While most organizations using Google Apps provide unrestricted email access to their users, some schools and businesses need to maintain a safer and more secure environment by allowing certain users to only send and receive email within the organization. This "walled garden" approach has been a popular feature request for K-12 schools looking to provide additional safeguards for student email. It can also help businesses where the email access of particular contractors and other groups should be limited.

Today, Google Apps administrators can create policies specifying who their users can communicate with over email, and administrators can tailor these policies for different groups of users. For example, school faculty and staff can have unrestricted email access while students have the freedom to send and receive emails within the school community but are protected from unwanted email interactions with outsiders.

"Using these new controls finally gives us the ability to provide email to our 40,000 high school students. We are confident that this will help protect our children from inappropriate communications and excited about new class activities and collaboration that email will bring. Not all kids are comfortable speaking up in class and this gives many of them another avenue to approach their teachers," said Laurie Tranmer, Email Services Manager at Prince George's County Public Schools.

This feature will be rolling out over the next couple of days to Google Apps for Business, Education and Government customers. Administrators can configure their policies in the “Advanced Tools” section of the control panel.