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Monday, May 1, 2017

Google Team Drives

Welcome to Derby Week!  Coordinating a trip to the track, or the right outfit and hat with your significant other's wardrobe, takes some collaborative effort.  So the timing of Team Drive arriving in our G Suite domain on such a week is fortuitous. Okay, maybe Team Drive can't really help with planning your infield festivities, but it can help colleagues with a better way of working together.

The video below gives a brief (4:47) and entertaining introduction to the tool (poor Jenny and her lunch!):



You're probably asking yourself, "Why use Team Drive?  Can't I already create folders and files to share?"  The short answer to the second question is yes.  However, Team Drive can help resolve or avoid some common problems I've seen and dealt with for our domain, and gives you more options for managing access to materials.

(Cue announcer voice:) "Has this ever happened to you?"

  • You share a folder with a colleague.  However, they put that folder in one of their shared folders, either resulting in unauthorized access or annoying requests sent to you for permission to access by people that don't need it.  (Keep in mind that sometimes just the name of the folder or file may reveal private information.)
  • A file or folder is inadvertently moved by a colleague completely out of its original spot or is deleted, so others lose access.
  • Subfolders grow and grow, which increases the risk that one or more people with access can view things they shouldn't or have access to materials they don't really need.
  • A department creates a shared folder, then another, then another.  Over time, all these folders clutters up your Drive (especially your "Shared With Me"), or they become difficult to find.  If only they were all in one easy to find, searchable location . . . 
  • A person creates a folder (or a whole tree of them), then leaves the organization.  When their Drive is shut down, the materials may get lost.

Team Drive can help us avoid these issues, mainly by minimizing the damage caused by overlapping nested shared folders that give full editing rights to more people than intended.  By creating unique Team Drives for ongoing projects / grade team levels / schools / building administrative needs / district programs, you can keep work distinctly and effectively outside of your personal Drive.  You can also minimize or eliminate movement or deletion of folders and files, especially if you micromanage the permission levels of the Team Drive members (which in my opinion seems easier in Team Drives):

Note the difference in Team Drive's "edit access": the user could edit a file or upload new ones to folders, but he/she can't move or delete files, unlike editing rights in personal Drives.

Team Drives can live outside of one person's account, so when a person leaves and has their Drive shut down, it won't be as catastrophic. You can better organize your Drive experience by having shared folder tree hierarchies become Team Drives instead of yet another folder sitting and cluttering up the top of your personal Drive. Lastly, keep in mind that students would have the same benefits from making a Team Drive around a collaborative effort (for example, around a unit's PBL work).

I've started to play with Team Drives, and here's a few findings.  While you can always change your Team Drive access levels (add or delete members, change a person's level), you don't have the same "file to file" ability to change permissions like you do in personal Drives.   For example, if I decide Bill has "view access" to a Team Drive, I am unable to make one of the Docs in the Team Drive editable for him.   Bill will have "view access" to everything -- unless, of course, I change his level.  So make sure to give each person the highest level you feel comfortable granting, and only allow full access to a bare minimum or just yourself.  Speaking of "full access,"  I like that only users with "full access" can move or delete files.  (In an individual Drive, a person with editing rights can inadvertently wreck havoc.)  Since permissions in Team Drives can only be established at the top, consider access for Team Drives as time savers for permissions you may have had to decide for every item and level.

The ability of your Google Admin to view and manage the Team Drives is also interesting, and perhaps one of the unique strengths of Team Drives versus personal folders/files.  What happens when the creator of the Team Drive leaves your G Suite domain?  The Team Drive continues and the members remain, although your admin may need to designate someone with full rights so that it can be self-managed.  If all the members leave your domain, the Team Drive goes into limbo; however, your admin can add members and manage their permission rights until passing the full rights baton to at least one of its members.

Last but not least: I highly recommend people create unique Team Drive names.  For example, from your district Google Admin console perspective, "4th Grade" could belong to any of your elementary schools, whereas "CCE 4th Grade" quickly helps an admin recognize it belongs to Clear Creek Elementary.

For more information on Team Drives, check out Google's online help and directions.   Happy collaborating, and may your Derby horse win all the roses!

Update 5/3/17: I added a picture of the Team Drive access levels (from the Google online help), more information on my "few findings," and some minor edits.

Update 6/12/17: I added some more details about what happens when the owner of the Team Drive leaves your domain, along with the short paragraph about making unique Team Drive names.  Special thanks to Chris Walsh for the information!



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