When running any business, whether it's a small start-up or a large enterprise with hundreds of thousands of employees, communication tools can allow effective collaboration and ensure the success of the company. Because the recent COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition from in-person to remote work, there is more need than ever for a highly available, secure, and agile productivity suite. This new work environment has created a demand for an ecosystem of tools that team members can leverage to streamline their communication and collaboration. This book is about one of the most popular web-based productivity suites available today: Google Workspace.
Google Workspace is a collection of software as a service (SaaS)-based productivity and collaboration tools developed and marketed by Google.
In this chapter, we will give a brief overview of Google Workspace and how it came into being. This chapter will also introduce you to core services that exist in the Google Workspace portfolio. We will also learn about different Google Workspace editions and the differences between their offerings.
We will cover the following main topics:
- The evolution of Google Workspace
- Google Workspace editions
- Google Workspace licensing models
- Domain host versus Google Workspace
The evolution of Google Workspace
As you may know, a productivity suite is a set of applications that includes apps for content management, writing documentation, processing voluminous data, communicating with your team members, and more. Traditionally, these applications were only available on desktops. However, several are now available as web applications that will let you connect from any device, anywhere. This model of distributing software – where a cloud provider hosts applications and makes them available to end users over the internet – is known as SaaS.
The market for SaaS-based productivity suites has grown steadily over the years, with big tech leading the way. After desktop-based productivity suites dominated the market for over two decades, companies started to understand their limitations for an evolving workforce. Desktop-based applications restrict users to specific computers, offering limited capabilities in terms of file sharing and real-time collaboration functionality. Overall, these may limit your work environment, and employees may feel siloed and frustrated.
In the not-so-distant past, imagine how a document may have been shared using one of these common ways:
- The document could have been saved and sent as an email attachment.
- The document could have been copied to a shared directory on the corporate network file system.
- The document could have been copied to a portable drive and physically handed to another user who required it.
Today, with business happening at the speed of light, all of these options are not scalable. For example, emails would frequently fail when email servers rejected attachments for being too large. Files had to be compressed before they could be sent, only for the recipient to receive a corrupted version on the other end.
Thankfully, those days are well behind us due to the power of the internet and the proliferation of cloud technologies.
Google is a pioneer and an internet-first company that started building scalable platforms that pushed people out of the comfort of their desktops. By the early 2000s, Google had established itself as the most popular search engine, and the breakthrough moment for collaboration tools can be traced back to April 1, 2004. If a product was launched on April 1 these days, people would rub it off as an April fools' joke. However, this product garnered enough attention and adoption that it spawned a whole new generation of ecosystems around SaaS-based applications.
Gmail revolutionized how people used email. With its intuitive inbox powered by Google search technology, 500x more storage than its competitors, and its quirky features (such as 1 GB mail storage to begin with, labels instead of conventional folders, and a search embedded inbox), Gmail blew away its competition. Gmail also focused on reliability and security, which began to make users comfortable with the SaaS model.
Google Docs and Google Drive
Buoyed by the success of Gmail, Google started building several SaaS applications that mimicked and replaced several desktop applications. The journey has not been easy, and true to its trial-and-error style, Google experimented with different product launches and had to sunset several products rapidly that did not meet its business standards.
Through a series of acquisitions, Google pulled together the Google Docs platform around 2007. Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users in real time. This marked the beginning of SaaS-based office productivity tools coming together.
As content creation and management exploded over the years, the need for storing huge amounts of data and making it shareable became ubiquitous. As a natural step in the evolution of Google Docs, Google launched Google Drive in 2012. Google Drive is a personal cloud storage service that allows users to create content and upload and share multimedia and documents across a range of devices.
Google Apps for Business
While Google enjoyed tremendous success with individuals, these products were also very attractive to businesses. Businesses typically prefer to have their own branding in their domains and not have to rely on the free and generic domains that Google offers. Google has been testing offering businesses their own domains since 2006. Originally dubbed Google Apps for Your Domain, Google allowed the hosting of Gmail accounts with custom domain names and provided admin tools to manage them. This experiment was a success, and Google immediately followed it by releasing Google Apps Premier Edition, which offered more storage, API integration, phone compatibility, and better reliability. This was swiftly adopted by some of the top companies in the S&P 500.
