Generic Backupify
May 16, 2014
G Suite

Build It: Create a Help Desk with Google Apps Tools

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Andy Wolber. You can find more of Andy’s work in TechRepublic where he writes for the Google in the Enterprise newsletter. 

People ask all sorts of tech questions, it can become overwhelming:

  • “Does Cloud Print mean I can print to the office printer from home?”

  • “Can I recover a file I accidentally deleted from Google Drive?”

A Google search resolves many general questions, but not questions specific to your setup:

  • “What’s the guest WiFi password?”

  • “I need to be able to create a new Google Group. Who can change my account permissions to make that possible?”

Organizations rely on help desk systems—and staff—to resolve these questions in many organizations, but not every organization maintains a formal help desk. Without one, people tend to direct questions to any I.T. staff member, or to tech savvy co-workers.

If you serve in this “informal help desk” role, you know that resolving tech questions can be time consuming. Google tools can help lighten your “informal help desk” workload.

Search and Help

For general questions, encourage people to search. Don’t answer the question immediately. Instead, ask the person to open up Chrome, have them type their question in the address bar, press “enter”, then view the results. (Note: to build their search skills, you should not touch the keyboard.)

If the question is Google-specific, point out where to find the “Help” menu in the various Google Apps. Help either displays as a main menu item, or is available from the “sprocket” menu. Google provides training documents and videos at, as well.

Seek Specifics at a Google Site

Create a private Google Site to provide documentation specific to your organization. For example, a Google Site page that provides step-by-step printer or network setup notes. Or, a Google Site page that lists specific make/model of equipment or software recommended for purchase. You need to keep the site information current and accurate.

Keep your site private, yet easy to access for colleagues. Change the Google Site sharing settings so that only “people at (yourorganization’ can find and access”. Create a custom third-level domain to make it easier for your colleagues to remember, such as help.(yourorganization).com. To set this up, a Google Apps administrator needs to configure web address mapping for your Google Site.

Don’t set up a Google Site until you’ve outgrown the amount of information that can be easily shared in a single document. For a small organization, a shared Google Doc (or Sheet) might be all you need. Create a “Tech Support” document with Google Docs, share the document (e.g., “people at can find and access”), then make sure everyone can find the document in Google Drive.

Send Questions to a Google Group

Create a Google Group to allow many people to see and respond to an issue.

Google offers four different Group types: email list, web forum, Q&A forum, or collaborative inbox. The number of people who provide support influences the Group type you select. Have one tech person? Use a Q&A forum, so the tech person can select “mark as best answer” for a helpful response. Have a tech team? Consider a collaborative inbox, so you can assign an issue to a specific team member.

Over time, a keyword search of the Group may reveal similar, previously identified issues. That sort of search won’t be possible if issues are hidden in an individual’s inbox.

Share a Screen

Sometimes, words fail to describe—or resolve—a problem. Start a Hangout with the person that needs help, then have them share their screen. To troubleshoot further, have the person start the Remote Desktop app from the Hangout, which allows you to control the system remotely. (To access your own systems remotely, install and use the Chrome Remote Desktop app.)

You can record your own screen using Hangouts on Air. This can be handy to show a multi-step process. Hangouts on Air broadcasts your Hangout publicly to your YouTube channel. Don’t display confidential information within Hangouts on Air, since the session is public for the duration of the broadcast. However, when you’re done, you can edit the video and make it private.

Which Google tools do you use?

If you help people with Google Apps, the above Google tools should be in your help desk toolkit. With these tools you can:

  • Teach people to use Google search and Google Apps help effectively,

  • Provide documentation with a private Google Site,

  • Share the workload of answering questions with a Google Group, and

  • Troubleshoot remotely with Hangouts.

How do you use Google tools to provide Google Apps help?


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