Folder Sharing in Google Shared Drive

Folder Sharing in Google Shared Drives

One of Google Drive’s much-anticipated features launched on September 16, 2020 – shared folders in shared drives. While it may seem like a simple feature, up until last year, it was impossible to share individual folders within shared drives. This additional feature uses granular shared permissions within a shared drive, to allow exclusive access to particular folders and files, and creating security when sharing folder structures with internal and external organisations. Damson Cloud had beta access to this Google feature but didn’t have the opportunity to demo it for their customers. Fintan Murphy guides us through the power of granular shared permissions and how they can revolutionise how you do collaborative sharing in the future. 

What Can Granular Folder Permissions Do? 

Up until now, organisations could only add people to an entire shared drive, so if you added someone, they would have access to every single file or folder within the shared drive. As an administrator, you can give individuals or external organisations different permissions to influence how they interact with a file. This can be either a viewer, editor, commenter, contributor, content manager, or a manager which allows full administrative access. 

Users could be added to a file but not a folder, and through granular permissions, access has become more advanced. Now, organisations can go into an online folder and add a user into them. This gives a user access to files or folders within the shared drive that you have given them permissions for. 

Granular folder permissions also allow you to manage the access of the user within a folder. If you want to allow a user to access particular folders and not the full shared drive, then you are able to do this while assigning them a specific role in the permissions like a contributor. The only limitation for a user who has specific permissions is that they are unable to be ‘managers’. This is due to administrative access only being given to users if they are part of the whole shared drive. 

Sharing Permissions: Who Has Access?

Now, you’ve shared a folder with a user, the sharing permissions can be broken down into three categories: All, Guests, and Members. There was some speculation on how Google would reflect permissions to end-users when they added someone to a subfolder. As an end-user, you are able to see everyone on the shared drive and those users who have had specific folders shared with them. If you have added someone solely to a folder then they can be viewed as a ‘guest’ because they have limited access to the shared drive. Members are those who are added to the shared drive rather than a specific folder or file. 

If we view an individual file and view the permissions you will notice that they are exactly the same as folders. You will be able to see the members or the guests of the file. If you add a user to a specific file, they become a ‘Guest Editor’ of that particular file, but not to the whole folder as their actions are only limited to that particular document. 

How Can Granular Shared Permissions Help Me? 

A challenge for many customers when operating within collaborative documents is offering access to individuals or external organisations. Companies may want to share a folder or document without giving permissions for an entire shared drive. 

This could be external or internal. Perhaps, the HR department has a set of files that they want to share with different departments but they don’t want to give them permissions for all of the documents in that folder as they may be of a sensitive nature. Sharing individual files or folders within that folder structure allows for the necessary permissions to be shared without compromising confidentiality. 

This also applies to external parties where a company may wish to share a folder or document with a client without giving them permissions for documents that are irrelevant to them. 

Having more complex folder permissions also means taking more care around how you set up the folder structures. This includes thinking about how documents are shared internally and externally. Understanding how to share work restrictively, especially externally, is crucial for protecting company assets. 


As a longstanding member of the Google Cloud Partner Program, Damson Cloud specialises in bringing people and ideas together through new ways of working. We champion change management and digital transformation using some of the internet’s most trusted solutions, including Google Workspace, Happeo and Jamboard. To find out more about our services, check out our library of tutorial videos or our blog.