Monday, January 23, 2012

Administering Google Apps for Your Domain

In my previous article, Setting up Google Apps for Your Domain, I introduced you to one of Google’s flagship services, Google Apps. Google Apps bundles a number of Google’s well-known collaborative services (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Chat) into one easily manageable package. You learned how to create your first Google Apps domain, verify your domain, and activate your email. Now that all the necessary services are activated, I will show you how to administer your Google Apps domain.
Before I can show you how to manage your Google Apps domain, you need to login to the control panel first. You can login to it two different ways:
1. Go to and login with the username you created. Make sure you include your domain when entering your username ( Once you have successfully logged in, click the Manage this domain link on the top-right section of the screen.

2. Go to

You will only be required to enter your username (not your entire email address) because Google captures this information from the control panel URL.

Once logged in to the control panel, you will be first directed to the Dashboard. Here is a quick reakdown of all the available elements on the dashboard:
  1. Quick links to access your Google Apps services for Gmail, Calendar, support, and to sign out.
  2. This is the control panel’s main menu. You will be able to administer all of the enabled Google services as well as various user and security settings.
  3. This is a simple chart that displays your domains current log on activity.
  4. This provides quick and easy access to the Google Apps Marketplace where you can install third-party applications which integrate with your Google Apps account.
  5. This section provides quick access to all of your enabled Google services. Status messages will appear next to the application names during certain administrative tasks.
Now you will explore the rest of the control panel starting with Organization and Users.
Organization & Users
While Google Apps can be used with a single, stand-alone user, it is primarily designed to manage users and groups of users. To begin managing users, click the Organization & users link on the main menu.

From here, you can manage three levels of user access and functionality.
  1. Organizations (Business, Government, and Education editions only).
  2. Users
  3. Services
Organizations: Google Apps allows you to designate users into specific groups. From here, you can control which services the user will be able to access (Gmail, Calendar, Chat, YouTube, etc.). This grouping does not necessarily have to mimic your current organization’s structure. You could create groups for receptionists, accountants, sales, etc., or you could simply create groups for power users, email-only, documents-only, etc. There is no right or wrong way to setup the organizational structure of your users.
Users: If you want to add more people to your Google Apps account, you will create them as users. These users will use the same domain name for their email addresses. You can also control which services individual users will have access to without having to create an organization. Keep in mind when using the free version of Google Apps, you will be limited to 50 users. If you want more users, you will need to upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps.
Services: Google Apps bundles its core set of collaborative applications (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Chat, etc.) with the entire array of Google services (Picasa, YouTube, Blogger, AdSense, Maps, etc.). You can enable or disable specific services for your domain, and these selections will affect all users in your domain. In other words, disabling Google Calendar will disable it from every user in your domain, even if you specifically allowed it for specific users.

TIP: Even though you have the ability to control the services your users have access to, it does not prevent them from using the service with their personal Google Account. Exploring the Groups Section of the Control Panel
In the previous section you learned about organizations within your Google Apps domain. You can also create groups of users, but these groups differ from the organizations you can create. Groups in Google Apps are used to make communication and collaboration with other users easier. To begin, click the Groups link on the main menu.

Groups serve a number of useful purposes. Whenever you create a group, its name becomes an email address: You can use this email address to send emails to group members, invite group members to calendar events, or set permissions on documents, presentations, or spreadsheets. You can even add non-domain users to groups, like users who have a Gmail or Yahoo email address. If you upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps, you will get access to the Google Groups service, which includes additional features and security options for group members.
Domain Settings Section of the Control Panel
Domain Settings
The Domain settings portion of the control panel allows you to set options which affect your entire domain. These are back-end settings to domain-specific settings such as time zone, organization name, default language, etc. This section does not control access to the different Google services (You will need to visit Organization & users to make these changes). To begin, click the Domain settings link on the main menu.

