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Google Apps for Education - an administrator's point of view

A behind the scenes look at administering Google Apps for Education - It doesn't get much easier than this.
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1 of 11 Christopher Dawson/ZDNet

The Google Apps dashboard gives you access to all of the administrative functions in Apps. All individual services can be accessed and modified here, as can user account management tasks.

Note that the statement "There was a problem with your transition" refers to the new integration of blogger, iGoogle, and other Google accounts with Apps accounts. If users have already used their Apps accounts to create accounts in these services, the integration of their accounts only is delayed.

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The individual apps are referred to as services. Each of these links allows them to be enabled or disabled and options specific to the service can also be set here. Each service has its own URL, but they can all be accessed from a unified interface presented to each user. The "Core Google Apps suite" refers to those services provided and supported specifically by Google.

While this provides global access to the apps, they can also be enabled and disabled by user group.

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One of the major advantages of Google Apps is the Apps Marketplace. Here, administrators can find countless applications, both free and paid, that radically extend the power and functionality of Apps, whether through simple single sign-on to external services or provide much deeper integration. Those add-on services are also managed through the dashboard.

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The organizations and users tab lets you do everything from select a user and reset their password to create organizational units and assign users to them. These organizational units can then be used to present different services to different users (e.g., middle school students don't get access to Google chat).

Basic user statistics and auditing are also available here.

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Users can be placed in organizational group, as well as subgroups. Specific services can be turned on or off for the groups and these permissions are inherited by default for subgroups. Inheritance can be turned off as needed.

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The domain settings tab gives access to everything from default domain contact information to management of the Google Apps domain. Global settings for single sign on and contact sharing are also managed here.

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Advanced tools include bulk upload of user accounts from flat files, federation settings, and email migration tools. This tab also allows you to set password requirements and set up Active Directory integration.

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The Support tab gives you the necessary information to obtain phone support (for critical outages only) and links to community forums, frequently asked questions, and extensive online documentation. I've never actually had to contact phone support; virtually everything you need is here, searchable in typical Google fashion.

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Individual settings for all core Google services can be accessed here, as well as from the dashboard. Mobile settings, for example, include the ability to turn on Google Sync to keep devices and their built-in calendars and email applications synchronized with Google Apps.

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Postini is an incredibly powerful suite of email security management tools. The core set of features is free in Google Apps for Education, including robust spam filtering tools and malware protection. Administrators have global control over user settings and quarantines, while users can access their own limited interface to manage incoming and bounced email.

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Archiving is the one Postini feature for which educational users need to pay. The price varies, but is deeply discounted over business pricing and administrators can choose which users to archive. More importantly, the discovery features are the most powerful and easy to use that I've ever seen. Make sure to have a policy in place around discovery since it's all too easy to retrieve any emails, from any users, on any subject with any keyword.

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