Questar Assessment has been in the testing and assessment business for 40 years, but we don’t like to get set in our ways when it comes to training teachers to develop assessments or educational materials. Our CEO has often said that we should think like a startup, not a decades-old company that uses outdated technologies. Chrome OS and G Suite have helped employees collaborate and share ideas to improve our business, and have helped educators learn about testing techniques without outdated, clunky technology getting in the way.

Getting going, from hours to minutes

About 45 times a year, we offer workshops that help educators learn how to develop testing materials appropriate for their subjects and student grade levels unique to their own school districts. Our IT team had to gear up for a lot of work every time we shipped 50 or more devices to and from each workshop. We had to update the operating systems, security programs, and software licenses, as well as patch software and delete desktop data from previous workshop attendees. With Chrome OS, I no longer need to patch or update software, nor do I need a process to wipe data. With the use of Chromebooks for each workshop, it takes just minutes for me to set up each device, instead of hours.

Group policies, such as custom start menu shortcuts and device hardening, used to conflict with each other, blocking access to tools that were required for each training session. I found that the Chrome Enterprise license, in particular the Chrome device management console, eliminated the complexity of deploying new devices in isolated environments. I can provision school-specific policies while devices are en route, shortening our delivery schedules. When the devices connect to the Internet, they automatically communicate with Google and apply the new policies.

Streamlined processes and cost savings

Chrome and G Suite have helped eliminate many additional costs associated with maintaining PC laptops and other devices. For example, we no longer pay for the operating systems, business software, and security program licenses for each device. We use Chrome’s management console for website whitelisting and blacklisting, eliminating the need for proxy servers to control online access. Chromebooks also significantly cut costs, since they’re about 75 percent less expensive than the laptops we were previously providing to our clients.

This spring I deployed an additional 1,200 Chromebooks in our seasonal scoring center in Minnesota’s Mall of America. I soon discovered that Chromebooks cost just a fraction of traditional laptops we were previously using. We saved on labor costs associated with the setup, distribution, and training for each workshop. The changes resulted in immediate savings of over $2.1 million:

At a glance: Questar Cost Savings

Device and provisioning expenses Other brand Chromebooks and Chrome Enterprise
Laptop $1,350 $242
Antivirus software license $16 n/a
Patch management license $8 n/a
Operating system and productivity suite patch management license $41 n/a
Licensing fees $224 $50
Total cost per device $1,639 $292
x1,600 devices for Questar $2,622,064 $467,200

Total savings between brands: $2.1MM

Help employees be more productive

At the same time, our business and workforce demands are growing. We’re at about 400 people now and adding 150 people next year. Many of them travel frequently or work remotely in various locations within the United States. In the past, employees had to trade documents back and forth when they worked on projects together, adding additional training, labor and confusion to the overall process.

I wanted to create a culture that enables employees to easily connect and share information, and also improve the ability to manage workshops, especially as we grow. To shorten our laptop provisioning time and give our employees better tools for collaboration, I tested 30 Chromebooks using G Suite and immediately saw the benefits.

With Chrome Enterprise, I was able to easily customize applications available to each user at setup. Security is built in with automatic updates, so I no longer had to update and patch the devices with security and antivirus software. By using Ephemeral Sessions and Kiosk mode, there’s no need to wipe machines and delete files. My time spent provisioning each device was dramatically decreased from hours to just minutes. Employees are also inspired by what they can do with G Suite. For example, employees figured out how to link several Google Sheets and create pivot tables. They share the data with colleagues on Google Drive, where data is immediately available to the management teams. This collaboration wasn’t possible before – especially for people working remotely. Employees are excited that tools like Sites, Sheets and Drive are all in one place, making their processes easier with minimum training required.

My initial test of Chrome and G Suite was so successful that we’ve since purchased 1,200 additional Chromebooks for use by employees and workshop attendees. We have plans for adding to our inventory in future assessment seasons. With the deployment of Chrome OS and the use of Chrome management, coupled with G Suite, our processes became seamless and accelerated hardware deployment.

The reduced learning curve, combined with faster, less-expensive provisioning processes, adds up to a justifiable investment in better technology. Our “40-year-old startup” now has the tools for more streamlined IT processes and attentive service for our clients. As we add employees and grow the business, we’re ready for the future.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if employees and our clients would embrace the devices and the new OS option I gave them. However, they came back to us and said, “Chrome is a lot faster, reliable, and more predictable than what we had before.”

Nick Winnie, Infrastructure Systems Administrator, Questar

Takeaways:


  • Time savings: Time spent on provisioning devices went from hours to minutes (50-75 percent time savings).
  • Cost savings: Costs reduced by at least $1,600 per device, resulting in savings of over $2.1 million.
  • Productivity improvement: IT can now focus on the infrastructure and other projects, resulting in an increase in employee morale.
  • User experience: No more interruptions and delays due to patch management processes or applying various updates to each device. Remote and traveling employees can easily access files and share real-time data with their peers and management teams.
  • Culture change: Chrome Enterprise and Chromebooks create a culture where employees are encouraged to collaborate on projects and work as teams.
  • Inspiration and creativity: With flexible productivity tools, employees are inspired to discover new ways to present information and share the data with their colleagues.