The Difference Between Google Accounts and Google Apps

Question: What's the Difference Between Google Accounts and Google Apps?

I'm confused by all this terminology. What's the difference between a Google Account and Google Apps?

Answer: It is confusing.

Google Account

Your Google Account is used to log in to Google services. It is an email address and password combination, and it's generally what you'd type in any time Google asks you to log in. It can be a Gmail address, although it doesn't have to be.

You can associate a new Gmail address with an existing Google Account, but you can't merge two existing Google Accounts together.

It is generally wise to go ahead and associate a Gmail account with your Google Account. Add any other email accounts you use (that haven't been associated with another Google Account), so that anyone sending you an email invitation to share a document will send the invite to the same Google Account. Make sure you are logged in to your existing Google Account before you create a Gmail account, or you'll accidentally make another Google Account!

As of this writing, you're out of luck if you've already accidentally made several Google Accounts. Perhaps Google will come up with some sort of merging tool in the future.

Google Apps

Google refers to their Web applications as "apps," so part of the confusion here is Google's fault. Google apps include everything from Gmail to YouTube and all the mobile versions.

 

However, Google Apps ("Apps" with a capital "a") can also be used to refer to a specific suite of hosted services that businesses, schools, and other organizations can administer using Google's servers and their own domain. Generally, Google distinguished this by calling them Google Apps for Work or Google Apps for Education. (They were originally called "Google Apps for Your Domain") Google renamed Google Apps for Work to G Suite in 2016, which may eliminate some of the confusion.

 

You log in to G Suite (Google Apps for Work) using your work or organization email address. This account is not associated with your regular Google Account. It is a separate Google Account, which may even be separately branded with the company or school logo and may have some restrictions in available services (for example, you may or may not be able to use Google Hangouts). This means your business (or school) can control which services you can use while using that account. 

It is possible to be simultaneously logged in (using separate emails) to both a Google Account and a G Suite account. Look on the upper right-hand corner of your Google service to see which email address is associated with the service you are using.