Every day, we need to make choices. Mini-Wheats or Cheerios? A right turn or left? Whether at the grocery store or on the road, life presents us with opportunities – both small and large – to act as a decision-maker. With so many options available on the market today, choosing a computer probably creates a little bit more pressure than say, making the right cereal choice. Because of this, really the first decision to make is the decision to educate yourself on the wide range of products that are out there. Well, in this first of a two-part blog series, I’m going to try and help out with just that for those of you considering choosing Chromebooks as your perfect companion.

There’s no doubt that Chromebooks are awesome. The evidence speaks for itself. Whether it’s by saving time, money, increasing collaboration, etc., schools and businesses can really benefit in profound ways. That being said, it is important to do the proper research and make sure Chromebooks are able to do all that you need from a computer. Not only that, but making sure to purchase the most suitable kind (since there are many models) and preparing your school or business for deployment is key. When it comes to purchasing Chromebooks, here are 5 tips to keep in mind and better equip you for a seamless experience – the overarching motto being: begin with the end in mind.

Don’t Sacrifice Service

You know those guys who always seem to say the right things to get that box in your hands and out the door? Yeah, beware! Focused more on quantity than long-term customer service, some traditional sellers adopt box-pusher mentalities to get the sale without having to provide follow-up services. If you’re looking at deploying Chromebooks into the hands of a large group of people, I would advise you to seek out resellers who have training and professional development programs in place with a staff to assist. Don’t be afraid to ask sellers for references to contact past clients and inquire about their purchasing experience and whether or not they have been assisted over the long-term. Whoever you’re looking to purchase from, make sure to ask about their support services! There is a good chance you’ll need them.

Gain Community Buy-In

You might not only need tech support for a deployment, but support from the community as well. Trying to roll-out tons of Chromebooks into the hands of students without the parents’ knowledge could cause a disaster. Instead, educate parents and the rest of the community about the expenditure in order to avoid a backlash. A large Chromebook deployment will probably make local newspaper headlines and so making sure people are in the know about what is going on with their students and businesses is important. Send out emails and newsletters. Meet with parents. Create a task force. Reach out to other schools and businesses who have gone through the process to see what worked and what didn’t work for them. Whatever you do, foster an awareness of the deployment and how the devices benefit the users in a secure and efficient way. Implementing new technology is exciting so get everyone on board!

Understand the Hardware

Keeping the “begin with the end in mind” motto, be sure to pay attention to the kind of hardware you’ll need in order to get the most use out of your Chromebooks. There is a whole Chromebook family so become an educated decision-maker.

Would an 11.6 inch display screen work best or perhaps a 14 inch?
Are you needing up to 4 hours of battery life or 7?
Do you want your Chromebook to boot up in less than 10 seconds or 7?
Touchscreen or not?

Research how the central processing unit boosts performance and how the dual-core processor keeps the device quiet and cool. Check out all of these details and think about how they will affect the workspace. For example, if you’re looking to buy for students, you will probably want to go for an option with a longer battery life so as to not overwhelm the few available outlets in the classrooms. Since Chromebooks are mostly geared toward web-based use, if you’re looking for a device to install a variety of programs onto – Adobe Photoshop? – you may want to create a hybrid environment by keeping a computer lab open such as Cherry Creek Schools did in order to accommodate the needs of certain classes. I would recommend to try and not focus on getting away with whatever is cheapest, instead focus on what will benefit your users the most over the long-term. You won’t regret it.

Leverage Potential of Chrome Web Store

Okay, this is an area where you can have some real fun. With thousands of Google Apps and Extensions to choose from, eventually you might find yourself saying, “What did I ever do without these?!”

I can’t hesitate in informing you that so many of these resources are also free. Free is good, right?

For those apps that aren’t, you can get a discount for buying in bulk. One other beautiful thing is that Google has already created app packs, which include schools specific & grade-level specific app bundles.

Basically, there is a whole bundle of potential awesomeness available in the chrome web store that is just waiting to be unleashed for the benefit of your Chromebook users. Share documents, save passwords, draw a flowchart, practice mathematics, organize notes, edit images, or take a break and play some solitaire.

Alright, alright – maybe Plants vs. Zombies is more your speed.

Either way, these apps and extensions are meant for everyone, not just students. Many offer lesson plans for the teachers, or even provide classroom management systems for teachers to connect with students and parents. Businesses are benefiting as well. For example, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce is saving a hefty amount of money with moving to Google apps. Even the U.S. Army is no stranger to Google apps! Different from apps, extensions such as AdBlock and Securly work across all websites and can even be used to alter them. The web store also offers a variety of themes to make your browser look as fun, professional, or unique as you want. So check it out. Browse the store. Create your own success story.

Prepare Wi-Fi Network

While you are able to pre-configure some things so that you’re able to work offline, Chromebooks are mostly intended to be used with an internet connection in place. Take a look at your network infrastructure and what is needed to efficiently operate 50, 300, or 1,000 new Chromebooks. Figure out how many access points points are needed as well as the amount of bandwidth that will be sufficient to handle all the devices. The last thing you’ll want for your students or business is an overloaded network.

Instead, be sure to configure for density by avoiding overlapping Wi-Fi channels within small spaces. You might even need to change your internet provider. This is another area in which it would be beneficial to maintain a long-term partnership with a Chromebook reseller because they would be able to assist with all sorts of network and deployment issues. Again, reaching out to other places who have gone through this process could be of great value. Also, before ordering a whole slew of chromebooks right away, maybe just test a couple out to make sure they are compatible with the network set-up you have in place.

And That’s a Wrap!

So there you have it. Five things to know before purchasing Chromebooks: don’t sacrifice service; gain community buy-in; understand the hardware; leverage the potential of the chrome web store; and prepare your Wi-Fi network.

To read in further detail about Chromebook devices, here are a guides created for both businesses and educational institutions.

Also, make sure to stay tuned for the second part of this blog series where we’ll give tips around the deployment of Chromebook devices.

And please, whatever you do, remember to begin with the end in mind.

We would love to hear from our readers! Have you rolled out Chromebooks? If so, what tips can you share? You can leave a reply below.

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