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Google Unveils Admin Controls for Chrome

Google announced today that it has rolled out enhanced controls for IT pros who install and maintain Google Chrome Web browsers within an organization.

The enhanced controls are available to those organizations purchasing the Google Apps for Business offering, according to the company's announcement. Those buying Google Apps for Education also are covered.

The new controls represent a further evolution of Google's move into the enterprise space. Google typically works in the consumer space first, later rolling out products for businesses. The company has long been targeted by critics at Microsoft for failing to provide the sort of IT controls relied on by organizations to ensure that mission-critical applications don't break with the latest software update.

The Google Apps for Business plan includes phone and e-mail support, "additional business apps," and "administrator controls." It costs $50 per user per year, according to Google's description here.

Google also provides free documentation for those deploying Chrome, which can be accessed at this page.

Under the Google Apps for Business plan, IT pros get support for group policies, a "specialized MSI installer" and they can even control the frequency of Chrome browser updates, according to a Google FAQ. Google periodically delivers updates to Chrome users, but those updates are typically delivered automatically, with no roll-back option if things don't work. IT pros can control those browser updates under the Google Apps for Business plan, but Google's policy is only to support the latest browser release. The company doesn't recommend rollbacks to earlier versions of the browser.

Google's FAQ points to other reasons for application incompatibilities that may occur after a Chrome update, stating that "most of these issues are not actually bugs in Google Chrome, as the applications were written for a specific web browser and do not handle other browsers properly."

Google recommends the use of its Google Chrome Frame add-on for Internet Explorer to maintain access to older Web applications that don't work with Chrome. This add-on switches from the Trident layout engine in Internet Explorer to the WebKit content engine used in Google Chrome. However, it also can default to "host rendering for any Web applications that still require IE," according to Google's announcement.

Installation of the Chrome browser happens at the system level. Consequently, IT pros can only deliver "the same instance of Google Chrome" to all of the users on a machine, according to Google's FAQ. Individual user-type installations aren't supported.

IT pros can control Google Chrome settings within an organization via Group Policy for Windows, managed client settings (MCX) for Macintosh and JavaScript object notation (JSON) files for Linux operating systems. The kinds of settings that Google allows IT pros to change include auto-update frequency, error-page notifications, browser safety and proxy server settings, among others. Google provides a list of its supported policies here.

IT pros who need settings not described in Google's supported polices have an alternative approach at hand. They can include unsupported preferences in a "master_preferences" file, which can be added next to the Google Chrome executable file in an installation, according to Google's FAQ.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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