Install and prepare GCDS

Organize your LDAP data

You need to decide which primary domains, users, organizational units, and groups you want to synchronize with your Google Account using Google Cloud Directory Sync (GCDS). You also need to think about passwords and how you want to map your directory server data.

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What is your primary domain?

Identify the Google domain you want to synchronize. You need this when you configure GCDS. 

Note: You can't sync domain alias addresses using GCDS. Learn more about domain aliases and additional domains.

You can also use a domain name replacement. A domain name replacement is most often used for a pilot domain, but it can also be used if you are using GCDS to move to a new domain. If you specify another domain in Configuration Manager, you can import a full list of users into a different domain.

Set up the new domain as a primary domain. Then, in the Configuration Manager LDAP Configuration, enter the new domain as your Google domain, and specify an administrator for that domain. In Google Domain Configuration, set GCDS to replace domain names in LDAP email addresses with this domain name. GCDS changes the email addresses of all your users to the new domain during synchronization.

After your pilot period is complete, you can change the domain name (and Google administrator) to your actual primary domain, and keep all other configuration options the same.

What user data should be synchronized?
  • Users: Look through your directory of users with an LDAP browser and ensure that you are importing the correct number of users. If you import more users than you have licensed, you can experience errors during synchronization. Learn more about Manage user licenses.
  • User profiles: If your LDAP directory server includes additional information, such as addresses, phone numbers, or contact information, you can synchronize this information as well.
  • Aliases: You can synchronize one or more attributes for aliases from your LDAP directory into Google address aliases.
  • Unique ID: If your users are likely to change usernames (email addresses), set up a Unique ID attribute before you set up a synchronization so that user information is not lost when a user changes their email address.
  • Passwords: GCDS supports a limited set of password operations. If you have a Microsoft Active Directory server, you can keep your LDAP directory passwords synced to your Google Account with Password Sync.
  • Deleted and suspended users: By default, users not found in your LDAP directory are deleted from your Google Account and suspended users are ignored. You can change the default setting on the user accounts page of Configuration Manager. If you set GCDS to suspend users instead of deleting them, you have the ability to view and transfer user assets to take advantage of data recovery. Alternatively, you can delete suspended users, but you can only delete or suspend, not both.
How should you organize your groups and mailing lists?

You can organize your users in your Google Account by mailing list or organizational structure:

Mailing list

Decide which mailing lists you want to synchronize from your LDAP directory server to your Google Account. Mailing lists in your LDAP directory server are imported as groups in the Google Account.

Some mailing list attributes contain a literal address and follow a format such as Some contain a distinguished name (DN) reference and follow this format:
cn=Terri Smith,ou=Executive Team,dc=example,dc=com.

If you want to retain the mailing lists in the Google Account:

  1. Find out what attribute contains the members of your mailing lists. Usually, this is the member or mailAddress attribute.
  2. Find out if the LDAP attribute for mailing list members contains an email address or a user Distinguished Name.

Organizational structure

By default, GCDS synchronizes all users into a single flat structure. Doing so works well if you have a small organization or if you want all users to have the same settings and rights. It also works well if you are testing a small group before a larger rollout.

If you want to use an organizational unit hierarchy in your Google Account, you can synchronize the organization hierarchy from your LDAP directory server. If you do, look through your organizational units with an LDAP browser first to make sure that you are synchronizing the right structure. You might have special organizational units that should not carry over to the Google Account, such as an organizational unit for printers.

If you want to create organizational units manually in your Google Account, you can set them up in Google and then have GCDS move users into those organizations without changing the existing organizations. Select this option on the Org Units page in Configuration Manager. For every user search rule, specify the organization that should contain users for that rule, or an LDAP attribute that contains the name of the appropriate organization.

Do you want to manage licenses with GCDS?

If you want to manage licenses using GCDS you need to create and group users into specific license groups. Alternatively, you can set a specific attribute on each user account.

GCDS uses the group or attribute to determine the correct license to apply to an account.

Do you want to synchronize shared contacts and calendar resources?

