Granular Folder Permissions Coming to Shared Drives!

Over recent weeks, we’ve seen Google release significant updates to Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) as it attempts to become a more enterprise-ready and collaborative online toolkit. We’ve been excited by an announcement made some weeks ago which confirmed that users will soon be able to share a folder within a shared drive. Damson Cloud’s Fintan Murphy takes us through the planned update, currently in its beta stages.

Before we get into the benefits of Google’s planned update, it helps to take a step back and look at what we’ve previously been offered with Shared Drives. Previously called Team Drives, they are a separate section within Google Drive primarily used by businesses, and they allow their users to create a Shared Drive within their organisation. So, you could have separate Shared Drives for marketing teams, finance teams and more. Useful, right?

Limitations in Traditional Shared Drives

Yes, Shared Drives have always been super useful – but they’ve always come with their limitations. Previously, a Shared Drive could only give an individual user access to all of the files within the Drive, rather than those specific files or folders that they actually need access to. This meant that giving a user access to that shared drive would mean giving them access to everything. Whilst this might work for some businesses or organisations, the problems for others are obvious. After all, what if that particular Drive or folder contained data-sensitive information, or information which was only for the use of a specific team?

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Above: The traditional set-up for Shared Drives. Google’s latest update could see an end to separate drive, with individual users instead given access to defined files and folders. (Source: Damson Cloud)

Let’s think a little bit more about this concept of having different Shared Drives and folders for different departments within your business. Let’s say your marketing department needs access to a file that belongs to your finance department, and for various reasons your finance department can’t share the entirety of that drive. What does your finance team do in this scenario? 

They can share the individual file in the Shared Drive with someone. Or, they could take a copy of the file and place it in another Shared Drive that that person has access too. Whilst the receiver could get access to that file, they wouldn’t have access to the folder, meaning they wouldn’t have any view or permission to edit its structure or folder hierarchy.

The first option only shares a single file, so if they need lots of files you have to go through all of them and share them individually. On the other end, the user only gets unstructured files shared with them, which really isn’t ideal in business. The other option creates duplicates of files, which is also far from ideal.

These limitations were always a significant issue – especially when working with external parties. Whilst Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) ultimately offers a comprehensive digital workplace, its Shared Drive offering came with the price of giving users access to everything as a bare minimum – a condition that would often be problematic and off putting to business and enterprise users. Fortunately, Google’s latest announcement promises granular permissions in Shared Drives, which should come as a real relief to those who depend on Google Workspace for collaboration, storage, sharing and everything in between.

Granular Permissions in Shared Drives

Currently in beta development, granular permissions in Shared Drives will allow you to add users to an individual folder within that shared drive. We’re particularly pleased to see this update from Google, and for us, the absence of this feature previously was a real weakness in the product. This feature will allow companies to have a single Shared Drive for the entire business, giving individual permissions to different teams depending on what they need. 

However, it’s important to note that you can only increase someone’s permissions. You can’t, for example, remove them from a single folder within a Shared Drive. At Damson Cloud, we think this makes a lot of sense. Only a manager can change these settings and permissions, and Google will be keeping these restrictions in place for the time being – although this could definitely change in the not-too-distant future. 

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Above: Folder access levels can only be expanded, not reduced, from the shared drive level. (Source: G Suite Updates Googleblog)

Google’s own blog post on the subject has some useful information and is definitely worth checking out. The post also contains an Expression of Interest form, which we’d definitely recommend submitting if you’d like to sign up to the beta for your business or organisation. Bear in mind that this will apply to your whole domain – so we advise setting up a test domain to try it out. 

Finally, Google have announced that they will start to enforce the manager requirement for folder permissions for those joining the beta, and then for all Google Workspace users on September 1st. This could possibly be the date of the beta stage’s end – however, this isn’t certain and it could certainly be pushed back. Only time will tell…

More About Damson Cloud

It’s a wrap for this week. We can’t wait to see how this new feature is received by Google Workspace users, and we’d love to hear some of your feedback. Do you think the new feature will change how you use shared drives in your organisation? Are you using Shared Drives at the minute, or would this new feature encourage you to start using it? Perhaps the current setup was holding you back – we’d love to know. Drop us a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to Damson Cloud for more insights on changing the way we work! 

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.

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