How to use Google Groups for Businesses that are using Google Apps

Business owners know that Google apps are pretty amazing. Valeo, is one of the one million businesses that have taken the plunge – they just bought 30,000 seats of Google Apps. But not all of the “personal” google applications (like Groups, News, Reader, Photos, Shopping, Maps, Books) have been ported over into the Google Apps.

So what do you do if you’re a business running on Google Apps who wants to have internal distribution lists? Well, you could bolt something on. Or you can use Google Groups. But if you use Google groups and your people are already using Google personal for their non-work life, things can get pretty crazy.

First, we have to make sure that you’re clear on the basics:

  • Google’s personal apps and Google’s business apps are not the same, so Gmail or Google Apps Gmail are different applications with different log ins.
  • Google Groups does not exist in the Business apps, it is personal.
  • Businesses need to have discussion groups.
  • The work around is to have your people create a NEW, PERSONAL account using their WORK email address. (Yes, brain hurting).
  • So they’ll have to have THREE accounts (2 personal and 1 corporate):
    • (which you give them from the Google Apps admin control panel);
    • (a PERSONAL Google account that they have to set up separately on their own!) What they’ll need to do is log out of everything and sign back in as a new personal Gmail user using their corporate email address (
    • (their original personal account that they set up on their own).
  • Why is this an issue? You can have tabs open in Firefox or Internet Explorer for both the Google personal apps as well as for the Google business apps. So your people can have their personal and their work data open in front of them at the same time. But if they try to have their personal, their work, AND the groups data (which is also personal), things break.
  • Here are the answers:
    • Option 1: only ever log into work or personal or groups by itself (not very productive);
    • Option 2: 2 browser approach
      • Run the personal and work applications in multiple tabs in browser #1 (or a site specific browser)
      • Run the Groups application with the new userid ID in browser #2 (or a dedicated site specific browser)
    • Option 3: 3 Site specific browsers
      • Create a site specific browser for each of these and keep them completely siloed:
        • Personal Google apps
        • Personal/Corporate Groups
        • Corporate Apps only

Will any of this ever be resolved and will Groups ever be a full Google Apps for Business application? I don’t know. But until that time comes, this will let you and your company be productive. Enjoy!


(12) Comments

  1. Avatar


    Very interesting blog. I happened upon it in an attempt to solve the very problem you outline in this post. The only sticking point now is creating a personal gmail account without the “” ending. Perhaps I’m being dense (wouldn’t be the first time), but I just don’t see how to get around this. Any advice you may have would be greatly appreciated.

    On a completely separate note, we very much like your blog. My partners and I live, work and play in Taiwan. We share many of the same interests you have. From permaculture initiatives, to starting interesting social enterprises, to working with indigenous peoples, to introducing new technology in Asia…we are into many things. We try as best we can to live our values…it’s the only way really.

    Anyway, we would very much like to start a conversation with you. Hear what you are up to, etc. and see if you could offer insights into some of our projects out here in Asia. If you are interested, please ping me back at the email address above.

    Take care,


  2. Avatar


    We sorted the personal google account issue ourselves. We were trying to set up a personal gmail account when we should have been setting up a personal _google_ account.

    Again, thanks for the post…it was very helpful. Please ping us back about the remainder of my comment above.


  3. Avatar

    “ (a PERSONAL Google account that they have to set up separately on their own!) What they’ll need to do is log out of everything and sign back in as a new personal Gmail user using their corporate email address (”

    I’m not sure how my users would go about creating their own as a personal account. Wouldn’t everyone just make their own if google allowed it?

    E-mail me back if you have a minute to discuss.

  4. Avatar

    Oh man, thanks for this post! I am setting up Google Apps for a client who specifically wants to use Groups. Since Groups is so well known as a Google app I assumed it was part of the business apps. When I saw that they were not on the console but something like Mailing list groups (totally different) were, I was getting confused. Then when I noticed that “groups” was on the top 5 searches on the apps help page I knew I was in trouble. The worlds are separate so I figured there would be some gotchas to using Groups as part of the Bus. Apps. Hunch confirmed and you also provided the work-around solution. I and my client both say THANKS.

    • Troy

      Hi Jim, I’m glad that you found the post and also found it useful. Yes, it’s a bit tricky. I have heard murmurs of groups being something that may eventually show up in Google Apps but who knows? In the meantime, this work-around seems to work for us. It’s clunky but liveable. Good luck with your Google apps roll-out. I spent yesterday morning at Google and I can’t share anything specific but I know that the Google Apps and Google Enterprise teams are definitely pushing hard and building some new and interesting stuff. They’re definitely a team to watch.

  5. Pingback: How to use Google Groups for Businesses that are using Google Apps « Approximating Reality

  6. Pingback: Google Apps and Account Chaos Fixed (More or Less) | Zoli’s Blog

  7. Avatar

    I think this workaround makes a confusing situation even more confusing. Thankfully it’s unnecessary, even for businesses that don’t want to switch to the new Google Apps version of Groups.

    A better approach is to have employees add their email address from the business’s Google Apps Account as a secondary email address on their personal Google Account at

    Now, when they log in to Google Groups using their personal Google Account they can choose whether they want to subscribe to a group using their personal address or their work address. Thus, they don’t need a third account and can have their work and personal groups open at the same time.

    I discovered this feature by accident, but it’s documented at

    • Troy

      Hi Brian, indeed it was a mess. Google has fixed it now by adding Groups functionality directly into Google Apps fortunately!

Comments are closed.