Chromebook – A Laptop With Its Head In The Cloud

Many moons ago, there was chatter and speculation about “The Cloud”. It seemed there was no getting away from all the countless discussions regarding Cloud Computing’s pros and cons. In all honesty, during that time, I was highly skeptical. In fact, I have to admit, at one point I called the whole idea stupid, and a foolish security risk – especially to enterprise systems.

Fortunately the world doesn’t revolve around me, so “The Cloud” continued to grow and grow until it reached the point of normalcy that it is today. Along the way, bit by bit, I found myself embracing more and more of this “stupid idea”. For me, it all started with Drop Box. I’m not sure why – maybe I was finally seeing a practical, day-by-day end user use for “The Cloud”.  Drop Box seemed to be the trigger for me.

I had already been wrapped up in GMail, and unable to survive without Google Calendar. But then Google dropped a huge bomb… Google Drive. This was huge for me because finally all of my Cloud solutions were going to be in one place. In the interest of time, and to try to bring the focus back to the true topic, I eventually got an Android phone and tablet – the rest is, as they say, history…

You’re probably wondering, “Brother, what does all of this have to do with the Chromebook?”. The simple answer is – everything. I mention all of this to preface what I believe is absolutely essential when considering purchasing a Chromebook. Quite simply, you have to have at least a basic understanding of Cloud Computing in order to understand and use a Chromebook. I also wanted to point out my current state in The Cloud before reviewing this device so that you understand that I’m not speaking purely from a “Google Fanboy” perspective – I do most all things cloud-based. In fact, aside from  recent installations to achieve Cord Cutting, and a piece of music production software, it has been a few years since I’ve actually installed a physical PC application for day to day use.

The Chromebook I am using is the Acer C710. Unlike most blog posts of this type, I’m not going to list all the specs here – you can simply click on the hyperlink to view them. In fact, this blog post really isn’t about the model I’m using. It started off that way, but after speaking with some upset clients, reading negative reviews and comments online, I began to feel it that it was more important to clarify what a Chromebook is and isn’t. One quick blurb about this Acer model – it’s smooth, speedy, and has a beautiful display. I may do a full product review of it at a later date.

First, what Chromebook isn’t – Chromebook is not a Windows laptop. Chromebook is not a Mac Book. If your day-to-day depends on downloaded or disc installed applications, Chromebook will not run those applications. In fact, you cannot install Windows (.exe) applications on it. You won’t be able to download Microsoft Office (though Google Drive offers a similar productivity suite). Chromebook is not Windows. Chromebook is not Mac OS. Chromebook is Chrome OS. You can download pictures, videos, documents and the like. You simply cannot download and install applications like you are accustomed to on PCs and Macs.

What Chromebook is – as the title says, Chromebook is a purely cloud-based laptop. From office productivity (via Google Drive), to entertainment (Play Music, YouTube) and social networking (Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter) – everything is done online via cloud computing. I personally see this as advantageous. Remember the days of working hard on a presentation, spreadsheet or document, only to have your PC crash for whatever reason and you lost it all? Not with Chromebook. All of your pictures and music? All safe in the cloud. Even if, for some reason, your Chromebook died all of your work is stored safely in the cloud and is accessible via any PC with an Internet connection – simply log into your GMail account. No more computer running slow as it waits to load an installed application – all apps and extensions are run through Chrome itself.

If you already are used to extensively using Google’s cloud based services, either via a PC or Android smart phone or tablet, you are pretty much experiencing what a Chromebook experience is like minus a physical keyboard and larger screen. From a personal perspective, I have yet to come across anything that I do during my normal day-to-day on a PC that I can’t do on my Chromebook. But again – I have not relied on installed PC applications for some time now.

From a larger scope perspective, I have seen reports of school districts around the world adopting Chromebooks in the classroom. I think this is an excellent idea. Seeing as everything is web-based, a school with a well secured network and knowledgeable admin will have a better, more hassle free experience than a PC or Mac based environment in my opinion. From a security perspective alone, removing the ability to download potentially harmful pieces of software is well worth the switch to Chromebooks. Having all the apps the schools would use based in the cloud also eases the hassle of having them locally installed or based on an in-house server. I could go and on promoting cloud computing for schools, but perhaps I’ll save that for another entry for another day as well!

All said and done, would I recommend a Chromebook for someone looking to buy a new laptop? Most certainly! In fact I would encourage anyone to become more familiar with cloud computing, learn how to use cloud based productivity tools, familiarize themselves with uploading their music and picture libraries, and enjoy the many games and videos available. With this blog entry I hope to offer at least a bit more understanding as to what to expect when taking a Chromebook into consideration. Sadly, I’ve had clients tell me, “but, the sales person at ____ told me it’s just like laptop x, but I can’t get it to do….” It’s this lack of understanding that I hope I’ve at least shed a bit of light on. Bottom line is, I love the Chromebook and I think others will too provided that they fully understand what it is.

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