For larger organizations that demanded a more robust support and compliance model, Google released Google Apps for Business in 2011. The Google Apps for Business bundle offered a rich feature set that included Sync for Microsoft Outlook and access to a third-party marketplace. Google Apps for Business was very mature for its time, and due to its secure data handling and processing, it was the first web-based application suite to receive Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification and accreditation.
While enjoying success, Google Apps for Business was renamed Google for Work and then later morphed to G Suite in 2016. In the same year, Google released Jamboard – a cloud-connected digital whiteboard that came with a 55-inch screen. With Jamboard, users can sketch out ideas, draw synchronously, and use it for creative problem-solving.
G Suite to Google Workspace
After almost 4 years, in 2020, Google rebranded G Suite as Google Workspace. However, Google Workspace is not just a name change – it also reflects the evolution of work and life in the last few years. In the Google Workspace launch blog post (https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/workspace/introducing-google-workspace), Google introduced three major developments in Google Workspace:
- A bundle of enhanced services was included, catering to various sizes of customer organizations.
- Instead of a suite of services, it is now a well-integrated product, offering a fluid user experience across each app.
- The blog post reiterated how work tools are organized within the product.
Google Workspace provides apps for boosting productivity and collaboration for businesses of all sizes. Employee satisfaction and retention are important for a company's culture, and Google Workspace aims to allow open collaboration as part of this. This product enhancement brings a unified user experience, allowing users to stay focused, with the ability to access and share information quickly. As of 2021, Google Workspace has about 6 million businesses signed up and using its services.
One of the most obvious impacts of COVID-19 has been the sharp increase in employees working remotely, and this is likely to continue for some time, even after the pandemic is declared over. Surveys from consulting companies indicate that 20-25% of workforces in advanced economies would work from home three to five days a week. This is 4-5x more remote work than prior to the pandemic (https://www.apollotechnical.com/statistics-on-remote-workers/). Several companies are already planning to utilize flexible workspaces, and with supporting technologies such as Google Workspace, the move to bring people back into the office will be a slow one.
Several traditional industries, such as airlines, hospitality, aerospace, airports, retail, and food services, have suffered a great deal during the pandemic. On the other hand, propped up by productivity suites such as Google Workspace, telemedicine, online banking, and streaming entertainment have taken off.
Carbon-neutral data centers
Google Workspace, as part of the Google Cloud infrastructure, comes with the commitment of giving its users a highly secure, reliable, and resilient cloud-based productivity suite that is powered through their carbon-neutral data centers. Having been in the business of cloud technology for more than a decade, Google has invested in its infrastructure to make it sustainable, along with a commitment toward operating on 100% carbon-free energy by 2030.
As organizations look toward reducing their operating expenses and modernizing their legacy applications, the focus has turned to the energy used by servers for computational needs. Recent consumer surveys indicate that 79% of customers make purchasing decisions based on their perceptions of the environmental impact of a product (https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/07/08/2059043/0/en/Capgemini-Press-Release-79-of-consumers-are-changing-their-purchase-preferences-based-on-social-responsibility-inclusiveness-or-environmental-impact.html). The decision regarding selecting a sustainable infrastructure matters a lot these days, and by adopting and blending Google's sustainability commitment into an organization's operational model, enterprises can consequently attract more customers with carbon-free assurance.
With large data centers that are well connected through one of the world's largest networks, Google Workspace comes with the assurance of 99.99% availability for its users. The Google Workspace security whitepaper explains this in greater detail. That is, it explains how any data you create in Google Workspace – be it a small document, a drafted email, or even a checklist on Google Keep – is fully encrypted when it is stored and when in transit between an end user's computer and a data center. This prevents hacking and keeps your data safe and secure. We will look at this in more detail in the Data security section.
Now that we've discussed the evolution of Google Workspace, it's time to look at what is included in its portfolio.
Google Workspace – what's included?
