Chromebooks have gotten a lot of buzz these past couple years. When I was a Google Specialist just 2 years ago, there were 4 Chromebooks in existance: the CR-48, Samsung 550, Samsung Chromebook and the Acer C7.
Today there are dozens of models, from a wide range of manufacturers, including but not limited to, HP, Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Toshiba, Google, Hisense, and Haier.
Why are Chromebooks selling so well? Why do those who use them love them so much? There are many reasons, but I’m fairly confident I know the big ones.
In the beginning Chromebooks sold well primarily because of their price. I believe this is still mostly true today, however more and more people are hearing about the benefits of Chromebooks and are starting to purchase them based on more than the price tag.
And why do those who have them love them so much? As a Chromebook fanboi I could list many reasons, but I would argue that security is definitely one of the big ones. Even if a user isn’t thinking directly about security, or particularly security-minded, it’s a huge factor whether they realize it or not. Think about it, Chromebook users don’t have to deal with anti-virus software. They don’t need to worry about paying for it, keeping the version up to date, or watching as Norton or MacAfee sucks up every last bit of computing resources they had leaving the rest of the computer almost nothing to work with. They also don’t have to put up with random time consuming and intrusive Windows security updates.
On a Chromebook, the OS gets out of your way and lets you get work done.
But why don’t Chromebook users need anti-virus software? Are they really as secure as Google and Google Fanbois would have you think? Or are Chromebook users just as naive and gullible as the Mac users who would have you believe their beloved devices are impervious to virus’?
Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no software engineer, so I’m not going to get into real geeky specifics about Chrome OS security, but there are a few important points I’d like to hit on:
Chromebooks are updated every 6 weeks. I know what you’re thinking. That’s got to be incredibly annoying and expensive. Windows traditionally costs an arm and a leg, Mac OS updates aren’t cheap, and both are intrusive and very disruptive.
Not so with Chromebooks. First, you never have to pay for Chrome OS software. It’s always free. Secondly, updating a Chromebook on average takes about 10 seconds. Sometimes when there’s a large update, it takes like 20 seconds.
Those aren’t typos, and I’m not joking. 10-20 seconds to update. Sure beats several hours right?
What does this mean for security? It means that you always have the most up to date, secure version of Chrome OS on your device, getting a fresh update every six weeks, sometimes even more often if there’s something they really want to push out and they don’t want to wait until the next scheduled release.
The Operating System
One of the things that makes Chromebooks so unique is the fact that you can’t install programs/drivers. I know that sounds rather limiting, and depending on your workflow it very well may be, but make sure to check out the Chrome apps available before making that judgement.
So why no software or drivers? Couple reasons: performance, and security.
The reason Windows and Mac machines slow down over time is all the software and drivers that you start installing the second you open the box. You don’t have this issue with Chromebooks. Bugs usually come from 3rd party software as well.
Third party applications are also security risks. Especially anything written in Java. It’s also really hard for a virus to install itself when your OS doesn’t allow you to install anything.
Chrome OS is Google’s polished version of an open source project called Chromium OS. Open source projects are arguably more secure than their closed-source counterparts. This is due in large part to the number of people devoting time to scouring the code and finding security holes. Apple has dozens of engineers at their disposal. An open source project has really an infinite number of engineers at their disposal, since anybody can look at the code, and offer up suggestions and improvements.
So, are Chromebooks immune to virus’? Probably not. I mean nothing is really immune to virus’. But I would say that Chrome OS comes closer than anything else to being a virus-free platform. So far there haven’t been any documented cases of a Chromebook getting a virus. There are however, people every day who think their Chromebook has received a virus, when in fact it’s just some malware or a bad Chrome extension. Luckily, these are easily taken care of. (read more about that here)
Bottom line, while a Chromebook may not completely replace your main Windows/Mac/Linux box, it certainly makes a wonderful addition to anybody’s tech-arsenal. They’re fast, secure, and an absolute joy to use.