About automatic licensing for organizational units

Applies to Google Workspace, Cloud Identity, and other services managed in the Google Admin console.

Depending on your organization structure and Google services, you might be able to override your top-level organization’s automatic licensing setting for individual organizational units. For example, if you have Business Standard automatic licensing turned on for your top-level organization, you can override that setting and turn it off for one or more lower-level organizational units. You can also set different options for a parent organizational unit and any children.

When can you use automatic licensing?

To set automatic licensing at the organizational unit level, both of the following conditions must be true:

  • At least one organizational unit under your top-level organizational unit
  • A subscription to more than one Google service

If you have:

  • A subscription to a paid service and a free one (such as Business Standard and free Cloud Identity)—You can only set automatic licensing at the organization level for the paid service.
  • One primary Google subscription and one or more secondary services (such as Business Standard plus Google Vault add-on)—You can set automatic licensing at the organization level for one of the secondary services, but not the primary subscription.
  • No lower-level organizational units and multiple paid subscriptions—You can see that automatic licensing is turned on for one paid subscription, but you can’t change this.

When you inherit or override a setting

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Any organizational unit below the top level is set to inherit the automatic licensing setting of its parent. In the Google Admin console, “inherit” means to take the same setting (on or off) as the parent.

You can, however, override a parent setting and set the automatic licensing option independently.

Inherit scenarios for automatic licensing
Parent automatic licensing setting Child setting Result
On Inherit

Automatic licensing is turned on for the child.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned off for the parent, it’s also off for the child. 

Off Inherit

Automatic licensing is turned off for the child.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned on for the parent, it’s also on for the child.

Override scenarios for automatic licensing
Parent automatic licensing setting Child setting Result
On Override > On

Automatic licensing is turned on for the child, independent of the parent setting.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned off for the parent, it stays on for the child.

On Override > Off

Automatic licensing is turned off for the child, independent of the parent setting.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned off for the parent, it stays off for the child.

Off Override > On

Automatic licensing is turned on for the child, independent of the parent setting.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned on for the parent, it stays on for the child.

Off Override > Off

Automatic licensing is turned off for the child, independent of the parent setting.

Later, if automatic licensing is turned on for the parent, it stays off for the child.

How automatic licensing affects existing users

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Users who are already in the organizational unit

If you turn on automatic licensing for your entire organization, or in an organizational unit, that already has users with licenses, how those user licenses are affected depends on the organizational level.

If you turn on automatic licensing for... Here's what happens
Your entire organization

Existing user licenses aren’t changed in the organization or any organizational units. This is true even if the user has a license for the same service as the one with automatic licensing or a different subscription of the same service. 

Example: If users in your organization have licenses for Google Business Plus and you turn on automatic licensing for Enterprise Standard, those users keep their Business Plus licenses.

An organizational unit
  • Existing users in the organizational unit are assigned a license for the service.

    If a user already has a license for the same service (including different subscriptions of the same service), the earlier license is revoked and the user gets a new auto-assigned license.

    Example: Users in an organizational unit have licenses for Business Plus. If you turn on automatic licensing for Enterprise Standard, those users’ licenses are switched to Enterprise Standard.

  • If a user has a license for a different service, that license is retained. 

    Example: Business Standard and Google Vault are different services, so automatically assigning Business Standard licenses doesn’t impact a user’s existing Vault license.

Users you move to a different organizational unit

If you move users who have licenses into a different organizational unit, how those users are affected depends on the organizational level. These rules apply whether you move individual users or an entire organization to a different organizational unit.

If you move the user to... Here's what happens
  • The top level
  • An organizational unit that inherits the top-level automatic licensing setting

All of the user’s existing licenses are retained.

This is true even if the user has a license for the same service as the one with automatic licensing or a different subscription of the same service.

Example: If users in an organizational unit have licenses for Business Plus and you move them into the top level where automatic licensing is turned on for Enterprise Standard, those users keep their Business Plus licenses.

  • An organizational unit that overrides the top-level automatic licensing setting
  • Any child organization that inherits this override from its parent
  • If a user already has a license for the same service (including different subscriptions of the same service), the earlier license is revoked and the user gets a new auto-assigned license.

    Example: Users in an organizational unit have licenses for Business Plus. If you move those users to an organizational unit where automatic licensing is turned on for Enterprise Standard, those users’ licenses are switched to Enterprise Standard.

  • If a user has a license for a different service, that license is retained. 

    Example: Business Standard and Google Vault are different services, so moving a user into an organizational unit that has automatic licensing turned on for Business Standard doesn’t impact that user’s existing Vault license.

If no licenses are available

Applies only to Google Workspace or Cloud Identity Premium editions on the Annual/Fixed-Term Plan

If the number of users assigned a license in an organizational unit exceeds the number of purchased licenses, some users won’t get a license. This omission can happen if you:

  • Turn on automatic licensing for the organizational unit.
  • Move or add new users to the organizational unit.

If the organizational unit has automatic licensing turned on for multiple subscriptions, affected users don’t get a license for any of those subscriptions, even if some subscriptions have licenses available.

To ensure the correct users get a license, you can:

If you turn off automatic licensing

If you turn off automatic licensing at any level, all of a user’s previously assigned licenses are retained.

If you turn off automatic licensing at the top level, any license you assign to a user can take up to 24 hours to take effect.

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