The bell icon in the Google Apps Admin console alerts a Google Apps administrator of important issues. Some alerts requires a specific action, such as the re-authorization of an application's permissions. Other times, the alert indicates that a new Google Apps monthly newsletter is available.
Unlike a car maintenance indicator that prompts a single action (e.g., "take the care to the dealer for service"), each Google Apps monthly newsletter contains several articles, each of which might trigger a different action.
When I read through the newsletter, I identify each item as:
- Something to check
- A setting to choose
- A change to communicate
The categories help me identify what—if any—action I need to take as a result of Google's changes (Figure A). Sometimes, there's a fourth option: no action required.
Google Apps Admins: See the alert? Schedule time to read the newsletter.
During the first several months of 2015, Google made several changes with significant implications for Google Apps admins and people who use Google Apps. As an example, here are a few changes you may have missed, grouped into my "check, choose, or communicate" categories.
Some changes require a quick check to verify that Google has released a new feature to your domain. For example:
- Google improved Contacts to conform to "material design," modified how duplicate contacts merge, and added the ability to see recent email exchanges with a contact
- Google added the ability to access and manage Google+ Photos from Google Drive (Figure B)
- Starting April 21, 2015, Google search results will prioritize websites that work on mobile devices over websites that aren't mobile-friendly.
Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and enter your website to check whether or not Google considers your website mobile-friendly. (If not, add "update website to be mobile-friendly" to your website developer's project list.)
Check to verify that announced updates are active for your domain.
Other updates allow an administrator to choose settings. These items require an administrator to change a setting in the Google Apps Admin console, and they may require other people to act, as well.
For example, the following three changes require choices and configuration:
- It's easier than ever to prompt people to enable 2-step authentication. Choose a future date to enforce 2-step authentication (Figure C). Until that date, Google Apps will prompt people to set up 2-step authentication with each login. (Previously, 2-step was either enabled or not enabled.)
- Choose to allow people who use Android devices to keep work and personal data separate. Android for Work ensures that a remote erase initiated by a Google Apps admin will erase work data, not personal data. Android for Work also supports mobile device management by third-party providers.
- To improve document security, Google added the ability to track when people "view, create, update, delete, or share Drive content." The new Drive Audit log, available only for Google Apps Unlimited or Google Apps for Education domains, provides a detailed log of all drive activity to an administrator. Choose to receive an alert when an item in the Google Drive Audit log matches criteria you specify.
Choose to configure new features that improve security, collaboration, and/or mobile work.
A change to communicate
Finally, let the people you serve know how to use new apps or features. A seemingly small change might enable a significantly different workflow. While you may want to communicate features that you've checked or chosen, some items require no action other than communication. For example, people might want to learn that:
- Google released a Google Calendar app for the iPhone in March 2015. Use both the Gmail and Google Calendar iPhone apps, and the app can create a calendar event from an event identified in your Gmail. (As of April 2015, the events from Gmail feature works only for Gmail accounts, not Google Apps accounts.)
- Google updated the Chrome app on Android and iOS to permit blocking of third-party cookies, which may reduce unwanted tracking (Figure D). People who previously avoided Chrome because it lacked this capability might reconsider. (To select: open Chrome, choose the three-dot menu | Settings | Site Settings | Cookies | and uncheck Allow third-party cookies.)
Communicate changes so that people are aware of new apps and options, such as the new setting in Chrome for mobile devices.
Admins: Maintenance needed
Just like auto maintenance, if you ignore an alert too long, system performance won't be optimal. So, the next time the bell in the Admin console alerts you to a new Google Apps monthly newsletter, don't ignore it. Schedule time to review each item in the newsletter and identify whether it's something you need to check, choose, or communicate to your colleagues. Share the information with your colleagues to help your team continue to get the most from Google Apps.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.