Chromebooks are a very popular type of laptop that has exploded in popularity for businesses, schools, and even individuals. This is because they are very affordable, yet still offer the power needed to run most types of apps thanks to the usage of the very efficient Linux based Chrome OS.
Since Chromebooks use a Linux based operating system, they do not run Windows apps as easily as a normal PC. While this is not a problem for most people since they just use the Google suite of web-based applications and systems, some companies really need access to the popular Windows options.
Fortunately, there are a number of options available for running Windows apps on a Chromebook that are easy and effective.
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Using Virtual Machines
The first option is great for companies that use Citrix and/or VMware already for various apps. Since Chromebook has the ability to connect to remote virtual machines through either Citrix connections or VMware, this is a really easy option that requires very little setup or configuration by the admin team.
The important thing here is that you need to have virtual machines set up with the applications that are needed. For many larger companies, this is something that will already be in place, in which case there is nothing that needs to be done other than train the users of the Chromebook on how to make the connections.
If your organization is not already using virtual environments for Windows apps, however, this option likely isn’t going to be worth the effort. Setting up a new virtual environment can be quite costly since you will need to have the servers and other hardware in place to run either Citrix or VMware. You will also need sufficient network bandwidth to handle all the connections.
The exact cost will be determined by the type of hardware that is required for the virtual environment and the network connectivity. This is going to be set based on the number of connections you will have at any given time to these systems.
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Cloud Based Windows Apps
Another popular option is to have your Chromebooks connect to cloud infrastructure accounts in order to access the Windows apps that users need. Cloud systems such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or others provide a convenient way for users to access systems from anywhere with an internet connection.
In most cases, the expenses associated with using cloud-based windows apps (or any cloud infrastructure services) is based on your monthly usage. This makes it a very economical option, especially for companies that have 100 or fewer users who need access.
Setting up a cloud environment for these apps is also much faster and easier than using virtual environments hosted in your own data center. The major cloud service providers provide automated systems to establish virtually every type of app that you could need. Once you have your company done with the initial configuration, all of your users can gain access to the apps they need with just a few quick clicks.
If you do not already have virtual environments set up for other things within your organization, cloud computing will provide a similar solution at a fraction of the cost. Since everything will be hosted on the cloud, you also do not have to worry about maintaining hardware, software licenses, power, and other things necessary for VMs.
Avoid Modifying the OS
The options mentioned above are generally considered the best practices when you really need to run Windows apps on a Chromebook. There is another possibility, but it is almost never a good option. While the Chrome OS does not allow you to directly install Windows apps, it is possible to get around this restriction.
If you are willing to make some changes to the operating system of each Chromebook, you can easily install just about any Microsoft app that you require. If you do this, however, you will not be given any type of IT support because the changes are not approved by Google.
The hardware that powers the Chromebook is plenty powerful enough to install a modified operating system as well as a variety of different types of apps. Going this route is something that is much more common for individuals than it is for businesses who value their support warranty.
Also, using a modified operating system leaves the Chromebooks much more vulnerable to security threats and other problems. In many cases, the OS will be unable to be updated with new patches released by Google, which can cause further problems.
For these reasons, and many more, using this method is not a good idea. In some industries, using an unauthorized operating system is not even allowed due to various regulatory requirements. The added security risks make it simply impractical.
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Getting the Most from Your Chromebooks
Chromebooks continue to be one of the most popular laptop alternatives on the market today, and for good reason. These inexpensive devices provide users with just about everything they need, without any of the costly extras that are often placed on traditional laptops or tablets.
Using these methods is in line with the growing trend of moving processing power and memory intensive functions off of local devices. Given the incredible advancements in network and internet bandwidth, and the growing availability of 5G connectivity, it is possible to take advantage of powerful computers located in large data centers. These data center based servers provide far more functionality for the price than would be possible on individual devices.
While some people want to be able to install Microsoft apps such as the Microsoft Office Suite directly on the laptop, there is almost never a real need for this. Using the proven options such as virtual environments or cloud systems is a much better solution that will ensure users not only have access to the apps they need, but also that the Chromebooks will run smoothly and remain secure long into the future.
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