One of the most common questions we are asked when kicking off a Google Drive training is, “how is Google Drive different from what we’re using now?”
I typically answer with a two-part response:
- Google Drive is cloud-based
- Google Drive is built for team-based file management
Cloud-based: Storage, accessibility, and security
The first part of the response is more obvious of course. Because your files are stored in the cloud, you have the ability to access them from anywhere with any device, all you need is an internet or mobile network connection and you are off and running! In fact, if you are taking advantage of the offline capabilities, you may not even need an internet connection.
It also means that you eliminate a single point of failure. If your computer crashes, no sweat. Just whip out your phone, tap your buddy on the shoulder and ask to borrow his, or use an alternate secondary device to log back in and pick up where you left off.
Team-based file management: Changing the way we think about collaboration
The second part of the response is a bit more interesting as it has a number of components.
To start with, Google Drive content can easily be shared to individuals, but they are also commonly shared with Groups. An easy way to think of Google Groups is as a pseudo mix between Distribution Groups (strictly for mail delivery) and Security Groups (for managing roles and permissions). The same Group that you send an email to can also be used to share a folder within Google Drive.
Consider the following example: Lowell has just joined the organization as an account manager. Lowell needs access to all of the files that any member of the sales team is expected to have. Fortunately, all of the directories that Lowell needs are shared with the group firstname.lastname@example.org. All the administrator has to do is add Lowell to the sales group and email him a link to the top level sales directory that he should have access to.
Another point to consider, is that you have the ability to create group hierarchies to implement more granular group sharing. We can only have an overarching sales group, or we could add nested groups as well. For example, Lowell may be added to the email@example.com, which is a nested group within the sales group. Now we can still share content dynamically, but also within smaller subsets if necessary.
The team sharing mantra is truly highlighted when we look at the philosophical difference between native Google files and traditional files. Traditionally, if I want to collaborate on a file, the process looks something like this:
- Open my local word processor
- Add my content
- Save the file to my local machine
- Open up my preferred email client
- Attach the file that was saved to my machine
- Email the file to a coworker
- My coworker downloads the file to his or her local machine
- My coworker opens the file locally and makes some changes
- My coworker saves the file
- My coworker attaches the updated file to an email and either sends it to me or onto the next person to repeat the cycle
This process was developed under the premise that a document must be yours before you can work on it (open, download, & edit). Now in contrast, let’s look at the process for collaborating with a Google Doc:
- Open a Google Doc right from my browser
- Share the Google Doc with collbaorators as necessary
- Work on the document in real-time, together
- Changes are saved automatically
By removing the necessity to download a file to one’s computer before being able to edit, the Google process replaces the traditional sense of singular ownership with a sense of true team-based collaboration.
The power of Google Drive is the power of efficiency, the power of security, and the power of collaboration. Manage your files as a team. Manage your team with Google Apps for Work and Google Drive.Originally published on October 12, 2015