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Concord Academy

Google Mail Account Delegation - Robots

Mail Robots are what we call Google Apps accounts that are not tied to a specific user, but are accessible through our Account Delegation process. This allows one or more users to access the inbox of a "fictitious user.


Our organization's Acceptable Use Policy does not allow for an individual to log into another individual's account (without creating an audit trail). There are occasions, however, when having a single email address or user account provides real benefits to the organization - as in the email address, that is tied to the Request Tracker online Helpdesk application. Google Groups allows multiple users to check a single email address, and offers improved multi-user tasking abilities (see Collaborative inboxes). Still, there are times when (especially when integrating with a third-party product or process) we have an institutional need for a "fake" user account.


What we do is generate the fictitious account, with a random password, and use a third-party Google Apps administrative utility to delegate responsibility of the account. This is allowed for in the AUP, as there is an audit trail for access to the account, and it is not hidden that the account is being managed by another person.

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How does this look in practice?

Using a delegated account is simple, from an end-user perspective. In Google Mail, next to your username, there will be a drop-down arrow, listing all the accounts that you have access to.

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What are the challenges?

From an administrative standpoint, delegating a Robot account is very, very difficult to do, and literally takes hours of resources to set up, for each account. There is also a very high maintenance cost involved with regards to ongoing support. These are real accounts, that count against the school's user quota, which get reflected in licensing costs per third-party tool we add to our domain. The school is currently paying for user accounts in OneLogin, Trumba, ScheduleOnce, Schoology, and Hapara for Robot Accounts, even though the Robots can't actually use the tools.


There is also a challenge in that if 4 people are accessing the same Robot Account inbox, they lack visibility into how the other users are dealing with the emails and and other tasks. Google Mail Delegation is also limited to just Mail, so there is no access to Calendars, Drive, or any of the other Google Products through this process.


In order to setup up a Robot account, a real case needs to be made for the institution to take on that responsibility, and that other options aren't viable. 

How it works:

This video explains how Google Mail delegation works. The video itself is geared towards the Executive/Executive Assistant workflow, since this is how most businesses deploy Account Delegation, but the core concepts are still valid.

There is also a step-by-step tutorial in our Google Apps training concerning account delegation. Please note, like with all external training resources, it is aimed at a wider external audience, and might promise features that we have decided at CA not to deploy (like obscuring who sent the emails).