Google Workspace is a bundle of services that help users stay productive by completing tasks in an efficient way while staying connected with their co-workers. These services also allow users to access information from any device, at any time, and from anywhere. The core services in Google Workspace include the following:
- Gmail: This is an email service that allows an organization to deploy its communication emails using Google's servers. Google's advanced phishing and malware protection executes a predelivery scan that filters spam and viruses. Administrators have the functionality to create compliance rules based on content within email messages. Gmail boasts close to 4 billion users worldwide. It has native applications for iOS and Android.
- Google Currents: This gives users the capability to set up social collaboration among users in a domain. Communities within Google Currents can be used for posting discussions and topics. Users can follow topics, communities, or other users to keep up with all of the content being shared. Administrators can restrict interaction within the domain or allow users to interact with external communities as well. Currents was formerly known as Google+, the social networking platform from Google.
- Google Calendar: This is used for tracking personal goals, reminders, events, and tasks. It can be used for both personal work hours and corporate/organizational team calendars. It allows end users to view other calendars of peers, set up team calendars to be used by multiple users, use conference rooms, and attach meeting notes for each event.
- Google Cloud Search: This extends Google's search functionality for searching your organization's data. It can be used for searching Google Workspace data and third-party data sources as well. The search results will adhere to the security model of the organization – only users with the right access will be able to see and modify content.
- Google Contacts: This allows users to store the contact information of users they frequently work with. This information can be synchronized from the web with mobile devices as well. There are options to categorize the contact information based on business operations. Beyond name, email, and phone numbers, users can also store other custom information.
- Google Docs Editors: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms are various services that help with creating different types of content, whether it is documents, large spreadsheets, or slides for meeting presentations. Each of these editors allows collaboration through sharing, and they include formatting options that aid with creating visually appealing content.
- Google Drive: This is the file storage and synchronization service. It not only allows users to work with Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides, but it also provides options for uploading files of non-Google formats such as PDF, Microsoft Word, and more. Certain editions of Google Workspace allow users to have unlimited storage, greater collaboration tools, fine-grained access, audit reporting, and advanced administration controls.
- Google Groups for Business: This allows users and administrators to create and manage groups for messaging multiple recipients at the same time. Beyond email messages, users can use Google Groups for Business for sharing calendars and content in Google Drive with the members of a group. This improves work efficiency by collaborating with multiple users at the same time without having to individually share with each user.
- Google Chat: Google Chat provides a quick way to communicate with recipients. Users can individually message each other or can set up a Google Chat room for messaging multiple users at the same time. It provides an enhanced thread-based conversation view that helps users stay focused on each topic of discussion. Chat allows integration with other third-party services using AI-powered Chatbot solutions.
- Google Meet: This provides an enterprise-grade, professional video-based communication tool for end users. It allows users to have breakout rooms, Q&A, and record meetings, which automatically gets saved into users' Google Drive accounts. Google Workspace administrators can choose which functionality to enable for the entire domain or for selected users.
- Google Jamboard: This is a smart display that is a digital interactive whiteboard. It allows collaboration by allowing multiple users to brainstorm ideas to action. These Jamboard files are automatically stored in Google Drive for future reference. Users can use web browsers or a mobile app to draw and create content. The Jamboard app for iOS and Android makes it easy for students and teachers to come together using the device of their choice.
- Google Keep: This allows users to create quick notes, share those notes with other users, and pin them for immediate retrieval. Google Keep can be used for preparing lists and drawings.
- Google Sites: This allows organizations to create multiple pages to host a Google Site. There are no limits on the number of pages that can be created for these sites. Content posted on sites can be restricted to internal viewing within the organization, or it can be published externally for other users to view. Google Sites can be used for embedding content from Google Drive, HTML, and custom scripts.
- Google Tasks: This is a productivity service that allows users to manage their activities with a due date. Tasks can also be created from within a Google Chat room, allowing members within the collaboration space to take ownership of the task.
- Google Vault: This helps the organization stay compliant with their legal requirements by allowing automated data retention from Gmail, Google Drive, Google Groups, Google Meet recordings, and Google Chat conversations. Administrators can delegate Google Vault administrator permissions to other power users that further enables them to search content from Vault for any e-discovery requests. Content in Vault can be retained for an unlimited period of time or for a specific period of time using retention policies. Retention policies are applied to content via labels.
