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How to use iOS Sync for Google Apps

iOS Sync for Google Apps offers useful mobile management features, but it doesn't entirely replace Google Sync capabilities.

iOS Sync to Google Apps

iOS Sync for Google Apps offers administrators an additional way to manage iPhones and/or iPads connected to a Google Apps for Work account. iOS Sync works when a person logs in to a Google Apps for Work account in any Google iOS app: Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

The main benefit is simpler configuration. Users no longer have to manually enter either iOS Calendar or Contact sync settings or passwords for pre-configured Wi-Fi networks. Instead, an administrator can configure Calendars (CalDav), Contacts (CardDav), and Wi-Fi settings automatically with iOS Sync for Google Apps (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Admins can configure Calendar, Contacts and Wi-Fi settings automatically with iOS Sync for Google Apps.

Google Sync, a different method of syncing, also continues to allow iOS devices to sync Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. Google Sync uses Microsoft ActiveSync protocols and works only with Google Apps for Work accounts. Perhaps predictably, adding a Microsoft Exchange account to sync with Google can cause confusion.

Of course, Android Sync supports Android devices, syncing when a person logs in with a Google Apps account on an Android device. People may need to install the Google Apps Device Policy app, which allows administrators to enforce security policies and enable remote management features, such as the ability to lock, locate, ring, or erase the device.

All three Google Apps for Work mobile device management (MDM) options — iOS Sync for Google Apps, Google Sync, and Android Sync — may be enabled or disabled independently. Policies for each of the options may also be enforced (or not) independently. An administrator could choose to disable Google Sync while enabling Android Sync and iOS Sync.

However, iOS Sync does NOT support multiple accounts in iOS apps (as of September 2014). A person could not, for example, switch between two different Google Apps for Work accounts in Google Docs on an iPhone. iOS Sync would prevent the person from adding a second account. So, if people in your company need to use multiple Google Accounts on iOS devices, keep Google Sync enabled.

Set up iOS Sync for Google Apps

iOS Sync requires a Google Apps administrator to enable iOS Sync. To do this, your Google Apps account and Apple's servers need to exchange certificate files. You'll obtain a certificate request file from Google, then upload the file to Apple. Apple creates a certificate file, which you'll download and then upload to Google. Here's the process in detail.

  1. Login to the Google Apps admin panel at http://admin.google.com
  2. Choose Device management from the Admin console — if it isn't visible, select the More controls option near the bottom of the screen
  3. Select Set Up Apple Push Certificate (Figure B)
    Figure B
    Figure B
  4. Download the Certificate Signing Request file from Google to your system (Figure C)
    Figure C
    Figure C
  5. Follow the link to Apple's Push Certificate portal, and login with an Apple ID (Figure D) — if you don't yet have an Apple ID associated with a work account, you may need to create one (don't use a personal Apple ID unless you're setting this up for your personal Google Apps for Work domain)
    Figure D
    Figure D
  6. On the Create a New Push Certificate page, add a note to identify the domain for which you're creating the certificate — click Choose File, select the Certificate Signing Request file saved earlier, and then upload (Figure E)
    Figure E
    Figure E
  7. The Apple Push Certificates Portal should now list a certificate for Mobile Device Management for Google, set to expire in a year — select Download to save the signed certificate to your system (Figure F)
    Figure F
    Figure F
  8. Return to the Device management area of your Google Apps Admin console, and upload the signed file from Apple (Figure G) — you should see a message that says Your certificate is successfully set up
    Figure G
    Figure G

At this point, you can configure Device management settings in the Google Apps admin console.

Most administrators will appreciate the additional configuration and security features of iOS Sync for Google Apps. However, the lack of multiple account support in iOS Sync will likely ensure that Google Sync remains in wide use.

What MDM setup does your organization use with Google Apps? Tell us about it in the discussion thread below.

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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