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How licensing works

A user needs a license to use a Google service. For example, a user must have a license for G Suite before they can use Gmail, Google Drive, or any other G Suite tool.

You can assign licenses to individual users, to everyone in an organization, or to everyone in your account.

A user can have a license for more than one service. For a given service, each user must have their own license—for example, multiple users can’t share a single G Suite license, even if they don’t use all of the tools.

When to assign licenses

If you only purchased one Google service, each of your users gets assigned a license for that service by default, so you don’t need to assign licenses.

You need to assign licenses if one of the following scenarios is true:

  • You purchased more than one Google service, such as G Suite and Google Drive storage. However, some services include multiple additional services, so you only need one license per user for the parent service. A license for G Suite, for example, gives a user access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, and all the other services included with G Suite.
  • You purchased multiple versions of the same service, such as multiple versions of Drive storage with different storage capacities.

If you’re signed up for G Suite on the Annual Plan, you can only assign as many licenses as you purchased. If you try to assign more licenses than you purchased, you’ll receive an error message and the licenses won’t be assigned. In that case, you need to delete users or get more licenses.

About user caps

Each Google service has a cap on the number of users you can create when you sign up for that service. The number is different for each service. If you purchase more than one Google service, the service with the highest cap number is used as your cap for the total number of users you can create. The user cap can vary over time.

If you reach your user cap, you can’t create any more users or assign licenses to more users. To continue to assign licenses, you need to delete users or contact Support for the relevant Google service to request additional users.

Note: If you delete a user, it can take up to 24 hours before that user’s license is freed up to be assigned to a different user.

Site-based and user-based licenses

For some Google services, such as Android for Work, licenses are site-based. This means that when you sign up for the service, every user in your organization automatically get a license, even if they already have a license for a different service. You don’t need to assign site-based licenses.

For other Google services, such as G Suite, licensing is user-based. For these services, a user needs to be assigned a license to use the service. See the next section for information about automatic and manual license assignment.

About license assignment

Automatic license assignment

Note: If you use Google Cloud Directory Sync, you must pick one method for automatic licensing assignment—either the auto-licensing option in the Google Admin console described here or Google Cloud Directory Sync License Sync.

If licenses aren’t assigned by default and you know that everyone in your organization needs a certain service, you can turn on automatic license assignment. Turning on automatic licensing assigns a license to every user in your account who doesn’t currently have a license for the selected service. It also assigns a license for the service to each new user you add to your account later. If you have multiple versions of a service, after you select automatic license assignment for one service, you can manually assign licenses for other versions to new users.

If automatic licensing is turned on for your top-level organization, the maximum number of users that you can create is equal to the smallest number of licenses among the given service. Say you purchased 20 G Suite licenses and 5 Google Drive storage licenses. If automatic license assignment is on at at the top organization level, then the maximum number of users you can create is 5 (the smallest number of licenses among the service). Note that for G Suite on the Annual Plan, if you exhaust the number of licenses available for a service, some users will not get the license.

If you turn on automatic license assignment for your entire organization, you can turn it off for specific organizations within the overall organization. Similarly, if you have automatic licensing turned off for the entire organization, you can turn it on for lower-level organizations. For G Suite on the Annual Plan, if the number of users exceeds the number of purchased licenses, some users will not get the license.

Manual license assignment

If you have multiple versions of a service or you turn off automatic licensing, you can create new users, but you have to manually assign licenses to each of them or they won’t have access to any services. You can assign licenses to individual users, an uploaded list of users, or an entire organization. For details, see Assign, unassign, and reassign licenses.

If you manually assign licenses to an organization, only users in that specific organization get a license. Users in suborganizations aren’t assigned a license.

Assign licenses

Learn how to assign licenses.

Note: If you’re a Postini (Google Message Discovery) customer who transitioned to Google Vault, you can assign Vault Former Employee licenses instead.

Reduce licenses

If you have G Suite on the Annual Plan, you can reduce licenses only when it’s time to renew your contract.

If you have G Suite on the Flexible Plan or any other Google service, the concept of reducing licenses doesn’t apply. Instead, you can delete users to reduce your monthly payment whenever you want.

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