Updated: Jun 18, 2019
There are many school districts like ours that have a bunch of old and clunky computers in their inventory. Basically, on their last legs. Today, school districts that can afford to refresh computer technology tend to opt for purchasing mobile devices such as Chromebooks because they are affordable and work seamlessly with Google's G Suite for education apps. What if you had an old Windows lab but you couldn't even afford to replace it with Chromebooks? Well, a company by the name of Neverware has a solution and it's called CloudReady. What CloudReady does is give you the opportunity to convert your old Windows, and even Mac computers, into Chrome devices. Yes, just like magic, you can have a new set of Chrome devices to use with G Suite in your schools.
Since I serve as the district technical coordinator for state testing, I have a good feel for the devices our schools have at their disposal for use during testing. Before the testing window opens, about 6 weeks prior, I conduct an audit of all devices that will be used for testing across the district and in my visits to schools I see what's out there and it doesn't look pretty for a couple of the schools. Just going another year or two with the current set of devices would definitely be a struggle. To top it off, in most instances these devices won't be able to run the Windows 10 operating system which will be required by January 2020 since Windows 7 will be put to pasture by that date. The old systems I run across are perfect candidates for Neverware's CloudReady solution.
I had initially heard of Neverware a about 4 years ago and looked at it briefly. At the time, the number of supported computer models was not very high but Neverware has done a wonderful job since then in certifying many more computer PC models from the major brands like Dell, HP, and now even Apple computer models. So, it was worth a second look, especially this time around with the state of our old computers. I went ahead and signed up for a trial for 30 devices. The education sales representative, Ben Aghion, was very flexible and great to work with. Once I received my login credentials for the Neveware admin portal, I went ahead and downloaded the CloudReady USB maker software and created 5 USB installers that I would use to image a lab of 30 computers.
The imaging process was straight forward. Boot the computers from the USB drive and run the installer. In this particular case, it took just 5 minutes per device on the Dell OptiPlex 380 and 390 models that I converted at Falcon Middle School. I completed the entire process in less than two hours, from imaging each device in batches of 5, to enrolling each device into our Google domain. Here's what the final product looked like:
After I completed the conversion of the lab, there was still time to test the functionality of CloudReady. With two days remaining until the end of school, we were able to have students use the these newly converted digital learning devices with Google's G Suite and the Schoology LMS without a hitch. New life was breathed into these old computers with the snappy Chrome operating system thanks to CloudReady by Neverware. Instead of purchasing a new Windows computer lab of 30 devices for about $18,000-$20,000, you can go with CloudReady for $20 per device per year. So, $600 per year and if you went using CloudReady for three years, it's just $1,800. A one time Chrome license purchase is needed so that you can manage the converted PCs with your Google for Education domain but you still save a ton of money! The plan going forward at this time is to convert at least 5 old Windows computer labs to Chrome devices with CloudReady. This is truly a circle of win for education technology at School District 49.