Managing a fleet of ChromeOS devices, regardless of the amount, can be a daunting task. Losing a device is common for many schools that use and oversee thousands of Chromebooks every year. Tracking devices like Chromebooks pose difficulties, so what actions should you take if they become lost, stolen, or misplaced? Equally, if not more important, how do you prevent this from happening in the first place?
With more than 50 million Chromebooks deployed in schools nationwide, the need for efficient and effective device management should be top of mind for IT departments and administrators. Maintaining and tracking ChromeOS devices requires specialized software and dedicated staff with a proactive approach to loss prevention.
Breakdowns in the tracking and managing devices can and has led to many school districts spending thousands on replacement hardware. This can be the result of ineffective device management software. However, the culprit is often a lack of effort or available staff resources to hunt down missing devices. According to a report from the Chicago Public Schools Inspector General, the issue is often that there is little effort placed on finding the devices.
“When we followed up with the schools, we would talk to people who had an asset or a laptop or a Chromebook that was issued to them that was marked as lost or stolen — that in fact wasn’t,” Fletcher said. “There were a few interviews with people who reached into their desk and said, ‘Hey, I got this laptop, no one ever asked me for it.’”
Regardless of the size of your school district, the loss of even one percent of devices over a school year could equate to tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Proper device management is crucial not only to control costs but is also key to ensuring that each and every student has access to reliable Chromebooks throughout the school year.
So, how can you ensure that your IT department, district or even individual school is doing everything it can to keep track of your classroom-critical Chromebook fleet? We've compiled five key steps you should be taking to ensure the safety and security of your school's ChromeOS devices and minimize lost Chromebooks.1. Google Admin Console for tracking lost Chromebooks
If you have managed devices in your district then you most certainly utilize Google's Admin Console. This is the first line of defense in your mission of Chromebook management. If your Chromebooks are managed and enrolled in your organizational unit, you can easily see who the most recent users were by heading to Devices>Chrome>Devices and looking at the "system activity" section. If a device is simply misplaced, starting with the last known user is an easy first step in locating the lost device.
A relatively recent addition to the Admin Console adds a built-in tool that can further assist schools in recovering lost or stolen Chromebooks. Admins have the ability to add a custom message to an enrolled device that will display when the Chromebook has been disabled in the Admin Console. Learn more about his helpful feature here.
** Tip! Ensure your Chromebook provider offers Google’s Zero Touch Enrollment upgrade licenses, which are free from CTL on qualified purchases. With zero-touch enrollment, CTL is able to drop ship a fleet of Chrome devices which will automatically enroll the end user and register the device without the need for manual preparation. All the end user needs to do is turn the device on and connect to the internet.
2. Management software options to find lost Chromebooks
Google’s Admin Console is the starting point for most schools deploying and managing fleets of devices but its capabilities are limited when it comes to tracking and locating lost or stolen devices. Google does offer a disabling feature in Google Workspace for Education. This has led to the rise of numerous third-party platforms and applications designed to take device monitoring and management to a new level. Many of these solutions integrate directly into the Google Admin Console.
Platforms such as HiddenApp give IT admins the ability to track devices in real-time using location data from recently connected networks. This allows for powerful features such as Geofencing for managed devices that will alert admins when a device leaves or returns to a predetermined area. Additional tools include network restriction, cross-platform support and the ability to push customized messages and alerts to students and teachers.
3. Deployment strategy for avoiding lost Chromebooks
Is your district 1:1? Do you issue each of your students a device for the year that they can take with them and use at home? How many backup devices do you need to keep on hand?
Deciding your deployment strategy is key in how you will manage your Chromebooks. If you don’t send devices home, you can opt to use Chromebook carts for your classrooms. Combine the charging carts with a solid tracking platform and barcode labels and you very well could reach the end of the school year with all your Chromebooks right where they started.
For those schools that send devices home, ensuring that all of your Chromebooks are properly registered and all of the loaner information is up to date is crucial for keeping track of your hardware. Additionally, you should always have a concise, clear-cut rental or loaner agreement read and signed but your student’s parents. More on that in a bit.
4. Device insurance for lost Chromebooks
Like practically any other type of insurance, Chromebook insurance is one of those things you hope you never need but you will be extremely grateful if you do. Companies like Worth Ave. Group offers $0 deductible and will replace devices in the event of loss or theft. For repairs, it is always best to contact your reseller. CTL offers a full year of fast, 2-way RMA service for Chromebook repairs. Learn more about all of our warranty services.
Insurance, however, is another added cost that many school districts can’t squeeze into the budget. Some school districts will pass this cost on to parents as an optional or required fee for devices that are taken home. At a fraction of the cost of buying a new device, many parents will gladly insure their student’s Chromebook for the peace of mind that it brings.
5. Best practices for preventing lost Chromebooks
While there are a variety of ChromeOS management platforms on the market, finding the perfect solution is up to you, depending on your use case. Additionally, the human-factor will be the deciding difference in how effectively you manage and track your fleet of devices. Once you find the platform that is the best fit for your fleet, the following actions are critical to Chromebook tracking and recovery.
- Proactive admins - More often than you’d like to believe, lost Chromebooks aren’t actually lost. The devices simply weren’t tracked properly. Meaning the IT department or staff in charge of such tasks didn’t take the time to research the device's last location or to whom it was assigned. When a Chromebook comes up missing, the sooner the hunt begins, the better. Just a few minutes invested could save thousands over time.
- Concise guidelines for users and those handing out devices - Some schools or IT departments may feel that the Admin Console and a barcode-based inventory system is enough to prevent excessive loss of devices. For some, that may be true, but not having a clear, concise loaner agreement for students and parents is a sure-fire way to find yourself replacing missing and damaged devices at the end of the year.
Chromebooks, or any technology device that is used for the enrichment of a child’s should be treated with respect and cared for in a manner that reflects the value of the education it is being used to bolster. Your policies for lending out devices will need to be structured to your specific institution and your students, parents and educators should read, sign, and fully understand the agreement for loaning out the school’s property and any financial consequences that may result from the mishandling of the hardware.
- Frequent, real-time inventory status - Keeping a close eye on your school or district's inventory is another crucial key to ensuring your devices are where they should be at all times. Each school year should start with a detailed and accurate inventory of where each device is, which classroom it will be going to, and, if possible, to which student or educator the device will be assigned.
Throughout the year, scheduled audits can help lighten the load of tracking down missing devices and ensure that you end the year with your inventory still intact. If your IT department is small or you are short-staffed, it may be time to get creative on how you handle loss prevention.
For example, a teacher could task a student or two each semester with the job of performing a regular inventory of the devices for that classroom at the end of each week. Younger students may welcome being assigned a classroom responsibility and being charged with a task that can give them a sense of purpose. You could even give them a snazzy title, like “administrative assistant to the IT department,” or even what one teacher did to boost student esteem: give each IT assistant a badge labeled “tech master.”
Deploying, managing, and tracking a fleet of ChromeOS devices or IT hardware generally is no easy task. But the right tools and a team of dedicated staff can make all the difference in the world in saving your school from lost Chromebooks and needlessly replacing hardware at the end of the year.
Whether you're just getting started with deploying new devices or looking to scale the management of your growing fleet, CTL is here to help you along your journey. We'd love to speak with you and offer you a custom-tailored solution that fits your needs perfectly and prepares you for the future.