Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why should schools use GAFE instead of personal Google accounts?

Google provides free Google accounts to anyone. You can easily sign up for an account and get an email address like user@gmail.com, and get access to most all of Google’s tools such as Drive, Calendar, Sites, and more.

However, Google also provides schools with a different kind of account. Schools can get Google Apps for Education accounts, which we will call GAFE for short from here on out. Many schools around the world have rolled out GAFE to over 40 million students, but there are still many schools that may be considering this option.

Schools may wonder if users can get regular Google accounts, why should schools get GAFE accounts instead? Wouldn’t it be fine for staff and students to just use personal Gmail accounts?

It turns out that although personal Google accounts and GAFE accounts are similar, Google Apps for Education actually provides schools with a large number of additional features and tools that are not found in personal accounts, and are tailor made for the needs of a school.

See below to learn about many differences and benefits for using Google Apps for Education accounts in a school setting. You can click through the slideshow, read the blog post, or both. If you can think of other special features of GAFE versus personal accounts, feel free to add them to the comments below.


GAFE allows your tech administrators to:
  • Create all of your user accounts so your users do not have to.
  • Manage your user’s passwords.
  • Sync users with other systems such as Microsoft Active Directory to automatically create new users and keep all accounts up to date.
GAFE allows schools to give accounts to users under the age of 13
  • Normally many Google services, such as Gmail, require a user be 13 years or older
  • GAFE removes age restrictions for schools (except for Google+) so students under the age of 13 can have school-provided Gmail accounts and have access to other age-restricted services.
GAFE allows admins to:
  • Turn on and off Google tools for different groups of users (staff vs students, different age groups, etc.) so you can decide which users have access to which programs.
  • Control settings within Google programs for different users to granularly manage what users can do within the programs.
GAFE allows admins to run reports on many helpful topics including:
  • User logins
  • Sharing and editing of files
  • Sharing of calendars
  • Account changes


GAFE accounts use your school’s domain instead of gmail.com for email addresses that reflect your school identity.
  • For example user@myschool.org
Gmail through GAFE does not display ads or perform ad scanning.

GAFE allows admins to:
  • Control who students can send email to and receive email from
  • Limit email to just inside your domain or just to certain domains
  • Add bad word filters
  • And much more. For details see: Making Gmail Safe for Schools
GAFE has unlimited storage for Gmail messages as opposed to the standard 15GB for a personal Gmail account. So, with GAFE you can have as many email messages as you want.

GAFE includes Google Vault at no cost:
  • Vault archives all email for your domain as long as you want, even if users delete the messages from their inboxes.
  • It provides an easy search of archived email
  • It provides email for public records requests.


GAFE manages contacts for your entire school so no one needs to add their own contacts for students or staff.

With Contacts users get autocomplete of email address when sending email or sharing files to make it easy to find people in the school even if you do not know their email address.

Google Calendar

GAFE calendars can be shared just within your school, as well as private or public.

They provide an easy option to add co-workers shared calendars to your calendar list so you can their schedules.

GAFE provides:
  • Appointment slots tool for conferences and office hours.
  • Shared resources calendars for reserving labs and other equipment.

Google Groups

Admins, and optionally users, can easily set up school-wide distribution groups for sending email and sharing files.
ex) All high school staff
ex) All grade 8 students
ex) All math teachers

Google Drive and Docs

  • GAFE has unlimited storage for files in Drive as opposed to the standard 15GB for a personal Google account. So, with GAFE you can have as many files as you want, including Google files and non-Google files, up to 2TB per file.
  • Google Drive files can be shared with just users within your school, or can be made private or public.
  • Deleted Drive files can be restored by admins up to 30 days after deletion.
  • Add-ons for Docs, Sheets, and Forms can be pushed out to various groups of users (staff, students, different grades, etc.) so you can make sure your users have the tools installed that they need.

Google Forms

In GAFE, Google Forms has the option to:
  • Require users be logged into their account to access a Form
  • Collect the user’s email addresses when they complete a Form, which can be useful for online assessments.

Google Sites

Google Sites can be shared with just users within your school, or can be made private or public.


Schools with Chromebooks can centrally manage all of the devices.
  • Control wi-fi connections
  • Who can log into devices
  • Turn on and off device features
  • Manage kiosk mode

Chrome Browser

Schools can manage the browser experience for all users.
  • You can push out Chrome Web Apps and Extensions to various groups of users, so the right users have the right tools for their grade level
  • You can also control who can install apps and extensions if you want to limit what tools student can install on their own.

Google Hangouts

More Hangout participants with GAFE:

  • With a personal Gmail account you can only have 10 people in a Hangout at once.
  • With a GAFE account you can have up to 25 people in a Hangout at one time.

Google Classroom

GAFE includes Google Classroom which provides many powerful instructional tools:
  • Create a private online classroom site.
  • Manage a discussion stream for class questions, sharing, and forums.
  • Assign, collect, and grade student work.
  • Automatic sharing and organizing of all files, so students and teachers can focus on class content and not trying to find and manage hundreds of files.
  • For an introduction to Classroom see my Google Classroom Overview training video

Rolling out GAFE

If you are interested in making the move to Google Apps for Education, see my "Google Apps Deployment and Rollout Checklist" - Google Document link


  1. This was helpful and very concise. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for your many helpful videos on Drive,Docs, Forms etc. I have enjoyed learning how to implement these Google products and add-ons for use with my students that do not have access to my Classroom account due to off-campus Gmail acconts.

  3. After reading about the feature of GAFE and personal gmail i think schools should use Google's apps for education. GAFE system indicate the identity of schools. Otherwise personal gmail accounts focus the extension of gmail. Moreover many feature available on GAFE system those will not in personal gmail accounts.

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