Manage shared drives

This feature is available with G Suite Business, Education, Enterprise, and Drive Enterprise editions. Compare editions

Google shared drives are spaces where your teams can easily store, search, and access their team's files anywhere, from any device.  

Shared drive files belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and work.

Note: Shared drives are turned on by default for new G Suite accounts. If your organization signed up for a G Suite account before July 2017, you may need to turn on shared drives for your domain or specific organizational units. Learn more

What can you do with shared drives?

You can create a shared drive for your projects or team to share information and work. 

Feature Description
Find files even after an employee leaves  Files are owned by a team and organization, not by an individual. When an employee leaves the organization and their accounts are deleted, their files remain in shared drives.
Improved sharing rules All members of a shared drive see the same content.
Content discoverability When you add a user to a Google Group, that user is automatically added to all the shared drives that include that group.
Add external users to  shared drives

You can add external users to a shared drive.

  • The shared drive appears in the external user's Google Drive.
  • Any work an external user contributes (for example, edits within a file, creating a new file, uploading a file) is transferred to and owned by the domain that created the shared drive.
  • The external user must have a Google account and be signed in to Drive. 

Tip: As a G Suite administrator, you can also restrict people outside your organization from accessing files. Learn more

Synchronize content on your desktop Users can access their shared drives on their computer using Drive File Stream

Compare My Drive vs. shared drives

  Shared drives My Drive
What types of files can you add? All file types* All file types
Who owns files and folders?  The team The individual who created the file or folder
Can I move files and folders?

Users can only move files. 

Administrators can move folders.

Can I sync files to my computer? 

This depends on which sync solution you use:

  • Drive File Stream: Yes
  • Backup and Sync: No
Sharing All team members see the same file set. Different users might see different files in a folder, depending on their access to individual files.
How long do deleted files stay in Trash?
  • Each shared drive has its own trash. 
  • Files and folders in the Trash are deleted forever after 30 days. 
  • Members can delete specific files sooner.
Files or folders in the Trash remain there until the user selects Delete Forever.
Can I restore files? Yes, if you have Edit access or full access. Yes, if you created it.

* Except Google Maps.

Get the most out of shared drives

As a G Suite customer, you can explore the many advantages available with shared drives compared to My Drive. Consider how you want to organize your data when deciding on which one to use for your organization.
General best practices
  • Share content responsibly—Use shared drives to share content intended for public view. Keep personal and private files in My Drive.
  • Improve collaboration—Create a shared drive for each project and assign the highest access level (such as full access) to all team members.
  • Increase shared drives usage and visibility—Train your managers and employees on how to use shared drives. 
  • Organize content—Help users move all of their content from My Drive to shared drives. 
  • Migrate content in a timely manner—Ask your users to start migrating active projects or team documents, if they’re limited on resources or time. 
  • Sharing content in shared drives:
    • When users are added to a shared drive, they can access everything in that shared drive. You can’t restrict access to subfolders. When different permissions are needed, create a new shared drive instead.  
    • Users can move any files they own from My Drive to a shared drive. If the file is owned by someone else, ask them to move it.
    • Individual files within a shared drive can be shared directly with non-shared drive members. When this happens,  the file appears in ‘Shared with me’ and other views for that user, but can’t be added in My Drive or to another shared drive.
    • Control sharing of shared drives content.

When to create a new shared drive

If users in your organization ask you when to create shared drives, think about : 

  1. Are the files of interest to most or all members of a particular project team?
  2. Do the files share a consistent theme?

If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, creating a new shared drive is a good idea. 

If the files are for a variety of projects, create multiple shared drives. As the number of projects and teams increases, it can become difficult to find and manage content.

When to reorganize a shared drive

If your users have difficulty using a shared drives over time, you may need to reorganize the content. Here are a few warning signs when this may be necessary. 
Condition Description
Too many files at the root level

If a shared drive has a large number of files at the root level, one of the following issues can exist:

  • The purpose of the shared drive is vague—multiple projects are using it as a bucket for arbitrary files.
  • The shared drive membership list is too extensive—there are too many project teams or organizations assigned as members.

The shared drive should be reorganized into several new shared drives representing individual projects and functional (or cross-functional) teams. 

Trying to map folders to projects

Your users may try to create a shared drive to represent a portfolio of projects or programs, and then create individual folders for each project. They might ask you about setting different access permissions for each of the folders in the shared drive. This can indicate that the shared drive is being oversubscribed. 

Each of the folders in this scenario should be reorganized into its own individual shared drive.

Note: To better support this reorganization, the G Suite team may look into providing more powerful controls for organizing large numbers of shared drives in the future. 

Teams debate how folders or files should be organized

If multiple teams are having extended debates around how files and folders in a shared drive should be organized, it can indicate that there are too many projects and teams represented in the shared drive. The shared drive should be reorganized into 2–3 new ones:

  • One shared drive solely containing the “shared” content, representing a cross-functional project team
  • One (or more) shared drives for the specific content for each of the functional teams
Include only group content in a shared drive Users should avoid adding their personal content or notes into a shared drive. Shared drives are meant for shared project artifacts that would be of interest to an entire team or group. 
Who should be members of a shared drive

Avoid adding an entire organization to a shared drive, unless the content is highly focused. 

For example, a shared drive containing U.S. benefits information for employees of a U.S.-based company could make for a good shared drive. Alternatively, creating a single shared drive for the entire company and then adding a folder called US Benefits can lead to issues with organizing and searching the shared drive.

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