- Google Voice: This allows organizations to replace their desk phones with an IP-based telephony service. Administrators can assign specific phone numbers for use based on the end user's country. This is an add-on service, and it supports SMS and voicemail for these users. Ring groups allow multiple users to set up a shift-based calling service.
- Google Workspace Assured Controls: This is an add-on service that allows organizations to stay compliant with defined legal standards. Organizations can work with Google support engineers located in the US region.
- Google Workspace add-ons: Taken together, these are Google Voice and Google Workspace Assured Controls.
Additional Google services in Google Workspace
Other Google services, such as YouTube, Google Classroom, DoubleClick, Google Scholar, and Google News, are also available. Administrators can pick and choose which services are relevant for their organization, enabling them for a specific subset of users.
With this impressive product and set of features, Google Workspace already has a very strong presence in the market. To cater to different market segments, Google Workspace offers several licensing models that bundle different products and services. Let's take a look at that next.
Google Workspace licensing models
Each of these tiers has further editions of licenses that best serve different types of customers. We will talk about each of these tiers in detail in the following subsections.
Google Workspace Education editions
Google Workspace has been an integral part of educational institutions. More than 170 million users within educational domains are currently relying on Google Workspace tools and services. By introducing Google Workspace for schools and universities, Google has answered the diverse needs of K-12 institutions. Teachers and students were able to quickly adopt G Suite, and now Google Workspace. These students are evolving into the new workforce, already stepping into their careers with knowledge of Google Workspace, and this alleviates the need for extra training during new hire onboarding.
The Education tier has four license editions:
- Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals: This is the upgraded name for G Suite for Education. This edition has historically been offered for free and will continue to be free. Only schools and universities that qualify for a .edu domain are eligible for this license edition.
- Google Workspace for Education Standard: This was recently introduced, building upon the Fundamentals edition with enhanced security.
- Google Workspace for Education Teaching and Learning Upgrade: This provides additional video communication capabilities and an enhanced classroom feature that can be provisioned to the domain with the Fundamentals or Standard licenses.
- Google Workspace for Education Plus: This is the rebranded edition of G Suite Enterprise for Education. This secure edition is comparable to Google Workspace Enterprise Plus, including Security Center, Admin Logs in BigQuery, and so on.
- Google Calendar
- Google Docs, Sheet, Slides, and Forms
- Google Classroom
- Google Assignments
- Google Tasks
- Google Meet (limits on the number of participants differ for each edition):
- Features such as call-in for audio, moderator controls, hand-raising, and digital whiteboarding are available for all license editions.
- Google Sites
- Google Groups
- Google Vault
Google Drive storage differs for each edition, depending on whether it is pooled or individually assigned for each user.
For example, if you have 10 users in Google Workspace Business Plus, this gives the entire domain a total of 50 TB storage (because 10 x 5 TB = 50 TB). However, this does not limit a user to 5 TB, and it allows you to have shared Google Drive files that are available to your group of users collaborating on a common task or project.
Google Chromebooks are a new breed of laptops that have come into existence thanks to the power of Google Workspace. Chromebooks are powered by Chrome OS, which is a platform built around Google's cloud applications. Chromebooks have done extraordinarily well in the education sector due to their competitive pricing and the simplicity of the machines. Chromebooks require very little training, and their cost is small compared to other laptops.
Chromebooks work well with Google Classroom, which serve as a hub for classroom activities, including classroom discussions, attendance, and communication between parents and teachers.
Along with Google Workspace, Chromebooks have made modern operating systems accessible and easily provisioned for users. Teachers and educational systems are constantly looking for new ways to creatively engage students. With the move away from classic textbook based learning, several digital programs are being introduced globally for learning – schools are increasingly using Chromebooks as part of their teaching and learning programs. Chromebooks have rich feature sets and are affordable and secure with the Chrome Enterprise Management license.
Chromebooks also enable teachers and students to create new apps for immersive learning. Seeing the impressive adoption of Chromebooks in education, businesses have also gained confidence in issuing Chromebooks for their employees. Instead of spending $2,000 or more for each employee for devices, it has been economical to issue $500 worth of Chromebooks, which comes with great management capabilities for both users and administrators.
Google Workspace Business editions
- Business Starter: This is the first tier of the professional productivity suite of licenses, which allows users to have 30 GB of storage.