The Domain settings portion of the control panel is broken down into five subsections:
  1. General
  2. Account information
  3. Domain names
  4. User settings
  5. Appearance
General: In the General subsection, you can set your organization name, update contact information (including secondary contact information in the event of an emergency), set a default language, set the time zone, determine how fast you want access to new Google features, and update Google feedback information (newsletters, surveys, etc.).
Account information: When using the free version of Google Apps, the Account information subsection is relatively empty. You only have two options: to upgrade to the Business edition of Google Apps, or to delete your Google Apps account. Paid users have the ability to update their renewal information, purchase more users, and view their order history.
Domain names: Even with the free edition of Google Apps, you are not limited to just one domain. Here, you can add domain aliases so users can share the same Gmail inbox with multiple email addresses. For example, if you are currently using and you want to add, your users will be able to receive email from both domains: = Paid users have the ability to manage aliases as well as manage multiple domains. This way you can manage multiple organizations (and domains) in the same account.
User settings: The User settings subjection allows you to control how data is shared between your users. When using the free version, your only option is to enable or disable contact sharing. This features allows you to push contact information for every user to the Gmail Contacts module. This way whenever a user wants to send an email to another user in the domain, the recipient’s name does not need to be stored in the sender’s Contacts because the name and email address will auto-populate when the sender begins typing the recipient’s name or email address. Paid users have the ability to sync users with LDAP or Active Directory services, therefore easing the stresses of managing a large amount of users.
Appearance: Unlike regular Gmail users, Google Apps users have the ability to change the logo that appears at the top-left of every Google application. The only requirements are it must be in PNG or GIF format, and it must be scaled to 143 x 59 pixels. This gives you the ability to “brand” your email for your users or your organization.
Advanced Tools
The Advanced tools section of the control panel allows you to control and manipulate user accounts and data on an advanced level. To begin, click the Advanced tools link on the main menu.

The free version of Google Apps features a very limited set of advanced tools. These tools include the ability to bulk upload users from CSV, import email from legacy systems (old systems--this does not support IMAP or POP3), and setup DKIM email authentication (allows users to verify the sender of an email). Google also includes a desktop mail import tool designed to import mail from Microsoft Outlook (and other email clients) into your Gmail account. Google also bundles a special version of Chrome designed to work with your domain from the start, easily allowing you to use Gmail, Calendar, and Docs as though they were installed on your local computer. Paid users get access to a much larger advanced tool set, including the ability to sync users with Active Directory or LDAP services, generate reports, restrict email delivery to organizations, and the ability to setup a single sign-on (SSO) service to integrate with enterprise applications.
Exploring the Support Section of Google Apps
The Support section of the control panel lists your basic support options for your free Google Apps account. Keep in mind since you are using the free version of Google Apps, your support options will be limited. To begin, click the Support link on the main menu.

When you visit the Support section of the control panel, Google lists several support options. One of the best resources is the community support forum. It features a very active community, and you should be able to get your questions answered very quickly. Google employees also visit the forum to comment on certain problems, especially when they affect many users. If you need help fast, and do not want to wait for your question or problem to be answered in the community forum, Google also lists third-party solutions who can provide technical support with Google Apps.
Google also lists two online resources for help: The Admin Help Center, and the End User Help Centers. These two resources are full of information, and most of the content is written in a manner that regular, non-tech-savvy users will be able to comprehend. In order to take full advantage of everything Google Apps has to offer, I strongly recommend browsing some of the topics in the Admin Help Center.
Exploring the Service Settings Section of Google Apps
Service Settings
The Service settings section of Google Apps is probably one of the most important sections of the control panel. Here, you can control individual settings for Google’s core services, including: Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Contacts, and Mobile. To begin, click the Service settings link on the main menu, then click the service you wish to modify.

Email: Some common settings you can change in the Gmail service include changing the name format (First Last vs Last, First), creating a catch-all address for email delivered to a non-existing user, enable mail delegation, and disabling the service all together.
Chat: Some common settings you can change for the Chat service including setting chat security (displaying a user’s chat status to non-domain users; warn users who chat with non-domain users), forcing chat history to be “Off the Record” so no chats are saved, and disabling the service all together.
Calendar: The Calendar service only allows you to configure two settings, including setting the sharing options for users inside and outside of the domain, and disabling the service all together.
Docs: Just like the Calendar service, the Docs service is limited to two options as well. These options include setting document sharing options for users inside and outside of the domain as well as disabling the service all together.
Sites: Some common settings you can change in the Sites service include changing the sharing options for sites (including visibility to the public; this way Sites can act more like an intranet), mapping the web address to your own domain (so becomes, and disabling the service all together.
Contacts: The only setting in the Contacts service is the ability to disable the service all together.
Mobile: The only setting in the Mobile service is the ability to enable or disable the Google Sync service. The Google Sync service allows certain mobile phones to sync mail, calendars, and contacts using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.
In this article, you learned the basics of administering the free edition of Google Apps. You learned how to create users and groups, adjust domain-specific settings, import email from local email clients like Microsoft Outlook, get support for common problems, and how to adjust specific settings for each of the Google Apps core services. I hope you enjoyed these tutorials on configuring your domain to take advantage of the free edition of Google Apps!
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