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Google Team Drives is a Rethink of the Service for the Enterprise

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Google Team Drives is a rethink of its flagship G Suite service that offers better control and security.

Credit: Fizkeys/ShutterstockCredit: Fizkeys/Shutterstock

At first glance, Google Team Drives may sound like a modest upgrade for companies that want to enhance their collaboration over shared files in the cloud. Google is promoting Team Drives as a grander rethink of its flagship G Suite service, pushing it as the superior solution for businesses that want better control and security of their key files. Enterprise-focused features and a few drops of machine learning are all part of the package.

While Team Drives shares most of the interface features with Google Drive, everything below the surface is completely rethought for the needs of small and large businesses. Alexander Vogenthaler, the product management lead for Google Drive, said there’s plenty of newness under the surface.

"Team Drives is an entirely new version of Drive. The only thing in common to the historical consumer product is the interface — everything from the resulting APIs all the way down is totally different. It’s rewritten to make it appropriate for the enterprise and the unique challenges faced there," he said.

One of the benchmark features is the team management of files. By default, files and folders belong to a team instead of an individual. This shared ownership reduces the need for keeping tabs of which team member shared which document with the right people.

"Group ownership is really key, everyone by default can create, organize and share all the content, permissions are simplified and more appropriate to enterprises," said Vogenthaler.

Such group ownership can also be valuable for creating a core set of files that are used for onboarding new team members or essential marketing materials. These are ensured to remain with the organization when someone leaves. This eliminates the potential for important files to suddenly disappear when an employee decides to depart from the company.

Team Drives lives inside one’s Google Drive, so all of your work can still be done from the same interface. Members can be added or removed, with varying levels of access. A G Suite help page details many of the particulars surrounding how to put it to work.
"Some people can do a full set of organizational tasks — that might be a team lead — while giving others like an intern only the ability to see and edit content, but not delete or re-organize anything," Vogenthaler said.

The other key to the Team Drives concept is machine learning. Google recently highlighted how the Quick Access feature can bubble up the files it thinks you need depending on a variety of different signals, such as time of day, calendar entries, or your Drive activity. Machine learning is a major focus of Google’s efforts, so it’s reasonable to assume that similar features will roll out in the coming years.

Vogenthaler is very pragmatic about the use of Microsoft Office. Not every company that has a large set of Office files necessarily wnts to convert them all to the Google equivalent. He said Drive is built to also sync and save Office files with the same type of consistency as other work.

"The basic strategy is to make Drive work great with Microsoft Office. We know the majority of companies that adopt Drive for a long time will be using Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. We want to give them the benefit of Drive collaboration, Team Drives, but without wrenching change."

Organizations that do use Office actively, however, are likely to be wooed by OneDrive or Dropbox, which both claim to play well with Office. The latter is part of the Office suite, and enables real-time collaboration in Word and Excel.

For those most interested in group management of data, Team Drives makes a compelling case for companies that are taking a hard look at how to structure their cloud. The choice, however, must also incorporate the workflow and file needs of the company as a whole.