How to manage intern accounts with G Suite

A G Suite administrator may use individual accounts, a Google Group, or an organizational unit to manage access and settings for people who are temporarily associated with an organization.

Intended to suggest a name-tag, with G Suite in upper red area, "Temporary account" in lower red area, and "intern@exampleorganization.com" in middle.

Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

People affiliated with an organization for a limited period of time, or in a limited role, present a potential challenge for IT administrators. A person who serves as an intern, a temporary worker, or a volunteer, may need access to email, files, and calendars. Access to collaborative tools helps these people more fully contribute to the organization's work.

Fortunately, G Suite administrators may use a few different approaches to manage accounts and access. These include a dedicated account (e.g., intern@exampleorganization.com), individual G Suite accounts for each person (e.g., person1name@exampleorganization.com, person2name@exampleorganization.com), a Google Group (e.g., interns@exampleorganization.com), or an organizational unit (e.g, Interns). An administrator might choose to use one or more of these approaches, based on the number of interns at any one time, the nature of their work, and/or a need to limit access to applications or data.

You'll need to sign in to the G Suite Admin console for your organization before you implement any of these steps detailed below.

How to add an account

In nearly every case, you'll want to create a new G Suite account for an intern. From the G Suite Admin console, select Users, then Add New User. Fill out the account details, then select the Add New User button to complete the process.

Most often, you'll want to add a new account for each intern or temporary worker (Figure A). 

Figure A

Screenshot of G Suite new user account screen, with fields for the email address, first and last name, photo, secondary email, phone number, among other options.

In most cases, a G Suite administrator will want to add a new G Suite account for each person. This means a new account for each intern, temporary worker, volunteer, etc.

That will give each person a G Suite account with their own name that they may use to sign in and collaborate. When the intern leaves the organization, the G Suite administrator will likely want to transfer ownership of files or export information to preserve data, as needed.

A few organizations I've worked with maintain a dedicated, generic account for use by an intern, such as intern@exampleorganization.com. This can work reasonably well when no more than a few people (e.g., intern1, intern2, etc.) serve in temporary roles. If you use this approach, you should review and clear out data— as well as reset passwords—with each personnel change.

How to create a Google Group

You can create a Google Group, then make each intern account a member of the group. This allows people to share resources with the interns@exampleorganization.com group, instead of sharing items with each intern individually. For example, you may add your Google Group as a member of a Shared Drive to give every member of the group access to the Shared Drive. Similarly, you may send an email to a Google Group, share a Google Calendar with a Google Group, or share access to a Doc, Sheet, Slide, or Google Keep note with a Google Group.

1. In a web browser, go to https://admin.google.com. Sign in with your G Suite administrator account.
2. Select Groups.
3. Select Create Group.
4. Fill in the group details and the email address of the person you want to serve as the group owner, then select Next (Figure B).

Figure B

Screenshot of the G Suite "Create group" screen, which shows an Intern Google Group about to be created.

Create a Google Group for a set of people to make sharing resources with their accounts easier. Typically, an employee or other full-time staff person might be designated as the account owner.

5. Select Team access type (instead of the default Public).
6. From the Who Can Join The Group drop-down menu, choose Only Invited Users (Figure C). This makes it so that only a group owner or group manager may modify group membership.

Figure C

Screenshot of the G Suite Google Group account permissions screen, with many items selected, including a drop-down the controls who can join the group.

Typically, you would want to limit Group membership for this type of group to Only Invited Users, as shown.

7. Select Create Group.
8. On the next screen, select Add Members To [the name of the group]. For example, if you named the group Interns, select Add Members To Interns.
9. Select the yellow button with a plus sign in it to add group members. Type in the email address for each person you want to add to the group. When finished, select Add To Group.

How to edit membership in a Google Group

When a new intern arrives or a current intern departs, you'll need to add or remove the corresponding G Suite account as a member of the Google Group (Figure D). 

1. Sign in to the G Suite Admin console
2. Select Groups.
3. Place your cursor over the row with the Group whose membership you wish to modify (or, on a touchscreen, tap on the row).
4. Select Manage Members.
5. To remove a member, select or place your cursor over the account you wish to modify. Select Remove, then select Remove Member to confirm the removal.
6. To add a member, select the yellow button with a plus sign in it, then type in the email address of the account to add, then choose Add To Group.

Figure D

Screenshot of the an Intern Google Group screen, with a box with a field for the email addresses of new group members to add.

As temporary members of your organization arrive or leave, adjust the Google Group membership to reflect the current group of people.

How to create and manage an organizational unit

G Suite also gives administrators the ability to create and manage organizational units, which allows an administrator either to turn off specific services for an organizational unit or to adjust system settings for an organizational unit (Figure E). For example, an administrator might disable access to Google Payments for people in an "Intern" organizational unit. See the G Suite help page for additional details.

1. Open the G Suite admin console at https://admin.google.com and sign in with a G Suite administrator account.
2. Select Organizational Units.
3. Select the yellow button with a plus in it to add a new organizational unit. 
4. Enter the name and description of the organizational unit you want to create (e.g., "Interns"), then select Create.
5. Once created, the Organizational unit will be available throughout the G Suite Admin console to allow you to apply different settings to different organizational units.

Figure E

Screenshot of a new Intern organizational unit, with a description, and designated parent organizational unit (i.e., the organization's domain).

Some administrators may choose to create an Organizational unit to which you move temporary workers, such as interns. This allows a G Suite administrator to choose different settings or disable features for different organizational units.

To change the accounts that are members of an organizational unit:

  1. Go to the admin.google.com dashboard, then select Users.
  2. From the list of all accounts, select the box to the left of each person you wish to move to an organizational group. A checkmark will display in each box.
  3. Select the More menu at the top of the list, then choose Change Organizational Unit.
  4. From the displayed list, choose the organizational unit you want these accounts to join, then select Continue.
  5. Review the displayed changes to ensure they are accurate, then select Change. The move from one organizational unit to another may take up to 24 hours to complete.

Your approach?

If you use G Suite, how do you create and manage accounts for interns or other people associated with your organization for a limited period of time? Do you find a Google Group sufficient to manage collaboration for interns, or do you prefer to manage these types of accounts as a separate organizational unit? Let me know how you handle intern accounts in G Suite—either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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