Nearly six out of every 10 new computers bought for use in K-12 schools in the United States in 2016 were Google Chromebooks, according to Futuresource Consulting, up a remarkable eight percentage points (58 percent to 50 percent) from 2015 alone.
The lightweight, internet-focused operating systems are increasingly becoming the devices of choice for kindergarten-through-12th grade school districts because they are inexpensive, have superior virus protection systems, are easily managed and updates take less than 10 seconds.
Those advantages may begin making it the choice in the cost-conscious business world as well.
Louisville, Ky.-based BF Companies has 269 restaurants spread out among eight different franchises in 18 states. Several years ago, the franchiser Wendy’s International launched an online training platform. Wendy’s International gave BF Companies the specifications and tasked them with making sure its employees had access to the program.
“We used a stripped-down version of windows, put a kiosk mode on it and programmed it exactly for what Wendy’s International’s training system did and pushed a bunch of computers out to the stores,” said Dan Henderson, who was tasked with designing the solutions for BF Companies’ IT department. “It worked really well for a while, but when Wendy’s changed its platform, the functionality with the laptops we had in place was broken.”
Henderson said that caused the company to look for a different solution. BF Companies’ IT department is a small team of 17 people supporting more than 25,000 employees.
The solution they came up was to use Google Chromebooks at each of its locations for on-site training and for guiding new employees through the human resources onboarding process. The Chromebooks are set up to only visit the sites allowed by BF Companies and Henderson’s group can disable them remotely if any are lost or stolen.
Henderson ticked off several other advantages to using the Chromebooks:
- Greatly decreased hours for IT to keep the laptops in running order.
- The Chromebooks are set to access training materials only, keeping the focus on work and not Facebook.
- IT can update programs in Louisville and the changes propagate to all Chromebooks without needed help from an administrator on site.
“If you need a kiosk-type platform that you need to be able to replicate and distribute and be able to make changes in short periods of time, I really don’t know of anything else in the industry that would fit the bill,” Henderson said. He said BF Companies studied several programs and platforms on consumer grade computers that would have somewhat the same capabilities, but the cost factor of programming the units was much higher. “One of the reasons I chose the Chromebook platform was because the entire setup of each individual machine is basically unboxing, reporting the serial numbers, matching that to a location, joining the device to our Google accounts, then rebox it and ship it.”
Originally, BF Companies tried the system in 100 locations. It has since expanded the program to have Chromebooks in all of its locations. Thinker Ventures is one of the largest sellers of Google Chrome business licenses in the United States and has worked with BF Companies as it expanded its program. Henderson said that although BF Companies may be ahead of the curve in utilizing the Chromebook platform in the business community, he believes others will follow.
“We’ve had a couple of companies ask us what we are doing for our training platform. I do know this, any time a company can see an easy way to remotely manage devices it is a definite plus,” Henderson said. “When you factor in development hours and everything, if I had to make an estimate as to the percentage of cost we have in our solution as opposed to a more complex solution using commodity grade laptops, I’d say we’ve probably realized a 40-percent savings. That’s a chunk in any industry.”