Why don’t I use Google Drive Team Drives for the moment?

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A few weeks ago, Google added the Team Units to the Drive. The truth is that they looked very good and I immediately tried them. After all this testing time, I have decided not to use them in the centre. In this article I explain the reasons.

If someone wants to try them out, you must have an account with G Suite for education, or you must have a friend who has one and shares one with your Gmail account. If you have G Suite, the administrator will need to activate them, as they are deactivated by default.

To do this, the administrator has to go to the G Suite Control Panel, section Applications / Drive / Sharing settings. In the organizational unit where you want to test it, you must deselect the option to prevent users from creating computer units.

Once activated, it appears under my unit.

What are the advantages of these Team Units?

  • The main one is that the documents of these units have no owner. Each document belongs to the unit. Therefore, if a user who has created documents on the computer drive is removed from the system and removed, there will be no problem at all.
    In the folders and files on my drive that are shared this does not happen. They always have an owner and, if this is deleted, you will have to transfer the property to another user first to avoid losing the files (although in the G Suite panel there is a utility to do it easily).
  • Computer drives have a new permission that does not have the files and folders in My Drive. You can add users that have edit permission, but not delete permission. Therefore, they will be able to modify the files on the drive and add new ones, but they will not be able to delete any files or subfolders.

It looked pretty good up to here. But it also has a very important limitation that makes it dismiss them for the time being:

  • The folders in a Team Drive cannot be shared, only files can be shared. In other words, the permissions that are assigned to the Team Drive are for all subfolders of the Unit. That is, if we assign to the Unit that the teachers only have reading permission, we can’t make it possible for them to have editing permission in any folder of the Unit. As you can see in the image, Sharing is disabled.

And only this limitation alone makes me discard Team Drives? Yes. Initially I saw two very clear applications for it:

  • Center folder structure: Pass the entire center folder structure to a Team Drive? In a school, it is highly recommended that the management create a folder, which it shares with all the teachers, and from there, create subfolders to have all the information well organized and structured (see article Google Drive: Sharing folders or documents?).
    It would be very interesting if this structure could be a Unit, since the documents would have no owner and the teachers could not eliminate anything.
    The problem is in the limitation. Obviously, the subfolder permissions in this structure cannot be the same for all subfolders. In some folders teachers can only read, in others they can edit and in others they can’t even see them. And this cannot be done with Team Units.
    And the option to create many computer drives (one per subfolder) is discarded on its own. If the structure and organization of the information is lost, no one will find anything and it will be chaos.
  • Work in student groups: create a team unit for each group work that students do. This option made it even better. In fact, it is clearly what this utility is intended for, to create work teams. When a group of students have to do a job, they could create a team unit. Only one student would be allowed to delete items (the one that creates the Unit). The others would just edit and add. The documents would have no owner. Everything is perfect… until we count the number of group works done by the students in my school. Thus, each course does between 15 and 20 assignments.
    This means that a student, when leaving the center, could have 80 Team Units. And because we are a small center that only teach ESO, in centers that also teach cycles and / or Baccalaureate a student could have more than 100 units of equipment. And I couldn’t group or structure them. You could only sort them alphabetically in ascending and descending order.
    One of the digital competences that we work more in the center is the order of information. Organizing the Drive into folders, Mail management and archiving with labels… And working with so many computer drives prevents it.

And in the centre there are no work teams where applicable? The truth is, I do. I could create a Team Unit just for the management team. Or each Department could also create its own Team Unit. But having the center information in two different places (Folder structure in My Unit and Team Drive) doesn’t suit me. Besides, it doesn’t give me any great advantage either, since the issue of document ownership is solved with users of posts (see article Specific users for institute position) and I wouldn’t use the editing permission without deletion. Whether the Unit is a management team or a Department unit, all members should be able to eliminate them equally.

Therefore, and for these reasons, for the time being, I discard the Team Units. I’m sure Google will make improvements. And, at some point, you’ll add the option to have different permissions in the folders of a Computer Drive. That day, without hesitation, I will use them: I will pass the entire folder structure of the center and I will not have to suffer so that no teacher deletes any by mistake.

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2 thoughts on “Why don’t I use Google Drive Team Drives for the moment?

  1. I have taken the same path as you, but now it is 2020 (3 years later) and things seems unchanged. I have tried to move to shared drives for the same reasons as you, and have moved away for the 2 limitations you describe. I can not understand how any mid sized organization (and we are very small) can make any use of this, and what is its real purpose considering its limitations.

    One thing that may have not existed back in 2017 is the ability to hide shared folders, so you can keep visible at a first glance only the ones you are working on. This can make the mess a bit more organized, but is not a solution at all.

    1. It took a while, but things are starting to change. It’s been a month since I had a BETA option enabled that allows me to change the permissions of the subfolders of the shared drives.
      If a user is defined as a Reader on the shared drive, in the subfolders they can be promoted to a contributor.
      The idea is that in the subfolders you can add permissions, but not revoke them. So in the shared drive you give the minimum permissions to the users and in the subfolders you add the ones you need.
      It’s not ideal, but it does solve some problems and allows you to use them for the documentation of the site.

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