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Set up the Chrome for Business browser using the Google Apps Admin Console

This is the third of a three part series discussing the options available to deploy and/or administer Google Chrome in the organization.

In Part I and Part II of this series I discussed the three options available for deploying and managing Google Chrome in a business setting:

  1. You can push out a standard Chrome install file and implement the desired settings for Windows systems via Group Policy using custom ADM/ADMX templates. This is recommended for companies running Active Directory.
  2. You can push out a standard Chrome install file and implement the desired settings for Windows systems via a master preferences file copied to each computer. This is recommended for companies without Active Directory.
  3. You can configure Chrome user policies/extensions (known as cloud policies) for Google Apps users via your Admin Console. These will apply to any Chrome user who signs into their Google Apps account; no special install file will be needed. This will work whether you have Active Directory or not; the focus here is administration from the Google Apps side.

This article is the finale in the series and will focus on option #3 above: Configuring Chrome policies and extensions for Google Apps accounts using the Google Apps Admin Console. This applies to Google Apps Business and Education users.

Google Apps Admin Console

One major advantage to using the Google Apps method to configure Chrome for your users is that the settings you apply will work across any Chrome browser, whether the official "Chrome for Business" version or the standard consumer installation. As stated above, this frees you from having to perform the Chrome for Business browser installation I covered in Parts I and II.

Customizing your User Settings

Note: since Google is upgrading the Admin Console these instructions will apply to the new version. However, if you are still on the old Admin Console you can access the User Settings by clicking "Settings" near the top menu, selecting "Chrome" from the service list and then choosing "User settings."

Access admin.google.com and log into your Admin Console. (Figure A)

Figure A

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Chances are your Admin Console doesn't have the "Other Google Services" icon present, but you can easily add this by clicking "More controls." (Figure B)

Figure B

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Just drag the "Other Google Services" icon up and release it onto your Dashboard. You'll see a prompt box stating it has been added. You can then open this icon to access your Google Services. (Figure C)

Figure C

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Make sure "Chrome Management" is set to "On for everyone." If you plan to allow apps/extensions to be installed from the Chrome Web Store this should be turned on as well. If a service is off, you can check the box to the left of the name and use the toolbar buttons to turn it on. (Figure D)

Figure D

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The middle icon turns on services and the right icon turns them off.

Open "Chrome Management" to start working with policies. Here's a handy shortcut which will take you right there next time. (Figure E)

Chrome Management service settings

Figure E

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(If the service is off the bar below the icon will appear in red. You can click the bar and choose "ON for everyone" if need be).

The "User settings" section is where the bulk of your administrative work will occur. The other links pertain to physical Chrome devices such as Chromebooks (administration of which is outside the scope of this article, except in discussing the user settings below which apply to Chrome devices).

Clicking "Advanced settings" brings up a similar interface with tabs and an additional "Shipments" section (which also refers to Chrome devices). (Figure F)

Figure F

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Access "User Settings" to configure your organization's Chrome policies. Here is a direct shortcut.

The list of available options is as follows in Table A, based on section. The default available settings appear in bold where applicable.

Table A - Chrome policies (A PDF version of this table is available as free download

table01.jpg

Whew! The list seems long, but the functions are grouped logically and as you can see most of the defaults permit the settings in question. Make the necessary edits for your organization (your security department/policies should play a significant role here).

Whenever you make changes you must click the "Save changes" button in the lower left of your screen. (Figure G)

Figure G

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Now your settings are in place. So what about apps and extensions?

Configuring Pre-installed Apps and Extensions

Under the "Apps and Extensions" section of the "User settings" page you will see the "Pre-installed Apps and Extensions" component. (Figure H)

Figure H

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Google states you can install a free customized set of App Packs depending on your needs (for Business or Education users) and provides the following details about the recommended programs for Business users.

Chrome web apps included in App Packs

Below are all of the Chrome web apps included in the App Packs. See the Chrome website and the Chrome Web Store for more details. Each App Pack has three types for Chrome web apps:

Create and share content(Docs, sheets, presentations, notetaking, contentsharing)

Get things done (Project management, task management)

Connect with people(Conferencing, CRM, customer support, contact management)

Manage finance (Accounting, invoicing and billing, expense tracking)

Links to access these business apps/extensions will appear in the main "Pre-installed Apps and Extensions" screen.

Click "Manage pre-installed apps" to deploy apps and extensions to your users. (Figure I)

Figure I

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(Note: Google Apps for Education users will see "Elementary School/Middle School/High School" links rather than "Business Apps/Business Extensions")

You can add apps from the desired locations; clicking the "Chrome Web Store" link will let you search the public Chrome Store and add the necessary results. "Domain Apps" lets you add apps you've created locally; this ties in with the ability to publish apps for your organization in the Chrome Web Store which only your users can access.

As an example, if I click "Chrome Web Store," search for "text" and then hit enter I will see a list of text-related programs. (Figure J)

Figure J

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That one second from the top ("Save Text to Google Drive") sounds promising, so I'll click "Add" then "Save." The apps/extensions to install then appear under the "Total to pre-install" column on the right. (Figure K)

Figure K

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Once I click "Save" then "Save settings" at the main "User settings" page this means users will get the desired apps/extensions as soon as they sign into their Google Apps accounts in Chrome. The "Save Text to Google Drive" icon appeared almost immediately and when I tested it which was very cool.

To get one of the App Packs referenced above, access the main "Pre-installed Apps and Extensions" screen. (Figure L)

Figure L

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Click "Business Apps" or "Business Extensions" These are some of the Business Apps. (Figure M)

Figure M

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And here are some of the business extensions. (Figure N)

Figure N

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One more interesting feature: you can "Specify a Custom App" using the link at the main "Pre-installed Apps and Extensions" page. (Figure O)

Figure O

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According to Google, you must "enter the Extension ID and full URL for the custom item. The Extension ID is the string of characters that appears at the end of the URL from which you download the extension. For example, the URL for Google's Picasa extension is https://clients2.google.com/service/update2/crx/lhhlohbbihddnfcehbijmlnpkafmmkfp; the Extension ID for this extension is lhhlohbbihddnfcehbijmlnpkafmmkfp, and the URL is https://clients2.google.com/service/update2/crx."

When you've chosen the right blend of apps/extensions, click Save. Then click "Save changes" at the bottom left of the screen. The next time users sign into Chrome they will receive the desired elements (they may be prompted to accept various consent or agreement boxes to allow the apps to run).

Configuring pinned apps and extensions

This process works the same as setting up Pre-installed Apps and Extensions, with the slightly different result of placing the apps/extensions you select here in the Chrome App Launcher, which is a taskbar icon in that lets you instantly launch Chrome applications. (Figure P)

Figure P

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Wrapping it up

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As this series has shown, Google provides a number of methods for customizing the Chrome Browser to meet a diverse range of enterprise needs. IT administrators, security personnel and, of course, users themselves should be more than satisfied with the array of configurable options to get Chrome to look and act like a professional.

After all, like Mr. Pink said in the movie "Reservoir Dogs," it's all about being a professional.

Getting more information

Take a look at Google's Chrome for Business and Education page for further details. There is also a Chrome for Business FAQ.

Also read:


About

Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

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