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Google’s Education Suite Is Still Free, But New Add-Ons For Administrators Come With a Fee

By Jenny Abamu     Jan 23, 2018

To date, educators have enjoyed most of Google’s G Suite for Education applications—which include Site, Mail and Classroom—for free. Those tools will continue to be available gratis, but Google is seeking to generate more revenue from its education offerings. That’s why the company’s announcing new add-on tools for school administrators that come at a price.

Google is releasing G Suite Enterprise for Education. The new set of IT tools are based on its existing enterprise software, G Suite for Business, but have been tweaked to serve large colleges, universities and school districts.

“Our commitment to the G Suite for Education product hasn’t changed. These other options that we’re adding as an add-on are additional for very complex and unique needs,” says Jonathan Rochelle, director of product management at Google for Education, in an interview with EdSurge. "This is really to help improve the whole package for the administrator.”

Among some of the features available in the new education enterprise suite are enhanced mobile device management capabilities that enable users to access G Suite accounts from personal or network phones. They can also change settings on network devices, and curate apps.

Other new tools include a security center that allows administrators to see data analytics around security features such as authentication, encryption and spam filters so that they can respond to issues that Google detects. Administrators are also able to dial-in to video meetings, record and upload them to Google Drive—a new feature for business and education users.

“Big districts and universities have big administrative departments, and those administrative departments have needs that are really similar to businesses,” explains Zach Yeskel, a product manager at Google for Education. “So while G Suite for Education historically serves the teaching and learning aspects of schools, we really wanted to make sure that all the [needs of] users in schools were met,” including the IT administrative staff.

The licenses for G Suite Enterprise for Education will be $4 per user, per month. For institutions purchasing licenses for all faculty and staff, Google is offering a limited time promotion: $2 per user, per month for faculty and staff, and free licenses for eligible students.

When asked why Google chose to charge for these updates as opposed to other school software tools, Rochelle distinguished between tools saying that the new add-ons were “enterprise software bundled for educational institutions,” versus education software such as Google Classroom.

It’s not the first time Google has charged K-12 education users for IT services. Rochelle noted that schools pay the company a fee for software that helps them manage their students’ Chromebooks.

“We want to make sure we offer the G Suite for Education product in a sustainable way,” says Rochelle. “Before a lot of these things weren’t available because they weren’t part of the free product, and they couldn’t be. But now we’re making them available in response to people saying, ’We want the full value of that feature.’”

Shoring up Security

In addition to providing administrators with new paid offerings, Google also announced new security features to G Suite for Education that won’t cost extra. These features include data-loss prevention (DLP) for Drive and Gmail, security key management and Gmail internet extensions.

Google claims these features offer administrators more control and visibility in protecting their users’ data, thanks to an additional layer of security for user accounts that requires a physical key, and an option to digitally sign and encrypt emails.

When asked if these features were added in response to any security complaints, Rochelle said no.

“We are expected to be leading in security and generally in cloud-based services,” says Rochelle. “These are the kinds of things that we’re adding that keep us on the leading edge.”

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