What is Google Apps Directory and Limitations?

Written by Rajat Bhargava on February 9, 2016

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What is Google Apps Directory: Revealing Its Directory Service Limitations

Google Apps Directory is, let’s be honest, misunderstood. With Google Apps making a strong foray into the corporate email and productivity space, many IT organizations assume that Google Apps Directory is their ticket to complete directory services. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Nor is identity management and directory services that simple. Google Apps Directory was created first and foremost as the core identity store for Google Apps services, which includes email, productivity applications, Drive, Hangouts, and much more. Only recently has Google expanded their concept of what a directory is. Nowadays, they are making strong inroads in certain areas of user management, primarily single sign-on to other web applications.

Google Apps: The Leading Cloud-Based Business Solution

Google Apps has become a solution of choice for organizations looking to shift away from Microsoft Exchange’s on-premises infrastructure. Initially, that alone was the reason organizations chose Google Apps. Yet, as Google added their productivity suite of docs, spreadsheets, and presentations, the decision to use Google Apps for business became more compelling. Nowadays, organizations can opt to throw away Exchange, as well as limit their licenses to the expensive Microsoft Office. In fact, many new and young companies start on Google Apps, because of its many benefits: no on-premises equipment required, a monthly pay-as-you-use billing model, and dramatically lower costs that enable business to stay lean. But new and young companies aren’t the only organizations now using Google Apps for business. Larger organizations also see the benefits of Google Apps and have started to move to it.

Of course, as organizations make the move to Google Apps, they struggle with their decision around directory services. As IT implements Google Apps, they most often realize that Google Apps Directory is meant more as a contact database and user store of Google Apps, not a replacement for Microsoft Active Directory (AD). So, many companies either continue using Active Directory, or they purchase AD. They decide to live with one foot in the cloud and one on-premises. On the other hand, some organizations decide to do nothing and don’t implement a directory. Because in lieu of the preferred cloud-based directory, they’d rather have none at all versus spending the money and time to implement Active Directory.

Directory-as-a-Service: Google Apps’ Best Business Partner

More recently, Google has made strides to develop a more comprehensive directory service. But their initial foray has been with web-based applications, since Google is more focused on being a cloud-based business solution. Through protocols like OAuth and SAML, Google Apps Directory can now be leveraged as the login credentials to several other cloud applications. However, Google Apps Directory does not provide true directory services support with capabilities to manage users on all devices (Mac, Linux, Microsoft), for example. Nor do they enable user management to Infrastructure-as-a-Service, provide access control with legacy applications, or offer device management. For Google Apps Directory to function as a true core directory, it needs to be complemented by a Directory-as-a-Service (DaaS) platform.

By integrating Google Apps Directory with JumpCloud’s DaaS platform, one set of credentials per user can be utilized throughout a company’s entire IT infrastructure, including cloud-based and on-premise. To learn more about how to convert Google Apps Directory to a true directory service that surpasses Active Directory capabilities, drop us a note. We’d be happy to discuss it with you.

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