The difference between Gmail, a Google Account, and G Suite accounts

Not all Gmail accounts are G Suite accounts. And not every Google account ends in @gmail.com. Here's what you need to know about the differences.

G Suite: What is it, and how can it benefit businesses? Still in the dark about Google's cloud-based office software suite? Here's a quick introduction to G Suite.

Do you know what kind of Google account you have? Do you even know if you have a G Suite account? There are many variations of accounts associated with Google, from a basic Gmail account to a paid and fully secured G Suite account.

If you are confused about the different types of Google accounts, you are not alone. As Google's product evolved, the company has changed the name of account types and services. As of March 2019, here are the main types of Google accounts you should know.

SEE: G Suite: Tips and tricks for business professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Gmail

A Gmail account is a free Google account with an email address that ends in @gmail.com. Gmail accounts arrived on the scene back in 2004, and they were such a hot commodity that people needed to receive an invitation in order to acquire an account. At the time, the 1 GB of storage space and the clever threading of conversations seemed so modern in contrast to Yahoo or Hotmail accounts. As the amount of free storage space grew, so did the applications people associated with a Gmail account. People who use Gmail can also access Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Calendar. The account allows access to other Google applications like Photos, Maps, and YouTube.

Many Gmail users like the applications and the anytime/anywhere access so much that they arrange to have their work email forwarded to Gmail; this is more common in smaller organizations where email security is more relaxed. The account settings of Gmail allow you to display a business email address as the "reply from" address. A Gmail account is managed only by the individual who owns the account, not an organization's IT administrator.

Google Account

A Google Account is a username and password that can be used to log in to consumer Google applications like Docs, Sites, Maps, and Photos, but a Google account doesn't necessarily end with @gmail.com. Think of it this way: All Gmail.com accounts are Google accounts, but not all Google accounts are Gmail.com accounts. For example, a user can sign up for a Google account with her @yahoo.com email address. Using this account she can create, edit, and collaborate on Google Docs without using Gmail.

A common myth is that G Suite users cannot share and edit Google Docs with users who do not have a G Suite account. Anyone can sign up for a free Google Account and use it to access and edit Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more.

G Suite accounts

G Suite accounts come in many editions: Basic, Business, Enterprise, as well as configurations for Nonprofit, Education, or Government organizations. Unlike a standard Google or Gmail account, a G Suite administrator manages all accounts associated with each of these editions. G Suite provides access to a core set of apps that include Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Google+, Hangouts Meet, Hangouts Chat, Sites, and Groups. Subscribers to G Suite receive access to email and phone support as well.

To learn more about the various editions that G Suite offers, read How to choose the right G Suite edition for your enterprise.

Two other types of organizational Google accounts

Google also allows organizations to create and manage two other types of organizational accounts: Cloud Identity and Managed Google Play.

Cloud Identity accounts can be created and managed by an administrator but lack access to G Suite's paid apps. A Cloud Identity account can help an administrator manage mobile devices, provide and sync directory services, and give people single sign-on services to other apps, among additional features.

Managed Google Play accounts let an organization's administrator deploy and manage Android apps. Managed Google Play Accounts lack access to paid G Suite apps.

Multiple accounts

Many Google users have multiple types of Google accounts. Google lets you sign in and switch between various Google, Gmail, and G Suite accounts in Chrome and in mobile apps. For more details on how to use and switch between multiple Google accounts, read 5 tips for managing multiple Google accounts and How to use Chrome with more than one Google account.

Note: Not all accounts allow access to every Google-provided service. For example, as of March 2019, you can't use an organizational G Suite account to sign up and share family access to Google's YouTube TV service.

Your experience?

How many different Google accounts do you have and use? Do you tend to use different accounts on different devices, or do you sign in and switch between Google accounts within apps? Let us know what your experience has been in the comments below or on Twitter ( @TechRepublic).

Editor's note on March 18, 2019: This article by Susan Cline was first published in June 2011. In March 2019, Andy Wolber updated and added content to the article.

Also see

g-acct-tkt-2048x1536.jpg
Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic