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Recommended Control Panel and Advanced Tools Settings for Google Apps Admins

4 minute read

General Google Apps Green

In previous installments, I talked about some of my favorite support resources that can help a Google Apps Admin, and explained  various parts of the Google Apps Control Panel. In this article, I will continue to talk about some of the key settings in the Control Panel (CPANEL) and their importance to your Google Apps Domain. Please note that all my examples are based on Google Apps for Business and an account that has “Super Administrator” authority.

The CPANEL Settings Tab is one of the first places you should visit as a Google Apps Admin, as this is where a lot of your default options for sharing within (and outside) your Google Domain reside. I will briefly describe some of the areas and settings that I consider key to review…though ultimately, you should review and be familiar with all settings, and review them several times per year, as Google adds new features from time to time!

Calendar Settings

Here you can set the default sharing level (none, free/busy only, all details) for primary internal calendars, external access by others, access to secondary calendars, and access to calendar labs for your users. Larger organizations will also likely set up “calendar resources” that people “reserve” but you don’t want them owned by one person (as a secondary/personal calendar). These would include conference rooms, break rooms, kitchens, web conferencing resources like GoToMeeting, company cars, etc.

Chat Settings

Set options here on whether you will allow Google Chat internally to your Google Apps Domain and other Google users. Also determine if your users can save chats, video chat, or audio chat.

Chrome OS Settings

This is a great section for managing Chrome devices if your organization has “paid” for the management license of Chrome devices…If you are familiar with deploying Chrome to the Enterprise and the Chrome Policy Templates, this section is quite similar, but for actual Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.

Contacts Settings

Enable Contact Sharing, this is the overall setting that allows users within your Google Apps Domain to see each other’s email accounts (e.g. in the type-ahead menu when composing an email or sharing a Doc), and see contact information in a “directory” via the Contact manager in the Gmail application (For people coming from Outlook/Exchange this is the option for a Corporate Address Book).

Drive and Docs Settings

Set default document sharing options for internal or external sharing, and default privacy or visibility. You also have to enable offline docs if you want your users to be able to use the “offline” feature of Google Drive/Docs. You can also allow or disallow the user of the Google Drive PC/MAC client. Most importantly for Admins though, is the Tools tab, where you have the option to transfer ownership of Google Docs from one user to another. Admins use this feature when someone leaves to transfer their documents before you delete their account and lose all those important documents/files.

Email Settings

On the General Settings Tab here, you probably want to enable themes, read-receipts, delegation, Google Apps Sync (for any users requiring Outlook), and offline Gmail. You probably do NOT want to disable POP/IMAP access unless you are running a highly secure environment where you do not allow mobile devices or third-party email clients, as POP/IMAP is a way that email clients and mobile devices can be configured to sync to your account – though it is not generally the preferred method.

On the Labs tab, enable Gmail labs for your users so they can turn on some key customization options in Gmail to make it more user friendly.  I do not recommend the Advanced Lab Management. While the idea sounds good to optionally force enable some labs, if you read carefully, Google does not list all labs, and those that are not listed are not allowed – even if you want to use it.

Mobile Settings

One of my favorite areas (from previous blogs of mine) – This is where you optionally allow access via “syncing” on various mobile devices Android (via GMAIL app), iPhone/Nokia/Windows phone (via email app).  You can also set password and screenlock policies here like you could if you had a Blackberry Server, or if you have ever used Exchange Active Sync. As an admin, this is also where you can wipe, delete, or block mobile devices that have properly registered with Google Apps.

Sites Settings

The three most key settings here for Google Sites are whether you allow users to create sites or not, the default visibility, and finally the sharing options for whether sites can be shared outside of your organization or not.

Video Settings

As Google is discontinuing this service, if your domain is new or you really don’t have any use of the old “Google Video” section, you can probably ignore this section.

Advanced Tools Tab

This is generally a place that you won’t directly visit once you setup your domain.  If you want to enable 2-step verification, then you need to go here and first check the setting to “Allow” users to later actually turn on 2-step authentication. It does not do anything other than give users the option to turn it on.

Another commonly used option here is the bulk user upload option which can both create user accounts, and set passwords/force password changes. This can also be accessed from the Organization & Users section of the CPANEL as well.

If you want to take user provisioning a step further, you can download Google Apps Directory Sync (GADS) to sync your LDAP system like Microsoft Active Directory to Google Apps. Organizations that have the need to sync Google Apps Calendars and Exchange Calendars for free/busy can download the calendar interop applications here on the Advanced tools tab too.

The final key reasons you would go here are to setup SSO, Federated Login using OpenID, or to manage your OAuth keys and OAuth Client Access – typically used when you do your initial migration to Google via the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange (GAMME) tool.

Key Takeaway

The Google Apps Admin Control Panel is filled with various settings that you can customize to fit your organization’s needs. Every organization is unique, and it is up to you as an Admin to determine exactly what settings are appropriate for your company, university, school, etc. Hopefully this guide has shown you the tools and methods necessary to properly secure your Google Apps Domain.

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