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Chrome Enterprise: Easing Google Chromebook Management for Business?

Thin clients are frequently difficult for MSPs to manage. A thin client is a small device that usually can access only access the Internet, or a remote desktop, or another lightweight application. They are a great way for companies to save money and manage devices for employees or guests who don’t need a lot of power. The challenge: Management software often can’t be placed on the device, which means they often lack remote management tools. The upside is that they very rarely have problems since there is not a lot that can go wrong on a thin client.

Thin clients are especially great at schools, to help keep kids safe and on task since it locks down the settings and applications. Chromebooks have been filling the thin client need at many public schools for a while, and now Google is trying to do the same with corporate thin clients by introducing Chrome Enterprise. Google claims that Chrome Enterprise offers a host of features, including access to enterprise app storefronts,  deep security controls, 24/7 support, as well as integration with cloud and on-premise management tools, VMware Workspace ONE and Microsoft Active Directory.

Key features in Chrome Enterprise that are not in Chrome OS:

  • Managed Chrome Extensions & Browser Management
  • Microsoft Active Directory Integration
  • Printer Management
  • Single Sign-on Support
  • Public and Ephemeral Sessions & Kiosk Modes
  • Theft prevention
  • 24/7 Enteprise Support

Early Google Cloud Platform Partner Reaction

Key Google Cloud Platform partners are closely studying Chrome Enterprise.

Jonathan Lieberman

“It’s early (the product is in beta) and there’s a lot to be learned over the next few weeks and months,” notes Jonathan Lieberman, CEO at itopia — which offers desktop as a service with Google. “This is a very positive and potentially breakthrough development for MSPs and itopia. Basically, Google has created an offering that (1) makes it much easier for IT professionals to manage Chromebook endpoints and (2) for their clients to use Chromebooks to securely access everything including Windows workspaces and applications.

According to Lieberman, Chrome Enterprise simplifies Google’s end-device solutions resulting in less support overhead and big savings. Google Chromebooks are fairly inexpensive, easy to deploy and now will be much easier to manage at scale. Coupled with the fact that users will now have access to over 2 million apps from the Android platform, Chrome Enterprise makes for a very compelling solution for businesses of any size, he asserts. Among other features, Google Chromebooks have built-in security eliminating the need for AV; automatic updates eliminating the need for RMM; remote support screen share built-in and now, integration with AD for Single Sign-on and GPO management capabilities, Lieberman adds.

“This is all good news for MSPs and itopia since we make it easier for MSPs provision and manage Windows workspaces in GCP and now Chromebooks are fully supported,” Lieberman concludes.

Unified Endpoint Management

As mentioned above, managing thin clients can be a difficult task, especially when there are multiple types of devices in play. It is important to be able to manage all devices using a single unified endpoint management solution. Chrome Enterprise is answering this problem with the ability to manage all Chrome devices from a single management solution.

VMware Workspace ONE powered by VMware AirWatch will be the first third party solution provider to manage Chrome devices. Workspace ONE will provide a centralized approach to managing corporate-owned or bring-your-own device.

The compatibility of Chrome Enterprise with VMware Workspace ONE will enable organizations to deliver device policies using customizable assignment of groups based on geography, device platform, department, role, and more – simplifying policy enforcement across the company. Building on previously released integrations of Workspace ONE with Chrome OS, IT admins can also provide employees with access to all enterprise applications – cloud, web, native Android, virtual Windows – from a single app catalog to deliver a consistent experience to employees anywhere, anytime, on any device. Chrome device users can even access full Windows desktops and applications, helping to accelerate the adoption of Chrome devices in the enterprise, the company claims.

With the proliferation of cloud apps for business, cloud file storage like Google Drive and Google Docs, thin clients that do little more than provide access to these programs will become standard issue for many businesses. This will make the job of managing these endpoints easier for MSPs, and definitely easier than previous thin client systems.

Additional insights and reporting from Joe Panettieri.

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