Located in the heart of the rapidly growing technology hub known as "Treasure Valley,” Boise State University educates nearly 20,000 students each year. With each incoming class, a new series of technology challenges arises for the IT staff – everything from training and support issues to ongoing security threats and network risk mitigation. Peter Jurhs, Boise State’s Technical Manager, wanted a smarter way to roll out updates and manage modern browser usage for faculty and students, but didn’t want to get caught up in the headaches that legacy technologies present.

Evaluating and deploying Chrome

Prior to evaluating its browser needs, Boise State first made the campus-wide switch to G Suite in 2007. The cost savings from switching to G Suite then permitted the University to channel scarce resources and staff from email maintenance to innovative technology initiatives. According to Brian Bolt, Lead Systems Engineer at Boise State University, “The savings... allowed us to redeploy one and a half full-time employees to important technology projects that are core to our university.”

One important technology project that Boise State later undertook in 2010 was an evaluation of its officially supported browsers on campus. “The browser is such a fundamentally important – and often overlooked – technology. It underpins every online action a student or faculty member takes,” said Jurhs.

Before 2010, Boise State officially supported students and faculty on both Firefox and Internet Explorer. “Many students were comfortable on Firefox, and most of the faculty were just used to thinking of IE as the Internet itself,” observed Jurhs. Over time, he noticed, the two browsers became increasingly similar across two key characteristics: frequent updating, and overall sluggishness. “By mid-2010, there didn’t appear to be much of a difference between Firefox and IE. Both required frequent – and annoying – updates which required user action to complete.”

The performance issues with legacy browsers grew tiresome for Boise State’s IT staff. In addition to a desire to simplify updating and boost speed, two other important considerations were security and support for both Macs and PCs. Jurhs commented, “Our student population is oriented toward Mac usage, and we offer Macs in several of our campus computing centers. Any officially supported browser would need to work on both platforms.” Having met all of the University’s requirements, Google Chrome was introduced in late 2010 first on a trial basis with several hundred students and faculty, and later in broad deployment throughout campus.

“We still officially support IE and Firefox, but we strongly encourage the Boise State community to take advantage of Chrome,” Jurhs concluded.

Chrome at Boise State today: better browsing, less support

Chrome is now in widespread use across Boise State. “Every day, we see more and more students and faculty on Chrome – and fewer and fewer support issues as a result,” said Jurhs.

To manage distribution and updating, Jurhs indicated that he includes Chrome as a core component of every PC image when installing new machines. Jurhs has leveraged the Chrome MSI to begin providing a more tightly integrated G Suite experience for faculty and staff by installing Gmail and Google Docs icons on the desktop automatically.

The University also leverages auto-updates to handle new features and security enhancements on an ongoing basis. “With Chrome, I don’t have to worry about individual users clicking a prompt and agreeing to an update that might pose a security threat if not implemented correctly. Google Chrome for Work updates take care of everything on their own,” stated Jurhs.

According to Jurhs, one of the best characteristics of Chrome is that it makes G Suite works better. He commented, “We started by recommending Chrome for all Google Apps-related tasks so students could take advantage of features like drag-and-drop editing and desktop alerts. Because it’s fast, stable, and secure, we now recommend Chrome for Work for every online activity – it’s one less piece of software that we have to worry about.”