Like all major international sectors, the construction industry must embrace change to survive. Engaging with new technology is essential to ensure design and construction practices are constantly operating at their peak; and yet, the industry has been slow to adapt to the wealth of technological innovations on offer.
With the digital revolution come new opportunities for the industry and individual companies to grow. The Chromebook is a lightweight laptop running a Chrome OS operating system. In particular, the Chromebook will appeal to those who spend the majority of their computing time online, because they have no internal hard drive.
This means that to save your work, you will need access to the internet or an external hard drive. Despite requiring an internet connection to complete several functions, Chromebooks are becoming an increasingly invaluable tool for businesses, particularly in the competitive construction industry. Here are just a few of the key features drawing industry professionals to the Chromebook.
1. Google Apps for Work
Google Apps for Work is fast becoming the go-to software for construction firms upgrading their outdated systems. It’s easy to see why, with the software’s key aims reflecting the current trend for remote collaboration and streamlined communication and a host of Google for Work Apps free with every Chromebook.
With Cloud storage, you can share, discuss and collaborate on documents in real time, with all changes saved automatically. Google Apps’ enables growth through real-time collaborations, but also enhances communication and provides simple but effective search capabilities for all work saved on the Cloud.
Despite claims to the contrary, if you’re still using a Microsoft system and don’t want to make the change, you can use an online version of Microsoft Office through your Chromebook. Not every feature of Office is available in the online version, but it does come complete with Word Online, Excel Online, and PowerPoint Online. Microsoft has even made these apps available in the Chrome Web Store, so those not ready to make the switch can enjoy access to both complimentary of the Chromebook.
2. Adobe Photoshop Online
One of the biggest obstacles when considering a Chromebook is the perceived lack of storage space. People bemoan that there is nowhere on the Chromebook to store their favourite applications, and in a way they’re right. This isn’t necessarily a hindrance, however. Whilst an internet connection is essential, storage space on the laptop is obsolete because all information can be stored on the Google Drive in the cloud.
Because Adobe’s servers, rather than the Chromebook, host the application, most of the processing comes through the cloud. This means not only can it operate faster than on a traditional laptop; it also won’t deplete your Chromebook battery as fast as when used on a traditional hardware.
With this app, the speed with which you create high quality original images just depends on your internet bandwidth and imagination. Because files are stored in the cloud on Google Drive, you can also access them from anywhere in the world. Sadly, for Chromebook users outside North America, they may still have some time to wait before the service becomes available
3. Value for money
One of the Chromebooks selling points when first released was the price. Whilst other laptops on the market were selling at an average of $500 or more, the Chromebook was being marketed at less than half that. If buying in bulk for an office, you can save even more.
This frees up cash to spend on extra features for the company, like increased office bandwidth and faster servers, which in turn benefit the Chromebook using employees. Even if your company decides to invest in external hard drives for each Chromebook, the savings can be significant but can also still enable the workforce to go mobile when needed.
4. Battery life
Because its applications are based almost entirely in the Cloud, the Chromebook’s servers don’t have to dedicate RAM to running multiple programs at the same time. This gives the Chromebook an impressive battery life (up to 13 hours), which comes in handy when you’re on the go and don’t have time to search out plug sockets.
For those in construction, this allows you to travel between sites without having to close down your system. It’s not all good news, however. Because the Chromebook relies on an internet connection to fulfil most of its duties, using it on-site may be difficult and could require the use of mobile data from an external source.
5. Streamlined functionality
The Chromebook boasts several advantages over OS X and Windows, but one of the most enticing has to be how much faster and smoother it runs Chrome. Because the design specifically aims to run Chrome on Linux, the Chromebook doesn’t come with the usual driver issues and software glitches.
Many designers, particularly those who spend the majority of their time working online, find the Chromebook’s simple, streamlined system perfect for their needs. In the construction industry, this can be a problem for those based at the design end of the spectrum.
Whilst rumours still swirl around a Chromebook version of Autodesk Revit, employees will have to satisfy themselves with using the Chromebook as a communication and marketing tool.
Because almost all information entered into a Chromebook is stored in the cloud, losing your Chromebook doesn’t necessarily mean compromising company information. Any file uploaded to the Google Drive can be password protected; ensuring nobody outside the company can gain access. Likewise, a company admin can disable your account if your Chromebook is lost or stolen, essentially rendering the Drive inaccessible to anyone without the relevant details.
Additionally, the Chrome OS comes with built-in virus and malware protection, ensuring your Chromebook stays protected at all times.
7. Work Offline
When the Chromebook was first introduced, it came with some substantial flaws. If you couldn’t get access to the internet, it quickly transformed from invaluable communication tool to oversized paperweight.
Thankfully, Google soon decided to start making some of the apps available offline, with some major third-party apps choosing to follow suit.
The move to enable app installation, thus making them available offline, has helped bolster sales of Chromebooks. People have come to realise that a lack of internet connection doesn’t mean a Chromebook is inoperative. For those in the construction industry, this enables a completely new level of mobility.
Because the Chromebook stores all information on the Drive, you can sync all your apps and passwords with Chrome browsers on other computers. This gives you access to all your files and data no matter where you are, and no matter what device you used previously. Even data created through a mobile device is accessible from the Chromebook, meaning you will never be without your data again.
This also means switching an entire workforce to the Chromebook is immensely simple, freeing firms up to focus on delivering world-class standards in construction.
9. Cloud Storage
When you purchase a Chromebook, you get 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years. This is a huge amount of space, easily sufficient to meet the needs of most contractors and office workers. That’s comparable to the amount you could expect from a service like Dropbox or OneDrive, with a significant saving thrown in.
The cloud is also safer and more secure than saving to an internal hard drive, which can be lost, stolen or damaged. Because all data is stored on the cloud, it’s accessible from anywhere in the world. This, in turn, eliminates the need for pesky pen drives or external hard drives.
Chromebooks update themselves regularly without all the fuss of a regular update. There’s no need to sit and wait patiently for your device to update and restart, or to worry that your malware protection may be out of date. The Chromebook updates automatically whenever necessary, and doesn’t demand your attention whenever a minor update is available.
Although the weight of a Chromebook varies from model to model, most are lightweight and can be taken almost anywhere. This feeds into the mobile properties of the system, which encourages sharing, discussing and collaborating on projects on the go. This limits the amount of downtime whilst allowing a greater scope in terms of who the client is and their geographic location.
So the Chromebook definitely comes with some downsides, particularly the lack of functionality when an internet connection is unavailable. It’s also a solid investment for firms looking to make the leap into the digital. Lightweight, secure and deliberately streamlined to provide the optimum online user experience, Chromebooks can keep an entire firm connected for less. For the construction industry, a change is coming. All you have to decide is if it’s a change you and your firm are ready to make.