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Google Drive Sharing: Let's Meet in the Middle


March 5, 2014

3 minute read

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Based on a question we asked in our recent customer survey, we discovered most admins take an all or nothing approach when it comes to Drive sharing. The question, “Which of the following most accurately describes your organization’s policy regarding Google Drive or Docs exposure and public sharing?” asked survey takers to plot their position on a scale from 1-8.

A response of 1, or “we do not allow sharing outside the organization,” indicates the most closed Drive policy, and 8 the most open, “we allow public sharing and do not monitor which documents are shared publicly.” The results are polarized, with nearly 80 percent of respondents reporting a Drive sharing level of 1-2 or 7-8.

While having a more moderate stance on Drive sharing is a best practice, it’s not surprising that most organizations currently have an all or nothing approach, namely because achieving a middle ground on Drive sharing is not possible without a third-party tool.

Sharing Settings Within the Google Admin Console

Out of the box, the Google Admin Console does not offer much granularity in terms of Drive management. Sharing options are limited and applied to the entire domain, not allowing for exceptions. Occasionally, different departments will have different needs, such as your design team wanting to host a publicly available image in Google Drive for a website, or your sales team needing to mark sales sheets as “anyone can view.”

To access the Drive sharing settings within the Admin Console, navigate to Google Apps > Drive > Sharing settings. The only two options are to completely allow or disallow sharing outside of the domain, and correspond with the two most common responses to our survey question.

By selecting the first option and preventing users from sharing any documents outside of your domain, you may be protecting your organization against a confidentiality or security threat caused by an accidentally shared document, but also missing out significant benefits of Drive.

Is the incremental security increase that results from locking down Drive sharing worth the resulting decrease in user collaboration?

Conversely, by taking the opposite stance and allowing users to freely share documents publicly, you could be opening your organization up to unnecessary risk. What makes sense for most organizations is to empower users to share outside of the domain while encouraging discretion–and from an admin perspective, having controls in place to protect against inappropriate sharing.

Achieving Middle Ground with BetterCloud

Drive is meant to be collaborative, and the ease of sharing and working together is a major draw for many organizations. So, to maintain key functionality and also peace of mind, use BetterCloud to audit Drive sharing and set granular sharing policies.

Within BetterCloud’s Drive Explorer, admins are able to filter all documents on their domain by sharing level, exposing publicly or externally shared Docs. You can then change the sharing of the filtered results in bulk to bring the documents back into compliance.

Going forward, create sharing policies–for individual users, Org. Units, or the entire domain–and determine what level of sharing is appropriate for each group. You can also whitelist or blacklist sharing with certain domains within a policy, in order to allow external sharing except with a competitor, or to disallow external sharing except with a partner.

Then, determine how sharing violations are handled. For domains with a stringent policy, set violating documents to be auto-corrected, and for a more liberal approach, BetterCloud will notify the Doc owner to review the violation.

By using BetterCloud to create multiple sharing policies and layer exceptions and notifications, admins can become more moderate in Drive sharing, and users are able to collaborate in a way that is uniquely afforded by Google Drive while still complying with organization policy.

For the full results and takeaways from our Q1 customer survey, read “Chromebooks and Hangouts Surging, Google Apps Admin Best Practices and How Google’s Channel Has Accelerated Cloud Adoption.”