GCDS can synchronize other LDAP resources such as shared contacts and calendar resources to your Google Account.

  • Shared contacts: Shared contact details are visible to every user on a contact list. Also, if you set up shared contacts, email address auto-complete is enabled in Gmail for every user in the list. To import addresses into your Google Account as shared contacts, enable Shared Contacts on the General Settings page in Configuration Manager. After you synchronize shared contacts, it can take up to 24 hours for the changes to appear in your Google domain.

    Note: GCDS only synchronizes shared contacts. Personal contacts are not synchronized

  • Calendar resources: If you want to import calendar resources (such as conference rooms) from your LDAP directory to your Google Account, you need to configure calendar resource synchronization so that the resources are visible to every user.
  • You need to specify a naming format for your calendar resources. Keep in mind that the rules for calendar resource names are different than other synchronized information. Names can't contain spaces or special characters. 

How will you synchronize passwords?
Tip: You can use Password Sync to keeps your users' Google Workspace passwords in sync with their Active Directory passwords.

GCDS supports a limited set of password operations. It can import passwords only in an LDAP attribute that stores passwords in plain text, Base64, unsalted MD5, or unsalted SHA-1 format. Other password-encrypted and salted hashes are not supported. Most directory servers do not support these formats natively, and storing your user passwords in these formats on your mail server can have serious security implications.

For password synchronization, GCDS provides the following options:

  • Implement single sign-on for your domain: Users have the same passwords and authorization for your Google Account and your LDAP directory server. You can set up a Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) server for your account to manage single sign-on. GCDS creates random passwords during synchronization in this case.

    Note: Single sign-on only supports only web authentication. Other forms of authentication (such as IMAP, POP, and ActiveSync) do not support single sign-on and still require a Google password.

  • Use a plain text LDAP attribute for the default password for new users: Use this option if you want users to have separate one-time passwords. With this option, Google passwords are separate from passwords on your LDAP directory server. You can use this method to create a temporary password from any LDAP attribute that holds data in plain-text format.
  • Use a third-party utility to convert unsupported passwords to a supported format: Use this option if you need to have Google use the same passwords as your LDAP directory server, but you are unable to set up a SAML server. Check Google Workspace Marketplace for third-party tools to help with synchronizing passwords. Google does not provide support for third-party tools.
  • Specify a default password for new users: With this option, every new user has the same password until they sign in and change it. Google passwords are kept separate from passwords on your LDAP directory server. To use this option, set a default password for new users and then set GCDS to synchronize passwords for new users and then force them to change their password.
    Because the password can sometimes be guessed by other users, this is not generally recommended as a secure option.
How will you map your data?

You need to decide how your LDAP directory server data maps to your Google Account's data and have a clear picture of how every user, group, and resource should be synchronized. You can set up this mapping to a flat hierarchy, an automatic one-to-one synchronization, or a manual set of custom rules. For details, see What is synced?

Sample scenario

As the Google administrator for Example Organization, you decide that the existing organization hierarchy on the LDAP server should be copied to the Google Account, and identify the organizational units that should be synchronized.

You decide that Example Organization needs to synchronize:

  • Organizational units
  • Users
  • Aliases
  • Groups (mailing lists)
  • Shared contacts
  • Calendar resources

The mailing lists in the LDAP directory server use the member attribute to store the members of each mailing list, and the member attribute contains the full distinguished name (DN) of the mailing list members, rather than their email address. As the GCDS administrator, you note this attribute, and that it's a reference attribute, not a literal attribute.

Because the LDAP user-profile information on the LDAP server is not in a standard format across organizations, as the Google administrator you decide not to synchronize this information.

In the LDAP server, you create a custom attribute and populate the attribute with a randomly-generated one-time password. In your Google Account, you set up a mail merge to send the passwords to users along with information on how to activate their accounts.

There are some users in the contractors organizational unit that are no longer with Example Organization and shouldn't be synchronized. You consider the list and note that all of them match a regular expression because the user addresses all begin with “defunct”. Finally, you create exceptions for these users in the Google domain.

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