What are shared drives?

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

You can use shared drives in Google Drive to store, search, and access files with a team. Shared drive files belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay in place so your team can keep sharing information and work anywhere, from any device.

Note: If your organization signed up for or upgraded a G Suite or Drive Enterprise account before July 2017, you might need to turn on shared drives for your users. For details, see Manage shared drive users and activity.

About shared drives

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What can you do with shared drives?

Create a shared drive for your projects or team to share information and work. 

Feature Description
Find files after an employee leaves  Your organization owns the files in a shared drive, not an individual. When an employee leaves and an admin deletes their account, their files remain in shared drives.
Improved sharing rules All members of a shared drive see the same content.
Content discoverability Adding a user to a group in Google Groups automatically adds them to all the shared drives that include that group.
Add external users to shared drives You can add users outside of your organization to a shared drive. If you do:
  • The shared drive appears in the external user's Google Drive.
  • Any work an external user contributes (for example, edits to, creating, or 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
Synchronize content on your desktop Users can access their shared drives on their computer using Drive File Stream. For details on setting it up for your organization, see Deploy Drive File Stream.
Compare shared drives with My Drive
  Shared drives My Drive
What types of files can you add? All file types except files from Google Maps All file types
Who owns files and folders?  Your organization The individual who created the file or folder
Can I move files and folders?

Users can only move files. 

Administrators can move files and folders.

Yes
Can I sync files to my computer? 

With Drive File Stream: Yes

With Backup and Sync: No

Yes
How does sharing work? 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. 
  • After 30 days, files and folders in Trash are deleted forever. 
  • Members can delete specific files sooner.
Files and folders in the Trash remain there until the user selects Delete Forever.
Can I restore files? Yes, if you have Manager, Content manager, or Contributor access. Yes, if you created it.
Get the most out of shared drives

As a G Suite administrator, you should consider how you want to organize and share your organization’s data when deciding on whether to use My Drive or a shared drive. Review these best practices:

  • Share content responsibly—Use shared drives to share content intended for public or  organization-wide view. Keep personal and private files in My Drive.
  • Improve collaboration—Create a shared drive for each project and assign the highest access level 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 content from My Drive to shared drives. 
  • Sharing content in shared drives—When you add users to a shared drive, they can access everything in that shared drive. You cannot restrict access to subfolders. When users need different permissions, create a new shared drive instead.
  • Moving content—Users can move any files that they own from My Drive to a shared drive. If someone else owns a file that you need in a shared drive, ask them to move it.
  • Users who are not members of a shared drive—You and your users can share files in a shared drive with non-members. When you share a file, the file appears in “Shared with me” and other views for that user, but cannot be added to their My Drive or to another shared drive.
When to create a new shared drive

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

  • Are the files of interest to most or all members of a particular project team?
  • 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 in a single shared drive.

When to reorganize a shared drive
If your users have difficulty using a shared drive over time, you might need to reorganize the content. Here are a few warning signs that this might 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:

  • Purpose is vague—Multiple projects are using it as a bucket for arbitrary files.
  • Membership list too extensive—There are too many project teams or organizational units 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 might 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, which can indicate that the shared drive is oversubscribed. 

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

Teams debate how folders or files should be organized

If multiple teams debate about 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 files and items that are of interest to an entire team or group.
Who should be members of a shared drive

Avoid adding everyone in your 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 a good shared drive. Alternatively, creating a single shared drive for the entire company and then adding a folder called U.S. Benefits might lead to issues with organizing and searching the shared drive.

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