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One user's path to a Chromebook enterprise

Patrick Thibodeau | April 10, 2014
Auberge Resorts exec explains the logic, tools and issues involved in shift to Chrome OS and Google Apps for Business

Microsoft's dominance in business may be mammoth but it isn't absolute, as Tim Dickson, the director of technology at Auberge Resorts, has found.

Dickson is leading a multi-year migration to Chromebooks and Google Apps for Business for the 800 internal users at the resort and hotel provider.

There are two standout elements to this migration.

First, it wasn't a big bang effort. It began gradually in 2010 and has evolved with user acceptance. The effort will continue along for some time.

Also, it has now become a top to bottom migration, a decision made only in the last six months, which includes replacing Windows machines with Chromebooks.

Some business users are switching over to Google Apps, while fewer have so far started on a migration to Chromebooks, which accounted for 1% of the total worldwide PC market in 2013. Many of the larger deployments of Chromebooks to date have been at schools, where the devices are seen as a better option for students than tablets.

Auberge's migration isn't simple.

The mid-sized business has run a Windows environment with industry-specific legacy applications from vendors who weren't ready for a migration to the latest Windows operating systems, let alone a cloud-based environment.

In 2010, about the same time Google released its first Chromebook computers, Dickson said the firm was rethinking its technology direction. At the time, It was running XP and needed to get off that platform before Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014. The effort to move on from XP was complicated because critical legacy app vendors at that point didn't have a path to Windows 7.

Dickson was interested in Google Apps, and had an earlier version of Chromebooks, the CR-48, but his initial focus was on Google's Gmail. The business needed to unify its communications systems, then fragmented by its various properties, and Gmail became the way to do it.

"That was a great first step, but over time we starting utilizing other Google services, Docs and hangouts," said Dickson. For most required tasks, Google's hosyted word processing and spreadsheet apps worked well, as users discovered. Auberge began building templates for the Apps environment, and ultimately migrated its documents to Google Drive.

The business backed the move because of the pricing, which was substantially lower than what they were paying for the Windows-based operation, said Dickson.

The hard part of the migration involved the legacy apps. In the Chrome OS world, HTML5 is a requirement for all applications and "in the hospitality world, this is almost a non-existent solution," said Dickson.

To get around that problem, Auberge used terminal services and an ThinRDP HTML5 wrapper. Users connect to the legacy apps via their Chromebook browser.


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