- Business Standard: This is the enhanced productivity suite of licenses, which allows users to have 2 TB of storage pooled for the domain.
- Business Plus: This is the advanced productivity suite of licenses. It has the most valuable set of features within this tier and allows users to have 5 TB of storage pooled for the domain.
Besides storage, each of these license editions comes with specific features and limitations. Companies can assess their needs and usage before selecting their ideal license edition.
The Business Standard and Business Plus licenses give you the option of having pooled storage across this domain.
- Google Calendar
- Google Drive
- Google Chat and Chat rooms
- Google Meet
- Google Groups for businesses
- Google Tasks
- Google Sites
- Directory management/shared contacts
- Two-step verification for user identities
- IMAP/POP3 compatibility mode
- Offline access for Gmail and Google Drive
- Reports and audit logs
Google Workspace Enterprise editions
- Enterprise Essentials: This gives you the flexibility to use the full collaboration apps in Google Workspace while still retaining the existing mail infrastructure. Users can use Google Drive for content management and Google Meet for their communications. Users are allocated 1 TB of storage space.
- Frontline: This license extends collaboration tools for frontline workers who require productivity apps – it has a limit of 2 GB storage per user.
- Enterprise Standard: This offers solutions for large organizations with flexible storage and advanced video conferencing features.
- Enterprise Plus: This is the most valuable productivity and collaboration suite, with enterprise-grade functionality and security features to stay compliant with your organization's legal standards.
Organizations that are on a path to larger growth can investigate upgrading to the Google Workspace Enterprise editions.
Google gives you the flexibility of having multiple license editions from the Enterprise tier within the same domain, thereby allowing administrators to provide the relevant licenses for each subset of user groups.
Enterprise tier licenses also give you the flexibility to have the storage space needed for your domain. Users receive a scalable, reliable platform to have a large amount of content, which is required for a truly collaborative work environment.
- Google Drive:
- Google Sites:
- Unlimited web pages that can be published for domain users or externally for the public
- Google Meet:
- Video conferencing
- Recording meetings and saving to Google Drive
- Enterprise features such as low-light mode, phone dial-in, real-time captions, background blur, and digital whiteboarding
- The Google Meet quality tool in the Admin console for troubleshooting
Choosing the right edition
As a business owner, start by reviewing the differences of the editions in the previous section and categorizing your employees based on their types and the services they may consume. This will help in mapping the right type of users with the respective stock keeping units (SKU) license. For example, if there are temporary employees or interns who might not require all of the features of Google Workspace Business Plus, you can plan to have multiple license SKUs provisioned in your domain.
Let's review some sample user groups we generally see across various organizations:
- Certain user groups may serve as content creators, whereas others could be consumers of data.
- Field workers who are not consistently working from the same location may require additional security guardrails to ensure there is no accidental leakage of confidential information.
- Executive users who not only travel frequently but also have interactions with external users. These types of users require enterprise-grade video conferencing, the ability to chat with users who are external to the domain, access through mobile devices, and a highly secure, encrypted framework.
- Interns/temporary workers who do not create valuable content that requires data retention. These users would require active communication tools, mobile device management, and additional data loss prevention rules.
Beyond functional requirements, users can also be categorized based on geographical locations. This helps in deciding the data regions.
Domain host versus Google Workspace
What is a domain?
To set up a Google Workspace account, you need to own a domain name that represents your organization on the internet. In simplest terms, a domain name is the address for your organization on the World Wide Web.
Domains, once claimed, cannot be duplicated, which also means that if you have enrolled for a trial version of Google Workspace for a duration of 14 days, your domain verification will still be valid when converting to a full Google Workspace license.
What is the DNS?
The Domain Name System (DNS) acts like the phonebook of the internet. It helps translate human-readable domain names such as
google.com into the corresponding IP address so that browsers can route and load the correct resources.
DNS lookups involve multiple steps, outlined as follows:
- A user types
google.cominto a web browser; a DNS resolver receives this query.
- The DNS resolver then looks this up in a DNS root nameserver. As the name indicates, the DNS resolver's primary responsibility is to respond to the client with the IP address.
