Google Apps now offers administrators more IT controls over Hangouts, the communications tool that includes IM, audio chats and video conferencing.
Now, employees will be able to call up their company's Apps user directory, called the Global Address List, from within the Hangouts interface, according to Google.
Apps administrators now have the ability to offer a partial set of Hangouts features to end users, instead of giving everybody full use of the tool.
"Admins can now choose to limit Hangout chat messages to being internal-only, set chat history to off by default and decide whether users within the domain can contact each other without sending or accepting formal invitations first. Video and audio chat can also be turned off across the organization," wrote Ronald Ho, a Google Apps product manager, in a blog post.
In addition, Google is giving Apps admins around-the-clock phone support for Hangouts-related issues.
Still, Google stopped short of making Hangouts an official, core component of Apps, like Gmail, Docs, Drive, Sites and Calendar. This means that admins can add it to their Apps domains, but it won't be covered by the suite's service level agreement (SLA), for example.
Hangouts is part of the Google Plus social network, and it's expected that the company at some point will make both tools part of the core set of Apps components.
Google has been progressively adding Apps-friendly features to both Hangouts and Plus to make them suitable for use in workplace settings and give IT admins sufficient control over their usage and deployment.
Having Plus and Hangouts reach that stage in Apps would boost what some consider weak links in the suite: communications and enterprise social networking.
Competing email and collaboration suites from IBM and Microsoft, as well as Cisco's collaboration suite, all have native, full-featured enterprise social networking and unified communications components.
Google introduced Hangouts in May, saying the new tool would replace its existing IM and audio/video chat products, like Google Chat, Google Talk and Google Plus Messenger, and become the company's unified communications product for all its services across all the devices they work on.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.
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