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I forgot my laptop!

In my quest to go paperless, one of the side benefits (or costs) has been the addition of a number of new devices into my life. I have found that not having paper means having a device close by, at all times.

When on the go, I carry my smartphone and perhaps my tablet. When in my office, I use my laptop. When at home, I use the PC in my home office.

I keep all of my digital information synchronized or accessible across all of those devices using the cloud.

Then I forgot my laptop and it got seriously tested.

I arrived at work one fine morning to discover that I had left my laptop at home. I often shuttle the device around anticipating the need to use it on the road and, in this instance, had left it sitting at home on my kitchen countertop.

Not wanting to spend the day doing email on my phone, I started hunting around the office for some spare technology. What I found was going to put my paperless strategy to the test. I found a Samsung Chromebook that we had been testing. It was all I had, so I decided to give it a try.

Chromebook

Chromebook

Chromebooks are simply inexpensive laptop computers running the Google Chrome browser as its operating system. It is entirely browser-based computing. There is essentially no other software on the device. Everything is intended to run in the cloud.

I hooked the device to my desktop monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Within seconds I fired up the browser and was online.

Now the question was… could I be productive? Could I work exclusively in the Chrome browser?

Office 365 to the Rescue

My first task was to do my morning email. I fired up the Office 365 site, logged in, and was quickly working through the 40 emails waiting in the Inbox. The browser interface was less responsive than my desktop version of Outlook, but not enough to cut into my productivity.

I launched some attachments, read some PDF files, checked a few websites, updated my calendar, and got all of my morning house cleaning done within a few minutes.

So far so good.

Skype Fail

My second order of business was to connect to Skype for my morning call with our Toronto staff. We have been using Skype to video chat each morning. We have worked through the awkwardness of video conferencing and now enjoy the experience the most when we can video call instead of just using a phone.

I fired up Skype in the browser and discovered that Skype doesn’t have a browser-based product. They have a beta product that allows me to use the chat feature, but not an audio or video call.

So I had to resort to using Skype on my smartphone, which was usable but the image and audio quality were not the same.

Document Win

My big task of the day was to produce a proposal for a prospective client, something I do fairly regularly. Again, I fired up the Chromebook, logged into Office 365, and launched a new Word document using Word Online.

I don’t love Word Online (it has some latency and some reduced features) but it is sooooo convenient.

Everything is born and lives in the cloud. Nothing to sync. Nothing to download or upload. I simply clicked on NEW and selected WORD DOCUMENT. Done.

I worked through about ten pages of text, always comfortable that the document was instantly saved to the cloud, backed up, and available to anyone I wanted to share the document with.

I shared the proposal with two team members who then provided some edits and additional ideas.

Printing Fail

I am paperless. However, many of my clients are not paperless. They love paper. And they love getting documents nicely printed and stapled, tucked into a little folder.

I went to print my document from the cloud and discovered that it wasn’t an option for me. Cloud printing requires one of two things: 1) a printer attached to a computer configured to receive cloud print jobs, or 2) a cloud-connected printer.

We have neither of those. So job one next week is to call our printer people. We need one of those.

Instead I had to resort to using our Terminal Server. I logged onto our server from the Chromebook (excellent terminal server client software available on Chrome), opened the document using Word on the server, and then printed it on our office printer.

Working in a Browser

So after a day using the Chromebook, I summarized my experience into two categories: things I could do, and things I couldn’t do.

Being that CompuVision is essentially a business in the cloud, I could do a ton of great stuff and be really productive.

Things I Could Do in a Browser

  • Do my email
  • Create documents and spreadsheets
  • Create PowerPoint presentations
  • Update our CRM system
  • Create new events in my calendar
  • Monitor our service ticketing system
  • Chat with co-workers online
  • Surf the web
  • Watch TV using my Slingbox
  • Watch movies using Netflix
  • Listen to my music using Spotify

Things I Couldn’t Do in a Browser

  • Print, but I did find a work around
  • Skype video or audio calls

In summary, I was able to stay really productive with nothing more than a web browser on an inexpensive Chromebook.

The key was the cloud.

Without our documents, email and core software in the cloud, I would be at a loss to stay productive.

Paperless and cloud. One leads to the other.

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