Fellow Tech Republic Google in the Enterprise blogger, Andy Wolber, wrote a great post on sending email efficiently to groups. In his post, Andy explains how to create a Google Group in order to make sending email to numerous people easier. Google Groups are truly a great way to communicate with a large number of people and are loaded with powerful features that provide versatility which allow Groups to be used in a wide array of applications.

New and improved

Earlier this year, Google released a new and improved version of Google Groups with some exciting new features, and has since continued to roll out improvements. Specifically, now there are four types of groups that can be created:

  1. Email List
  2. Web Forum
  3. Q&A Forum, and
  4. Collaborative Inbox

An Email List at its core is a distribution list, however there are enhanced features so it is not just a mailing list. The Web Forum type of Google Groups is exactly that, a forum where members can create new topics and add posts under existing topics. Similarly, a Q&A (Question and Answer) Forum is a group that interacts primarily in the web UI and is used for members to post questions and follow-up answers. Finally, the Collaborative Inbox type, which is the newest type of Google Groups, allows the group to function as an Inbox, where members can assign or take responsibility of a topic, add or edit tags for a topic, and mark topics as resolved.

Each type of Google Groups comes with its own set of predefined settings that classifies it as that type of Group. With that being said, all the settings are customizable so that you can turn on features that are not normally on for a given type. There is a great amount of flexibility within the settings of the groups so that one can really develop and create a tailored group for a specific purpose.

Google Apps administrators or group owners can take full advantage of these settings to develop a group that meets the right needs and set specific permissions on the users within that group.

Group Settings

To understand Groups and how they function, it is necessary to examine the settings. The settings are organized into five sections:

  • Members
  • Settings
  • Permissions
  • Roles, and
  • Information

These categories are self-explanatory but let’s look at the settings within the categories. In the Members category, you have options such as viewing all the members, inviting members, directly adding members, and viewing any pending invites or outstanding join requests. Additionally, you can change settings for existing members to allow or block specific abilities.

Figure A shows an example of the user settings that can be adjusted. Within this area, you can fine tune settings for individual members based upon how involved you or they want to be.

Figure A

In the Settings category, the settings contained within dictate how certain aspects of the group functions. For example, if you wanted every email sent to members of the group to contain instructions on how to post topics or how to remove themselves from the group, you would find this under Settings, Email Options, and then Email Footer (Figure B).

Figure B

Other settings in this category include turning on message moderation, allowing people outside the organization to become members, and enabling tags or categories. Tags are assigned to topics and aid when searching for specific topics. Categories are used to organize topics. Of course, there are settings which dictate who can create tags and categories and who can implement tags and categories.
As should be expected, Permissions contains the majority of the Google Groups settings. Here is where the group owner decides just who can view topics, create topics, post to topics, mark topics with tags, who can join the group, who can moderate topics, etc. This section is where Group owners will spend the majority of time configuring settings. Depending on how many members and how stringent the owner wants to run the group, it would be wise to thoughtfully consider each and every setting. Figure C is an example of the settings for posting.

Figure C

Under the Roles section of settings, there are three default roles: Owner, Manager, and Member. None of these roles can be deleted, however they can be edited, and specifically the permissions can be changed. Roles are useful as they allow owners to quickly assign permissions to group members. Additional roles can be created as the need arises (Figure D).

Figure D

Lastly, the Information settings category contains general group settings that dictate if the group is located in the organization’s directory, if topics can be posted by email and/or the web, the primary language of the group, and options for disabling, deleting, and resetting the group to the preconfigured settings for a particular group type.

So what next?

In the second part of this series, I will examine how to effectively create a group, customize the settings, add members, and use the group to provide service to a company.

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