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HomeCloud ComputingTo grow the Brake Masters' network, IT team chooses ChromeOS

To grow the Brake Masters’ network, IT team chooses ChromeOS

Today’s post is by Steve Waibel, Director of IT for Brake Masters, an automotive repair chain based in Tucson, Arizona. Brake Masters has 78 company-owned and managed locations as well as 22 franchise stores in the southwestern United States. The company is using ChromeOS devices to simplify management of devices used by service teams.

The faster Brake Masters can service vehicles, the happier our customers become–as well as the technicians and managers for our corporate-owned stores and franchisees. We all want repair tasks to run smoothly, with technology helping us check in customers, order parts, and create invoices, without forcing everyone to become an IT expert just to use hardware and software. ChromeOS devices and ChromeOS Flex have brought us speed and efficiency, making the Brake Masters experience smooth and trouble-free for just about everyone in the business.

Reducing the maintenance and management workload

Our goal when deciding on new technology is to make life easier for our Brake Master store teams and to simplify management. We keep the IT team small which means our time for updates and troubleshooting is limited.  We migrated from Microsoft Exchange to Gmail, and that easy transition led us to adopt Google Workspace and Google Drive. 

At the same time, we wanted to update the technology in our store locations. We bring the same tech to corporate locations, and advise franchise owners on how to adopt the same solutions. In the past, each store had three workstations, usually with Windows PCs running a third-party remote desktop solution. Whenever Windows OS updated, the remote desktop solution would crash, and the IT team would have to log in to computers for 78 locations. The problem got so frustrating that we turned off Windows updates — not a great idea given how frequently these updates address security vulnerabilities.

Our plan was to move to a cloud solution for the corporate locations. Once people saw the productivity benefits and ease of use Google Workspace tools like Gmail provided, we decided to try ChromeOS. At the corporate locations, service teams now have Chromeboxes at customer check-in desks and also in the repair bays as shared workstations. The teams also use Android tablets to keep track of service jobs. 

When we adopted ChromeOS devices, we realized that with ChromeOS Flex, we could simply convert 78 PCs to ChromeOS devices, giving the old machines as many as five years of extended life. Using ChromeOS Flex has saved us $80,000 and brought improved performance to machines we might have otherwise thrown away.

Supporting stores as growth pace accelerates

The pace of growth at Brake Masters is picking up. In the past we launched two locations a year. In 2023 we expect to have 10 new locations.To avoid delays in opening new stores the technology has to be up and running quickly and easily. 

That was not the case before ChromeOS. My IT colleagues and I would have to configure each PC and load software or clone them one at a time. If Windows updates broke the remote-desktop solution, IT would spend 2-3 hours fixing the issue.  

Today, bringing a new store online is so much easier. We just plug in the Chromeboxes, boot them up, and  they are ready. The ease of management is a huge benefit in terms of time saved. The service teams no longer have to deal with endless Windows updates and crashing software. ChromeOS updates automatically in the background. The apps that service teams need are in the cloud or on the web. It is rare that stores need IT help with Chromeboxes, but when they do, we can start a support session with Chrome Remote Desktop.

Central management takes pressure off store staff

ChromeOS and the Google Admin console give us control of all 200 Chromeboxes and 10 Chromebooks that area managers use as they travel among Brake Masters’ locations. The centralized management takes the pressure off the service teams in the corporate stores and franchise locations.

As we continue to grow our company to serve more customers, we’re confident our new ChromeOS model will help us support rapid setup, and offer fast and easy support. In this way, both our corporate-owned and franchise locations will be welcoming customers without delays.

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