Sharing Community Files in Google Drive

In an earlier post, I suggested creating Google accounts for each of the executive roles in your community. One of the base concepts was creating an Admin Google account that would act as the fallback for all the subsequent chapter accounts. Another service that Admin account can have is to own the rights to the community’s Google Drive.

Why Google Drive?

Google Drive offers 15 GB of free storage for the account owner. That 15 GB is shared with Gmail and non-compressed Google Photos. If you only use your Admin account for admin purposes, that 15 GB will not be consumed by email attachments. Sure, there are other Cloud storage sites such as DropBox and OneDrive, but they only offer 2 GB and now 5 GB, respectively. Plus you’ve already created a host of Gmail accounts for your community, and Google Drive was built to integrate with Gmail accounts.

Google Drive has sharing features, so you can give people access to view or edit individual folders and files as needed. Always leave the Admin account with Edit rights to everything! When you apply for a Community Achievement Award, you can create a folder and share that (read-only) with the CAA judges so they can access all of your documentation.

Standard Word and Excel documents take up storage space on the Cloud. But with Google Drive, you have the option of transforming MS documents into Google Docs when you upload them via the web. Google offers Docs (Word), Sheets (Excel), and Slides (PowerPoint) as storage options on Google Drive. For the rest of this article I will refer to them collectively as Google Docs. When you convert a MS document to a Google Doc, it is stored on your Google Drive, but consumes no space. Your 15 GB quota will not be consumed by a Google Doc, regardless of the original size of the document in Word or PowerPoint. That being said, a Google Doc does not possess the same level of sophistication as a MS document, but for most chapter correspondence, it should suffice.

Google Docs on your Google drive are collaborative. Whenever an approved editor works on a document, a file history is listed for each document. Additionally, multiple people can edit a Google Doc at the same time. As a result of the joint-editing feature, multiple people in your group can be signed into the same document, such a the minutes for an admin council meeting, and watch the document be written in real time.

Using Google Drive

To set up a communal Google Drive for your community, sign into Google using your Admin account that I suggested you create here. Open the web version of Google Drive, and create a new folder named for your community, e.g. STCCAC for the Community Affairs Committee.

A sample Google Drive folder from the CAC.
A sample Google Drive folder from the CAC.

After you create the root folder for your community Google Drive, right-click on the folder and choose the Share option. Enter all the Gmail accounts you created for your community leaders, and give them Edit access. Now whenever you create a sub-folder, it will inherit the share settings from the parent folder.

Each of the people with which you shared the folder will get get an email telling them of the share. If they follow the link, it will show them the shared folder. They will have the option of adding the folder to their Google Drive, and it is recommended that they do so.

You can manually add folders and files to Google Drive via the web interface, or by downloading and installing a client app on your computer. If you use the web interface, look in your setting (gear icon in upper-right). It has a check box to automatically convert uploaded documents into Google Docs format.

Settings for Google Drive
Settings for Google Drive

So if you upload a whole directory of your legacy community documents and that check box is set, then they will all be converted to Google Docs. That may or may not be what you want, so be careful when setting that option.

Note: If you choose to convert your documents to the Google Doc format, you have the option of exporting them in a preferred file format, such as Word or PDF.

Folder Upload
How to upload the contents of an entire folder.

If you installed the app, you can upload files even more quickly. However the files will NOT be converted to Google Docs during an upload via the app. When using the app, it integrates with your Windows file manager and you can drag and drop files to the folder.

Note: If you do not have edit privileges on a folder, you can still drag and drop files to it, but it won’t sync with the rest of your collaborators.

Note: Be aware that when you upload a non-Google Doc, such as a PDF, the quota that is consumed is that of the uploader’s account, not of the host Google drive. So if you are going to import many files tied to a personal account, it may be best to switch to the Admin account before uploading the files.

Considerations

Google Drive is not perfect. As noted above, quota consumption is based on the user’s account, not the base account. A user could revoke privileges for other users, locking them out completely. You can only be signed into one Google Drive account at a time. That means that if you are using a personal Google drive, you must be completely signed out of that account when uploading via the web. If you have a personal account defined in the app, then you cannot easily change that account setting.

Conclusion

Due to the ability to collaborate on files, Google Drive and Google Docs may be a great choice for your community’s legacy files. Be certain to designate a well-organized person to maintain the Admin account and file structure for the Google Drive so all collaborators can easily find their files. If you need to save space, you can convert MS files to Google Docs. Additionally, you can install an app to integrate Google Drive with your native file manager. You can then use your Google drive to automatically sync other community files, such as your passwords (in an encrypted tool such as KeePass) and your Quicken data files. Also, any community member who installs the app will automatically sync files when connected to the internet. Google Drive has some powerful tools and it integrates well with Gmail accounts.

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