There are lots of things that need to be considered when a school or other educational institution considers ‘Going Google.’ Sure, Google Apps for Education is free but anyone who has had some involvement in technology understands the concept of ‘total cost of ownership’ and that free is not really free (and, sometimes, not even cost effective!)
There is lots of information about what you need to consider when look at implementing Google Apps for Edcuation including this comprehensive guide to going Google. In terms of hardware when working with notebooks or desktops, you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest but you do need to keep your browser up-to-date (and preferably have Chrome installed).
What does that mean if you have a bunch of old computers with, for example, Windows XP installed? Now that Microsoft is no longer supporting the XP OS and Google will discontinue updating Chrome for XP at the end of 2015, do you need to give away your Google Apps dream until you can afford new hardware?
The answer is….no! If your hardware still works, and it has USB port, you can replace your old, tired Windows operating system with a shiny, new, FREE and fast Linux operating system that will work beautifully with Google Chrome and GAFE. Not only that, by increasing the useful life of your technology, you are reducing e-waste which is becoming a huge environmental problem.
As long as you have decent Internet access, doing the upgrade on a small scale is pretty straight forward. You don’t need to be too techy.
My Linux distribution of choice is Mint with the Cinnamon desktop. I need to download and install the Chrome web browser on top of that. It’s easy to set-up an admin account on the computer and a user account that does not require a password. Google Apps for Education works great on this set-up. I have installed it on notebooks and desktops of all types of brands, specs and ages. Linux Mint looks very similar to a Windows desktop. The great thing is you can create a USB boot disk and try it on a Windows computing before committing to an install.
Recommended specifications are for Linux Mint:
- 1 GHz processor
- 20 GB hard drive
- 1 GB RAM
Most computers that up to 10 years old should meet those specifications. Click here to find out more about Linux Mint and to download the OS.
If you have working computers with lower specifications, you might like to try the interesting Cr OS Linux. This is a lightweight Linux distribution that is similar to the Chrome Operating System (used on Chromebooks).
Want some more inspiration? Read about how a Spanish school ditched Microsoft for Linux operating system and ended up reducing costs and technical problems or how a teacher created a computer lab with $0 using Linux.
How green is my Google?
Combining older hardware with Google Apps for Education is a more ecologically friendly technology solution because:
- you get more from your hardware, reducing e-waste
- Google infrastructure uses 50% less energy than the average data centre, is carbon neutral, and meets certified environmental standards
Applications for Education
- Linux OS + Google Apps for Education = reduced total cost of ownership (potentially, but do your homework!)
- Easy to implement on a small scale
- Longer life for older hardware
- Can still install many Windows applications on Linux using Wine (but consider if you really need to)