Our phones will be OPEN until 6:00PM EDT today to help you with year-end!
Nos téléphones sont ouvert aujourd'hui jusqu'à 6 PM Heure de l’Est pour vous aider avec la fin de l’année fiscale!
Google Apps is a popular option for nonprofits, however it seems that many people are confused about the file/documents part of the suite, Google Drive (GDrive). In this post I’ll discuss whether you should be using GDrive for your files and explain how to set it up for use at an organization.
In my opinion, the biggest advantage of GDrive comes for those nonprofits that are already using Google Apps. That’s not to say that GDrive can’t be useful if you’re not on Google Apps, but I’ll be mostly focusing on the former scenario.
Since cost is a key factor for many nonprofits, the first advantage of GDrive for Google Apps users is that it already comes included. The 30GB of space provided (as of the writing of this post; this includes email and documents combined) may be enough for most users; if not all you need to do is to increase the storage for the individuals who go over their limit (not for everyone) for a small monthly cost.
The second big advantage, and the reason I originally recommended that we use GDrive at TechSoup Canada, is that it lets you keep your files (e.g. Word and Excel documents) in the same place as your Google Docs. We had created a whole system for keeping our many Google Docs organized, which was similar but not quite the same as our system for keeping the rest of our files organized. There was always confusion about where things were stored and the need to check in two places. Using GDrive means that we can keep all of our files - including Google Docs - in one place.
Like other cloud file systems, GDrive lets you access your files anywhere by logging in to your Google account, makes your files easy to share, and keeps them secure and backed up for you. You can learn more about cloud computing in our post "A Walk in the Cloud: Is Cloud Computing Right for You?".
On the other hand, I do know some nonprofits who use Google Apps and have chosen not to use GDrive. In some cases, they have a network drive on a server that they are happy with. In other cases, they want a cloud file system that has more robust, enterprise-level features such as Box.net. These are also great options!
So if you do want to try GDrive, how do you get started? In my experience, if you want GDrive to feel like the “H drive” (or whatever you called the network drive on your server that you used to have), the key is proper setup and training for your team.
Here’s how I suggest you proceed:
Before I end off, let me share a couple of tips to help you use GDrive successfully. You should train your team to use these practices whenever they use GDrive.
When to use GDrive Web vs. GDrive Desktop
Use GDrive Web for:
Use GDrive Desktop for:
Why? Let’s say for example you open a Word document with GDrive Web and you want to edit it. You then have to download it, make your edits, save it to somewhere on your desktop, and upload back to GDrive as a new revision. It’s possible, but a bit clunky.
On the other hand, if you open the same file from GDrive Desktop, you can make your edits, save it, and it will sync automatically. No extra effort needed, plus you get to deal with your familiar “My Computer”.
How to create new Google Docs
When you want to create a new Google Doc, the best approach is to open GDrive Web, navigate to the folder under My Drive where you want the file to reside, and then click the Create button and choose your document type. This will place your new Google Doc in that folder, and it will take on the sharing settings of that folder automatically.
If you forget to do this, you can always move the file to a folder later on so it’s ok!
Why? The important point is the file ends up under one of your top-level folders (though it can be in some subfolder if you want). If not, it will be orphaned and won’t be a part of your organization’s file system - though it may have been created by someone on your team and shared with people on your team. Keeping everything organized makes it easier to find later.
Ownership of file and folders in GDrive
In GDrive, each file and folder has an "owner", which you can see in the Sharing settings. The owner is the person who creates,uploads or syncs the document. There can only be one owner at a time.
It is very important that the ownership always belongs to someone with an official organization account (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org, an account that is managed through your GApps account). You may have board members, volunteers, or anyone else external to the organization with personal Gmail accounts (i.e. email@example.com) or Google Apps accounts from other domains (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) who are shared on documents or are creating new documents. However, you need to make sure that documents are always created by someone within the organization, or that ownership is transferred to someone in the organization. As long as the ownership is internal, you can give external access to view and edit the document.
Why? If your organization doesn't own the document, you don't control it. If the document is owned externally and the owner (e.g. a volunteer) decides to change the sharing settings so you no longer have access, or deletes the document, there is nothing you can do about it. Whereas if the document is owned internally and that staff member leaves, the administrator of your Google Apps account can transfer ownership of all their documents to someone else in the organization.
And there you have it! Of course each organization’s situation is a bit different, so these steps and tips are simply guidelines. Please feel free to share any additional insights or GDrive tips below in the comments.
- Tierney Smith, Community Engagement Manager