- The root nameserver's primary purpose is to determine the address of a top-level domain (TLD) nameserver, which has the required information for its domains. Some of the popular TLDs include
- In the preceding example, the DNS resolver then sends the query to the
- The TLD server responds with the IP address of the domain's nameserver:
- The DNS resolver then sends a query to the domain's nameserver.
- The nameserver then returns the IP address of
google.com, if found.
- On a successful lookup, the DNS resolver responds to the web browser with the IP address of
It should be noted that configuring a DNS server on a device is an important decision. However, in most cases, the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) configures the system to use the IP addresses of the ISP's domain nameservers. Due to this, a lot of users do not come across setting up DNS servers manually.
- Users mistyping URLs
- DNS servers timing out
- Expired DNS caches on the devices
Before configuring Google Workspace, users must verify the ownership of the domain so that no one else can claim ownership of it. This also ensures Google has permission to email as your domain [[email protected]] and no one else can email using your [
company.com] email domain.
When you purchase Google Workspace, you will receive a verification ID, and this will need to be added to your domain host's DNS settings.
How to verify a domain
There are a few things needed to verify a domain in Google Workspace:
- First, you will need to have the credentials to sign in to your domain host's control panel. If you do not have these handy, you may use the password reset feature on your domain host's control panel to reset the password.
If you are not sure where you bought your domain, you can identify your domain host using ICANN Lookup (https://lookup.icann.org/).
- Second, you will need to have a verification record or file from Google. The type of verification will be presented to you when you sign up for Google Workspace. The illustration in Figure 1.2 shows the format of a verification record.
- Finally, you need to be able to edit and add records to your domain's DNS settings. If you do not have access to edit DNS records, you could alternatively add a meta tag or an HTML file that is reachable on the internet.
If you are having trouble verifying your domain, this knowledge base article from Google on how to verify domains for several hosts will be very helpful: https://support.google.com/a/topic/1409901.
The verification process usually takes 10 minutes, and once verified, the domain will show up as verified in the Admin console.
If your organization has additional sub-organizations that have a different name or prefer to use a different email address, you will have to repeat this domain verification process for each sub-domain that you add.
For example, consider the following:
company.com domain name will be your primary domain.
abc.company.com will be a sub-domain that allows users to have email addresses such as the following:
- Log in to your Google Admin console (https://admin.google.com).
- Click on Account | Domains.
- Click Continue to verify your domain with a TXT record.
- In a different browser or tab, log in to your domain host account and follow the instructions for your DNS provider to add this copied TXT record within the DNS settings.
- Now, log in again to your Google Workspace Admin console.
- Click on Verify to verify your domain
This completes the verification process.
Organizations can also use Google's own domain service. This would require a separate license and payment in addition to the Google Workspace license.
Secondary domains versus domain aliases
This is accomplished by setting up a secondary domain. Organizations can add up to 599 secondary domains.
The following diagrams illustrate the differences between user email addresses when they choose between using a secondary domain or a domain alias:
User2 would like to have two email addresses pointing to the same inbox, then this is accomplished by using a domain alias or a sub-domain.
Users created under a specific sub-domain automatically inherit the email alias of the primary domain name.
A Note for Power Users
Now that domain ownership has been claimed, administrators can grant login access to users.
To keep your account secure, Google provides you with a security management page that helps you manage the following:
- Recovery account:
- If you lose your password and would like to recover the account, you can connect your Google Workspace account with another email to serve as your backup recovery.
- Privacy suggestions:
- Google has a privacy checkup tool that can assist you in running a checklist of privacy settings against your account.
- Control which data about your activity gets stored, for example:
- Searches you do
- Websites you visit
- Videos you watch
- Places you go
- Additional Google services such as YouTube, Google Analytics, and Google Classroom
- Data stored in BigQuery hosted on Google Cloud Platform
- Custom Google App Engine applications that are hosted on Google Cloud Platform
In this chapter, we looked at the evolution of Google Workspace and its different editions. This chapter also laid the foundations for the core services and the different licensing models that are available. We also gave a brief introduction on how to get your domain for your company up and running quickly. This has set the stage for you to add users and configure apps within the domain in order to take full advantage of the Google Workspace offerings. We will learn more about configuring users and apps in the next chapter.