built-in apps that business users use the most — especially those who rely on Google Apps and other Google-powered services. Users can work on any of Google Drive's suite of Web-based office apps — Docs for word processing, Sheets for creating and editing spreadsheets, and Slides for online presentations — or open, edit and share Office files with the free, ready-to-use editor. Users can also collaborate, chat and hold video conferences with colleagues and clients via the built-in Google Hangouts.
For additional functionality, more business apps and browser extensions are available at the Chrome Web Store. Downloadable apps include email marketing solution MailChimp, social media management tool HootSuite, productivity app Evernote, cloud-based accounting app Wave Accounting, time tracking and invoicing app Harvest, and customer relationship management (CRM) software Insightly.
3. Anytime, anywhere access
Chromebook data is accessible on smartphones, laptops, desktop computers and other devices. Because Chromebook relies on web-based apps, work can be accessed via any web-enabled device with access to those apps. For instance, users working on Google Docs on a Chromebook can also access the document on their phones, tablets and other Google Docs-compatible devices.
Need to access Chromebook data, but the device is nowhere nearby? Chromebooks also support remote desktop access. With the Chrome Remote Desktop app, users can set up their Chromebooks for secure remote access from another machine, such as Windows computers.
Google+ users can also enjoy data-syncing capabilities across devices. For instance, using Google+ Photos, snapshots taken using a mobile device are automatically synced, enabling users to instantly edit the photo on their Chromebooks.
4. Multilayer security
Chromebooks use the Chrome operating system (OS), which is designed with a multilayer approach to security.
For starters, as a device limited to web-based activities and Google-based apps, Chromebooks are secure by default — the OS natively knows what software and apps the device can run, giving it the advantage of knowing how to protect them.
In addition, the Chrome OS keeps viruses and malware out by using "stumbling blocks" that make it difficult for attackers to access and exploit systems. User privacy is also protected via account management systems and by making sure data is unreadable unless the device owner or account holder is logged in. Other security features include data encryption, verified boot that detects changes at launch and provides secure recovery, and updates that can return compromised devices back to safety.
5. IT management
Like full-featured laptops, Chromebooks are IT-friendly, meaning they integrate smoothly with most IT environments and can be easily managed by small business IT administrators. Using a centralized web-based console, Chrome's device management system enables IT to set up everything from virtual private network (VPN) access to Wi-Fi networks, apps, browser extensions and more. In addition to device settings, administrators can also manage user settings and public session settings for device sharing. Installations and configurations can be made on individual devices or on all the Chromebooks used in the organization.