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The difference between Gmail, a Google Account and Google Workspace accounts

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Not all Gmail accounts are Google Workspace accounts. And not every Google account ends in @gmail.com. Here’s what you need to know about the differences.

Image: TechRepublic.

Do you know what kind of Google account you have? Do you even know if you have a Google Workspace account? There are many variations of accounts associated with Google, from a basic Gmail account to a paid and fully secured Google Workspace account.

If you are confused about the different types of Google accounts, you are not alone. As Google’s product evolved, the company has changed the name of account types and services. As of May 2022, here are the main types of Google accounts you should know.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A side-by-side analysis w/checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

What is a Gmail account?

A Gmail account is a free Google account with an email address that ends in @gmail.com. Gmail accounts arrived on the scene back in 2004, and they were such a hot commodity that people needed to receive an invitation in order to acquire an account. At the time, the 1 GB of storage space and the clever threading of conversations seemed so modern in contrast to Yahoo or Hotmail accounts.

As the amount of free storage space grew, so did the applications people associated with a Gmail account. People who use Gmail can also access Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Calendar. The account allows access to other Google applications like Photos, Maps and YouTube.

Many Gmail users like the applications and the anytime/anywhere access so much that they arrange to have their work email forwarded to Gmail; this is more common in smaller organizations where email security is more relaxed. The account settings of Gmail allow you to display a business email address as the “reply from” address. A Gmail account is managed only by the individual who owns the account, not an organization’s IT administrator.

What is a Google Account?

A Google Account is a username and password that can be used to log in to consumer Google applications like Docs, Sites, Maps and Photos, but a Google account doesn’t necessarily end with @gmail.com. Think of it this way: All Gmail.com accounts are Google accounts, but not all Google accounts are Gmail.com accounts. For example, a user can sign up for a Google account with her @yahoo.com email address. Using this account she can create, edit and collaborate on Google Docs without using Gmail.

A common myth is that Google Workspace users cannot share and edit Google Docs with users who do not have a Google Workspace account. Anyone can sign up for a free Google Account and use it to access and edit Docs, Sheets, Slides and more.

What are Google Workspace accounts?

Google Workspace accounts come in many editions: Basic, Business, Enterprise and configurations for Nonprofit, Education or Government organizations. Google Workspace accounts previously were known as G Suite accounts. In earlier days, these were referred to as Google Apps or Google Apps for your Domain. All of these product names refer to successively offered Google services that provided administrator-managed accounts.

Unlike a standard Google or Gmail account, a Google Workspace administrator manages all accounts associated with each of these editions. Google Workspace provides access to a core set of apps that include Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Google+, Hangouts Meet, Hangouts Chat, Sites and Groups. Subscribers to Google Workspace receive access to email and phone support as well.

What are Managed Google Play and Cloud Identity accounts?

Google also allows organizations to create and manage two other types of organizational accounts: Cloud Identity and Managed Google Play.

Cloud Identity accounts can be created and managed by an administrator but lack access to Google Workspace’s paid apps. A Cloud Identity account can help an administrator manage mobile devices, provide and sync directory services, and give people single sign-on services to other apps, among additional features.

Managed Google Play accounts let an organization’s administrator deploy and manage Android apps. Managed Google Play Accounts lack access to paid Google Workspace apps.

How do I switch between multiple Google accounts?

Many Google users have multiple types of Google accounts. Google lets you sign in and switch between various Google, Gmail and Google Workspace accounts in Chrome and in mobile apps. For more details on how to use and switch between multiple Google accounts, read 5 tips for managing multiple Google accounts and How to use Chrome with more than one Google account.

Note: Not all accounts allow access to every Google-provided service. For example, as of May 2022, you can’t use an organizational Google Workspace account to sign up and share family access to Google’s YouTube TV service.

What is your experience of using Google accounts?

How many different Google accounts do you have and use? Do you tend to use different accounts on different devices, or do you sign in and switch between Google accounts within apps? Let us know what your experience has been (@TechRepublic).

Editor’s note: Author Andy Wolber provided updates for this article.



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