Moving your File Server to Google Drive

Google Drive is one of Google’s G Suite core components. It allows you to sync and store your files in one secure place and to access them whenever you need them, without the boredom in opening a secured VPN tunnel or the risk of accidental data loss. Google Drive is also fully integrated with other core services like Gmail, Google Docs and Google Sites.

With a basic storage of 30 GB that can grow to unlimited for only $10 per user per month (with min. of 5 users) I’m frequently asked if Google Drive can replace the organization’s on premise file server and gain better functionality with lower costs. The simple answer is: yes, as long as you understand and carefully plan your deployment.

Google Drive was originally designed as an end user tool. As such, the end user is the owner of his files. He decides what to upload, with whom to share and how to organize. In this self ownership approach there is no central hierarchy of folders that contain all of the company’s shared files and folders. Instead, there are personal files and folders managed by the end users.

While this approach is very intuitive and follows the way Google Drive was designed to be used, it might lead to duplicated content and difficulty for other users to reach and search for content that may be relevant for the entire organization.

A hybrid approach is therefore more recommended. In this approach the admin own and manage the organization’s central drive “public” folders, and the end user manages his personal folders. In fact, in many file servers I saw there were “public” and “private” folders, where the private folders were used as a network backup folders for individual users, and the public folder was shared within the organization.

When implementing Google Drive as an organizational “public” folder, the Google Drive account should be assigned to a dedicated G Suite admin account.  This account should be the only owner of all files and folders, and  only edit or view sharing permissions should be granted to users or even better to groups of users, based on company policy.

Granting permissions to groups rather than users makes it easy to manage new user’s permissions; by adding a user to one of the groups he/she automatically inherits the group’s permissions. Removing a user from a group removes his drive permissions. The group name should relate to roles, for example: sales managers, developers etc. or to departments: marketing, sales, accounting etc.

It is also important to know that folders that are shared from the central drive account will appear into the user’s “Shared with me” section of their Google Drive web interface. The users will need to “Add to my Drive” if they want to see the folders’ nested structure or to sync them to their local computer with Google Drive Sync application. Also, syncing the entire central drive  folder will usually include too much data to be stored on the local hard drive so it is extremely important to educate the users to sync only the folders they really need locally.

Before migrating your files take some time to clean old staff and to reorganize the folders. The migration itself can be done by adding entire folders to Google Drive sync, through the web interface or with a 3rd party tool.

And finally, you don’t have to do it all alone, as a certified Google Cloud Partner SimplyApp can help you plan, deploy and support your entire G Suite project environment. Contact us today for additional details.

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