Admins’ Guide to Domain Settings in the Google Apps Control Panel

In part one, I talked about some of my favorite support resources that can help a Google Apps Admin. Part two discussed logging into the CPANEL and accessing the Dashboard. In this article, we will continue to talk about some of the 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.

In the Domain Settings section of the CPANEL, there are many important settings to review.

1. On the General Tab, be sure to “Hide all ads for your domain“, and “Enable SSL”. This will ensure that all your users connecting via a browser do so with at least a little bit of security (HTTPS), versus an open HTTP connection.

2. Choose between Rapid Release and Scheduled Release in the “New User Features” section. The reality is that in general, new features go first to the consumers, then the Rapid Release domains, and lastly to the Scheduled Release domains (every now and then Google makes features available to everyone at the same time, but again, generally, they follow this release pattern).

I generally recommend putting larger organizations to be on Scheduled Release, so you have time to see and understand how new features work (via personal GMAIL accounts, test domains, and feedback from other customers), as well as time to prepare communications for your user community about the new features/changes. The Google Apps release calendar keeps track of when each update will be available to each release schedule.

3. The New Services setting, which is found right below “New User Features” in the CPANEL, can be set to “Automatic” or “Manual”. If you have this set to Automatic, when Google comes up with a new product / service for Google Apps, it is automatically available to users in your domain. If you set it to “Manual”, you will have to go into the CPANEL (Organizations & users section) and manually enable the new service when it becomes available.

Domains looking to use Google Apps Directory Sync (GADS) or third party tools for user management need to look at the Domain Settings-User Settings tab, and Enable the provisioning API.

While you are in the User Settings tab:

  • If you look down to the Advanced Password Setting section (also on the Advanced Tools tab), you can adjust the minimum (8 character) and maximum (100 character) length of your password.
  • There is also a section here on “Monitoring” accounts and passwords. I have never really found the “Monitoring” section to be accurate, so I generally recommend you ignore it.

The new “Admin Roles” section is an addition from this past year that quickly tells you who has “Super Admin” rights, as well as any other delegated “Admin rights”.

Google has predefined some additional Admin roles like:

  • Groups Admin
  • User Management Admin
  • Help Desk Admin
  • Services Admin

My advice is generally to stick to Super Admin for the absolute core / full admins, and if you need someone else to manually maintain user, give them User Management Admin. If your service desk team resets passwords, the safest thing a Google Apps Admin can do is give them Help Desk Admin rights – where they can only reset passwords.

If you are syncing passwords with Google Apps Password Sync (GAPS) or another utility, why would you give out password reset capability in Google Apps?

Well, depending on who / how your Admin shared accounts that are not in Groups, you may need to have an admin go into the account, add a delegate, reset the password to give to the user “managing” the account, or sign in as that shared account to change a setting.

Finally, in the “Appearance” section, you can upload your company logo to appear on all the web-pages for Google Apps in the upper left-corner. You can also set a default color for the login box, if you login via http://google.com/a/mydomain.com. Many of our users don’t use it and prefer to sign in via gmail.com – it is just easier for them to remember.

Key Takeaway

There are a number of powerful features and settings in the Control Panel. Perhaps most importantly, I recommend determining a strategy for rolling out new features (rapid / scheduled, automatic / manual) and designing a mini org. chart for the roles you’ll assign to your IT team if you have one, then stick to that strategy.

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