HBase isn't suitable for every problem.
First, make sure you have enough data. If you have hundreds of millions or billions of rows, then HBase is a good candidate. If you only have a few thousand/million rows, then using a traditional RDBMS might be a better choice due to the fact that all of your data might wind up on a single node (or two) and the rest of the cluster may be sitting idle.
Second, make sure you can live without all the extra features that an RDBMS provides (e.g., typed columns, secondary indexes, transactions, advanced query languages, etc.) An application built against an RDBMS cannot be "ported" to HBase by simply changing a JDBC driver, for example. Consider moving from an RDBMS to HBase as a complete redesign as opposed to a port.
Third, make sure you have enough hardware. Even HDFS doesn't do well with anything less than 5 DataNodes (due to things such as HDFS block replication which has a default of 3), plus a NameNode.
HBase can run quite well stand-alone on a laptop - but this should be considered a development configuration only.