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Admin Managed Approach to Google Drive

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File Server Migration to Google Drive

The admin managed approach to managing files in Google Drive is most closely aligned to how a File Server is traditionally managed. In this approach, IT admins will create a “service account” dedicated to storing their company shared documents. This service account is:

  • A dedicated Google Apps account and given a username, (e.g.
  • Allocated Google Drive storage in order to house all the documents that were previously housed on the company file server
  • All, or a portion, of the files from the file server are migrated solely to this account and the folder structure is either replicated or redesigned per the migration planning.

This admin managed central service account then grants users / groups certain owner/edit/view permissions to the sub folders based on company policy. Folders that are shared from the central service account will appear into the user’s “Shared with me” section of their Google Drive web interface, unless moved manually into their “My Drive”.

Users will inherit the same rights to files and subfolders that are created by the service account under the hierarchy of the top level folder that was shared with them, however if end users are able to upload files and create sub folders within this hierarchy the top level permissions are not forcely inherited for those assets created by other users and they will retain the “owner” permissions to grant access and delete these assets.

Advantages in this approach

  • As an IT admin and organization moving from a traditional File Server, this is the most familiar structure of permissioning company files/folders
  • IT Admins can retain a central “approved” top level structure to the corporate folder structure for shared intra-company files. (However granting edit rights can undermine control of the file structure)
  • IT admins can allocate one account with a large amount of storage to store all the company shared documents, rather than having to track and manage allocating storage across several different accounts (If IT policy allows users do have the ability to manage their own storage).

Disadvantages in this approach

  • Google Drive was not designed to be used in a central managed folder hierarchical structure and when taking this approach, organizations will find shortfalls in the interface design, permissioning structure, and platform functionality.
  • Shared folders are only found under the “Shared with me” and “All Items” sections of the Google Drive interface. These sections do not allow for a hierarchical / nested directory structure on the left pane like the “My Drive” folder allows. Users will need to “Add to My Drive” if they want to an experience similar to the file server’s central folder structure.
  • If users require updating and syncing files on this central account, they must do so by adding the files to “My Drive” in order to sync via the Google Drive desktop app. Files and Folders selected to sync with the Desktop App are stored and synced against the user’s computer hard drive which in most scenarios would include too large of an amount data to be stored on a local hard drive and too large of an amount of bandwidth required to be used for syncing.

Considerations in this approach

Adding to my Drive with the Desktop Sync App

Users will be inclined to add a majority of their files/folders to their “My Drive” for the reasons stated above. Files/Folders that are shared with them do not count against their storage quota, however files added for purposes of organization will be subject to the Desktop sync and can add up quickly to a large amount of data ultimately leading to computer and company bandwidth performance issues.

Perceived control only

If users are allowed to add files/folders within the hierarchy, this approach does not add any additional control compared to the “Owner Managed” approach. As those that upload files and add new subfolders, they will be considered the “owner” of those assets regardless of their place in the hierarchy because the rights are not forcely inherited from the top level and do not supersede the rights an owner. Owners have the right to share/delete their file or folder they created regardless of where it is stored.

Giving “View-only” Privileges

If admins want to retain complete control over the folder structure then they are unable to grant Edit permissions, as this permission allows the creation and reorganizations of sub folders. This would mean that the service account would be responsible for uploading all documents and granting permissions to all team members.

The admin managed approach for migrating to Google Drive is most similar to how a file server is traditional managed, but it is not how Google Drive was intended to be used. Though it may be helpful for admins to use this approach when migrating from a file server, it does not fully utilize the collaboration capabilities that Google Drive offers.

This article is Part 2 of Google Gooru’s Comprehensive Guide to Moving a File Server to Google Drive. To access the entire guide for FREE, please fill out the form located here.

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