Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Ultimate Guide: How To Share Files on Google Drive

Email attachments have become a thing of the past, ever since sharing files became easier, with cloud storage apps like Google Drive.
By sharing files, there is no need to download them first and then send duplicate copies to different recipients.
Instead, the same copy of a file can be shared among members, which also helps with collaboration, since everyone can work together on a single file. Working on Google Drive has its own set of benefits, starting with a universal Google account.
Since almost everyone has a Google account, it becomes easier to share with people, without poking them to sign up for a new cloud storage service.
Not to mention, with Google Docs, it becomes easier to:

How to Share Files on Google Drive

The following pre-requisites will be required:
  • A Google account for access to Google Drive
  • Internet Browser or Mobile app to access files on Google Drive
After signing up for Google Drive, each user gets 15GB free storage space which is expandable via paid plans. Also, Google Docs files are not counted against a user’s total storage space.

Different Access Level for Files

Before sharing files, it’s important to know the different access levels available on Google Drive. When a user is the owner of a file, he can give editing, viewing, or commenting access to other users.

Edit Access

When edit access is given to a user, he can:
  • Edit documents
  • Share/unshare with other users
  • Suggest edits  
  • Comment on files
  • Save file copies to a personal Google Drive account
  • Download files

Comment Access

When comment access is given to a user, he can:
  • Suggest edits
  • Comment on files
  • Save copies to his own Google Drive account
  • Download files

View Access

When view access is given to a user, he can:
  • Save a copy of files to his own Google Drive account
  • Download files
One thing common between all these three access levels – users can copy content to their own Google Drive, or download the file, which means even with the lowest access levels, data isn’t fully protected from being copied.

Sharing Via Emails or Links

Files on Google Drive can be shared by inviting users with their email addresses, or sending links to everyone. Links work when the same file is shared with a large number of users, so, instead of inviting individuals the same link can be sent to multiple users.
But, at the same time, inviting users through their email address is a more secure option, since other users can share a link and outsiders could access the file.
As soon as you hit Share, there will be an option to enter email addresses.
There is also an option to add a description of shared files, when a file is shared with a user, an email is immediately sent to them — with the description in the body of that email.
Clicking on the “Shareable link” option, present on top of the Share box will generate a link for the file, and access can be user set.
Users can also choose to share files via both emails and links, with different access levels.

Change Ownership

Ownership of a file remains with the creator until he gives it to someone else. A file’s owner is the central admin, who decides which member gets what level of access.
Also, when the owner deletes a file, other users lose access to it as well. Only the central admin can retrieve deleted files from the trash folder.
To change the ownership of a file, go to the “Share” option and select Advanced settings present at the bottom.
Firstly, invite a user and give him access to a file.
Then, go back to the Advanced sharing option, from the shared members list, any user can be given the ownership. And of course, there can only be one file owner at a time.

Disable Printing and Downloading Options

As I mentioned above, none of the three file access levels protect files from being copied.
But Google Drive provides another way to stop copy attempts. Going back yet again to the Advanced option in Sharing settings, an option to disable printing and downloads are available there.
A user can give View access to a file and then disable printing and download, to make the file read-only for all shared users.
This option is ideal for public files that only need to be shared, and not altered.

Unrecognized Users in Shared Files

If you are a file’s owner, and there are unrecognized users in that file, then chances are – someone with sharing and editing access has shared with their contacts.
This problem can also occur if a file is first shared via links and then changed to a user’s email addresses.
So, the final list of shared users could take some time to update, since existing sessions would have to time out for that.

Only Share With Specific Domains

If a company is using Google Drive for their work, then they can beef  up security by restricting documents from being shared with anyone outside the company’s custom domain.
So, even if an employee has Edit-level access to files, he can’t share it with an outsider.
The restriction feature is only available for users with custom domains, who have signed up with Google Apps for work.

Share Files on Social Media

Files links can be directly shared from Google Drive to:
  • Google+
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
For social media file sharing, go back to Share settings and choose Advanced. Click on the social media platform where you want to share the file’s link.
In case link sharing gets deactivated, Google Drive will prompt a user to give a minimum of View access to anyone with a link.
And then the file can be shared.

Stop File Sharing

To stop sharing a file via links, go to Advanced Sharing, and then to the ‘Who has access’ section.
By choosing ‘Off-Specific people can access’, all file links get immediately deactivated, and any user accessing them at that moment will be notified.

Delete a Shared File

When the owner of a shared file deletes it, it gets permanently deleted, and all other users also lose access to it. After deletion, a file can only be restored from the owner’s trash folder.
On the other hand, when shared users delete a file, it only removes their access to, the file isn’t truly deleted.
Shared users can delete a shared file to empty up their Google Drive storage.

Managing File Versions

When files get shared with a lot of users, it can be difficult to track which user made what changes to a file.
Luckily, Google Drive provides a very smooth way to manage file versions.
For Google Docs — to see changes made to a file, users can click on the option right next to Help on top.
Which could be, ‘All changes saved in Drive’ if a user has made the last change, or it could be ‘Last edit made by XX’, if another user made the last edit.
Clicking on this option will take a user to the revision history window, where all edits made on a file can be seen according to date, time and user (s).
For Other Files — like images or PDF, right-click on a file and select ‘Manage versions’ to see other versions of that file.

In Summary…

Being able to share files easily, and work on them in real-time is one of the reasons why Google Drive is so powerful, and why a majority of people use it.  
Other great sharing options are available on Dropbox, or you can try OneDrive sharing for Microsoft Eco-systems.
In fact, while most users assume Google Drive only has a few standard sharing settings, the cloud storage service has been able to pack a bunch of great such settings, in the most compact way possible.
Hope this post helped you out and if you have any questions, let us know in the comments section below!

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