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Google Updates

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More people use Google products than any other online tools.  The G Suite (formerly called "Google Apps for your Domain or Google Apps for Work) is a collection of tools that facilitates productivity via cloud computing and collaboration. The software was originally launches with a calendar, hangouts for group collaboration, Drive (docs, spreadsheets, slides, sites and forms) for storage and, of course, gmail for emailing.

Most of these services are free. Payments for paid services are done directly through the user's online bank account. There is, as of yet, no bitcoin payments but it's anticipated that Google will start to accept bitcoin in the near future.

All of these elements are included in the G Suite along with additional features. Google estimates that 5 million organizations are using G Suite. G Suite serves 50 million business users including the United States army. An additional 700 million users take advantage of G-Suite tools for educational purposes while the number of people who use G-Suite for their personal needs pushes the total number of users into the billions.

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G Suite tools interface with the Android mobile operating system. Anyone with a Google account can open the tools and use them on a mobile device at their leisure. Co-workers can continue to collaborate, managers can review documents even when they're not in their work place, students can access and complete assignments and private users can keep up with their schedules and communication using a mobile.

All of these reasons and more explain why it's a good idea to keep up with the latest G Suite updates.

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Session Length

Google signs any G Suite user out of Google services after 2 weeks of an inactive account.  That works for many users but not for everyone. For instance, if a user accesses work data while at home or on a mobile device, a shorter session length may be a better fit. At other times a longer session length could be best so users don't need to continually enter their password to access their mail and documents.

To better serve these populations Google has decided to give G Suite Business, Enterprise, and Education admins the ability to set Google services web sessions (e.g. three hours, ten days, or infinite). The user can always log out on his own beforehand but otherwise he'll automatically be signed out at the end the pre-set time period. Then he can re-sign in at his convenience using his credentials.

Users can set their session length on any desktop browser as well as on most mobile browsers. The settings only apply to domains where a Google login is needed (where Google is the identity provider – they do not apply to domains that federate to a different Identity provider via SAML (support for such domains is expected to be added in the future). The native mobile apps like iOS and Gmail for Android aren't impacted by the sessions.

2-Step Verification

Google was one of the first programs to initiate the 2-step verification step for user sign-ins. When a user turns on the two-factor authentication she adds an extra layer of security to her account. The user signs in with a password which triggers a request for a second step of authorization. It might be the need to answer a security question, authorization via a second email or a code being set to a pre-linked mobile device.

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The extra security is appreciated by many users who are aware of the tens of thousands of email accounts that have been hacked to date. However, it does become tedious and time-consuming.

Google has changed their 2-step verification process so users have the choice to set their account to "remember this computer." When that box is checked Google won't prompt them for their second factor for identification, even if they sign out of their Google session and sign back in.

Google is giving all admins of Google identity provider-linked sites the option to put a checkbox on their site so that they can "remember their computer" for sessions on those sites. When a user selects “Allow the user to trust the device at 2-step verification” the checkbox displays by selecting the “Do not allow the user to trust the device at 2-step verification” the user undergos a 2SV challenge each time she signs in.

There's no impact on users who aren’t enrolled in 2SV.

Google Home

While not technically part of the G-Suite, Google Home is also looking forward to some 2018 innovations. Google Home came out in 2016 and was updated many times in 2017. Users can look forward to even newer features and elements in the coming months.

Google Home involves Google speakers that allow users to interact with services via voice commands that are delivered to Google Assistant, an intelligent personal assistant. Users can listen to music, receive news updates through voice and control playback of videos or photos using the speakers as well as activate home automation via integrated support systems.

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2017 updates included changes that facilitate free hands-free phone calling in Canada and the United States, visual responses on mobile devices, proactive updates ahead of scheduled events and activation of Bluetooth audio and Chromecast-enabled televisions; Users can add reminders and calendar appointments through voice commands.

The most recent updates came out in October 2017 when Google announced two additions to the Google Home product -- Google Home Mini and the Google Home Max.

Each has Google Assistant built in so they basically carry out the same tasks. However, their different designs and specifications determine how they are placed in a home and for what they are used.

In essence, Google Home Mini is a smaller version of the older Google Home – both function as smart home control devices for play, entertainment, references, etc. The Google Home Max adds enhanced speaker sound to the sound system, creating a full multi-room system.

So far 2018 has brought some interesting Google Home updates including a smaller APK, redesigned settings for default output devices, option to clear search history, voice match link in device settings and the removal of the shopping list form the nav drawer.

The next several months promise to be interesting for Google Home users.

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