When your workforce is struggling with older computers, you have two options: replace the hardware with newer machines or turn them into fixer-uppers, maximizing whatever's left in your older hardware. Should you choose the latter course, consider Neverware's CloudReady operating system.
Based on Chrome OS' source code, CloudReady "promises to turn old PC hardware into nearly fully functional Chromebooks, complete with the features of Chrome OS' management console," Ars Technica writes in a review that compares CloudReady to Chrome OS.
A quick glance at Neverware's website explains the software's appeal: Combining one part Linux and one part Chrome OS, CloudReady gives you "broad driver support and compatibility fixes" that let it run on just about any machine you have sitting in your storage closet. Since CloudReady is a lightweight OS, Neverware claims it can "keep machines up to eight years old fast and responsive." Like Chrome OS, it requires an Internet connection and a web browser to work.
"Using the operating system isn’t very exciting, which for IT shops and individuals is a great thing," Ars Technica writes, highlighting CloudReady's utility in educational environments. There are few drawbacks, though. Media playback, for one: CloudReady doesn't support H.264 and MP4 video, MP3 audio, or Netflix. Despite this, CloudReady brings all the benefits the Chrome OS ecosystem, which includes Google's productivity suite, app stores, and the Apps for Education suite, without the need to buy new hardware.
CloudReady is free, and support starts at $25 per year. If you decide to use Google's management console, you'll pay $30 per device. But, as Ars Technica points out, that's still considerably less than the cost of a Chromebook plus the management console.