NeatSchool Users and E-mail Addresses

Today I want to address an issue that confuses many of the NeatSchool first time users. In NeatSchool, we store information in records. A person’s information is stored in one or more records. Each Parent record, Staff member record,  Partner record have an e-mail field. When the administrator sends an e-mail that needs to be addressed to a person the e-mail address in his record is used. In a similar way, when the system needs to send a notification that involves this person, the same e-mail address is used. Any valid e-mail address (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, you name it…) will work. This is exactly what one would expect from such a system.

NeatSchool also provides a Portal for Administrators, Parents and Staff Members. For instance, a parent can login to her portal and view their billing information. Anybody who can login to the portal is a NeatSchool user and has a NeatSchool record username.

In order to login to the portal, a NeatSchool user needs to prove that he is who he claims to be. Most systems today use a user name and a password for that purpose. When we started NeatSchool we could have built an authentication system and administer these user names and passwords. However, secure authentication done right is tough so instead we decided to leverage Google’s authentication infrastructure. Because of that decision, in order to login to the NeatSchool portal every NeatSchool user needs a Google account. One can use an existing Google account or get a new Google account for free here. When a NeatSchool user registers to use the portal she associates her Google account with her NeatSchool user record.

Now, the Google account username could be any word but—maybe unfortunately—Google decided to be an e-mail address. This e-mail address is only used to authenticate a user to Google and consequently to NeatSchool. This e-mail address can be the same e-mail address used in the records of the user or it can be a different one. If it is a different one, the e-mail address of the Google username is never used to send e-mail. In fact the Google username is not shown anywhere in the NeatSchool system.

Google Account vs. e-mail (2)

Let’s look at an example. The diagram above shows George Doe who is both a parent and a teacher in a NeatSchool managed program, a rare but possible situation. When the school sends a message to all the parents of the program, George will receive the e-mail in his account. When the school sends a message to all the Staff Members, George will receive the message in his account. George has registered so that he can access the NeatSchool portal of his program. When he browses to the portal URL a Google authentication page will ask him for a username and password. George will use his Google account. While inside the NeatSchool portal wherever a user name needs to appear George will see his NeatSchool username that is george.

Did this help? Do you have questions? Please add them in the comments below so others in the future can benefit.

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