Best Practices for Google Organizational Unit (OU) Structures

We’re often asked for best practices on how to set up and manage user accounts in the Google Admin Console. I sought the expertise of Gaggle’s Jason Livezey, System Support Manager, and asked:

What is the most important best practice for those setting up and managing accounts in Google?

The answer was simple: Don’t overcomplicate your Organizational Unit (OU) structure.

Often, industrious members of technology departments will over-organize their OUs, creating layers of structure simply for the sake of detailed organization. Organizational Units should never be set up for the sake of organization, but rather only for the sake of a specific purpose. For instance, if you’re going to apply different apps, services or compliance rules to different users, then OUs have a purpose and make sense. If you cannot foresee such circumstances, there’s no point in creating them.

If you don’t need an OU for a particular foreseeable purpose, don’t create it. For example, it makes sense to put staff and students on separate OUs, because it is likely that you will either (1) provide services for one group or the other and (2) you might want to apply email restriction rules for students without restricting staff email.

Graduated students provide another example. Often, K-12 schools and districts will offer graduated students with continued access to district-provided accounts for a determinate period of time after commencement. If you foresee the need to exclude this group from paid services, or if there’s a need to apply unique compliance rules to this group, then it makes sense to create a separate OU for them.

On the contrary, it’s less likely that it will make sense to create a separate OU for every single grade level unless you have plans to treat every grade differently.

If you over-organize your OUs when you start managing accounts in Google, you will create unnecessary work for yourself in the long run. When you want to apply rules or settings down the road, you’ll need to apply the same operation to multiple groups. Moreover, OUs will always be easier to add than they are to remove, so consider adding OUs only when a specific purpose arises, not simply for the sake of organization.

Best Practices for Google Organizational Unit (OU) Structures Click To Tweet