Understanding Google Workspace Directory

Written by Cassa Niedringhaus on October 12, 2020

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Every major productivity tool has a directory of users. Google Workspace™ — formerly known as G Suite™ — answers user management with an internal directory and administrator console. IT admins can use the directory and console to manage their users’ access, or expand their administrative capabilities with the Google Cloud Identity platform.

Although you can use Google’s native tools to manage user identities, we’ll explore the possible downsides to that approach and offer alternatives for more comprehensive identity and access management platforms. 

Understanding Google Workspace & Directory Options

The Google Workspace directory is designed to be the user management system for Google Workspace, as well as enable web application single sign-on through a variety of protocols, including SAML, OAuth, and OpenID Connect. Ultimately, Google’s goal is to enable you to use more Google services through one Google identity. Google also wants to make it easy to use a Google Workspace identity to log into other web applications.

Some small organizations opt to use the Google Workspace directory as their core identity provider, and this approach can make sense on a small scale because it’s offered natively when they use the productivity suite’s applications. However, Google Workspace’s admin capabilities do not include comprehensive management of user identities, resource access, and devices.

Challenges are introduced when organizations start to grow and require a user identity that extends to a wider array of IT resources — such as macOS®, Windows®, and Linux® devices, servers at AWS and Azure, on-premises storage systems and applications, WiFi, and VPNs.


Securely connect to any resource using Google Workspace and JumpCloud.

Challenges without a Comprehensive Identity Provider 

When organizations need to provide user access beyond Google Workspace and web applications, they often require deeper infrastructure.

Traditionally, IT organizations used Microsoft® Active Directory® as their on-prem identity provider. However, particularly when they implement Google Workspace as their productivity platform, organizations explore the option of eliminating on-prem infrastructure all together. Particularly amid this work-from-home era, admins prioritize strategies to reduce on-prem infrastructure and ease remote user access. Generally, remote resource access via a browser is easier than connecting to on-prem infrastructure.

If you’d rather not maintain on-prem infrastructure but want a more comprehensive tool to manage your user identities, as well as configure and secure their devices, you can explore cloud directory platforms.

Modern cloud directory platforms integrate tightly with Google Workspace and a wide variety of other IT resources, and they give you a central point of command and control to manage your environment as a whole.

By establishing a cloud directory platform as your authoritative source of identity, each of your users can log into their set of IT resources with one identity. They’ll use the same identity to access Google Workspace, including their email and documents, as well as their devices, web and legacy applications, networks, and server infrastructure. That way, you can centrally grant and revoke their access to virtually all IT resources, as well as apply security controls like multi-factor authentication at access points.

Using a Full-Suite Cloud Directory Platform

JumpCloud® Directory Platform is a full-suite cloud directory to control user identities, resource access, and macOS, Windows, and Linux devices.

With JumpCloud, you can extend identities to Google Workspace and LDAP-backed resources, RADIUS networks, web apps, and cloud infrastructure via industry-standard protocols. You can also extend those same identities to devices and control those devices with pre-built Configurations and custom commands — all from a single, web-based console. Read more about JumpCloud’s directory-level integrations with Google Workspace (plus Microsoft 365, Active Directory, and HR platforms).

Otherwise, you can test drive the platform in its entirety. Create a JumpCloud Free account and manage up to 10 users and 10 devices entirely free, accompanied by 10 days of in-app chat support with technical engineers to get the most of your account.

Cassa Niedringhaus

Cassa is a product marketing specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Magazine Writing from the University of Missouri. When she’s not at work, she likes to hike, ski and read.

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