File sharing is a key features of any modern cloud service. That includes Google Drive, the most popular cloud storage option of all. While most storage providers work similarly when it comes to sharing files, it can take time to learn for those new to cloud storage. In this article, we’ll help you wrap your head around the basics of sharing files with Google Drive.
We’ll cover sharing Google Drive folders and individual files, as well as the advantages of using it to share them, including collaborating using its excellent office suite, Google Docs. We’ll look at a few weaknesses, such as questionable security.
What is Google Drive?
Google Drive is a cloud storage service. Its primary goal is to let you store files on remote servers instead of your computer’s hard drive. Doing so saves hard drive space, lets you sync files between devices and share files without having to deal with bothersome email attachments.
A basic Google Drive account is free and gives you 15GB of storage. While shared with Google Photos and Gmail, that’s one of the most generous free cloud storage plans available. If you need more file space, Google Drive offers 100GB for $1.99 per month and 1TB for $9.99 per month.
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In the coming months, the service is going to be rebranded as Google One and its 1TB plan will be doubled to 2TB at no extra cost. That should vault it into position to be one of the best deals in cloud storage, up there with pCloud and Sync.com.
In addition to file storage, Google Drive can be used to sync files across devices and, key to this article, share files with others.
Google Drive File Uploading
Before you can share a file with Google Drive, you need to upload it to a Google server. The company’s servers are located around the world, though most are in the U.S. This allows for faster data access in general, as well as faster file uploads.
To upload files to Google Drive, you can either move files into your Google Drive sync folder or upload them using the Google Drive web application or smartphone app.
Rather than upload individual files, you can upload folders. Any type of file up to 20TB can be uploaded, which is a huge cap by cloud standards. The only exceptions are Google Docs, Slides and Sheets files. Docs and Slides have a 50MB limit and Slides have a 100MB limit.
Google Drive File Sharing
Once uploaded, you can start sharing your folders and files with friends, family, colleagues and clients. You can do so from the Google Drive sync folder in your file system or the web interface.
Google Drive Sync Folder Sharing
To share content in your sync folder, right-click on it and hover your mouse cursor over “Google Drive.” There will be three options: “share,” “view on web” and “copy link to clipboard.”
The third option, “copy link to clipboard,” is the easiest way to share a file. It generates a URL link pointing to your file that can be pasted into Slack forums, social media, spreadsheets or anywhere else.
Select “share” for more precise control.
When you use “share,” rather than generating a link, a share-settings windows will open. Option are available to input email addresses to send links to and set permissions. Permissions include “can organize, add and edit” and “can view only.”
You’ll notice an “advanced” link near the bottom of the settings window. Use it to alter permissions for specific individuals. There’s a toggle to prevent editors from adding new people, too.
Google Drive Web Interface Sharing
Similar share options are available from the Google Drive web interface. Right-click on any folder or file online and you can either retrieve a “shareable link” or select “share” for more advanced controls.
As with sharing from the sync folder, generating a link is simpler, but can be dangerous. Links can be used by anybody who gains access to them. Using the “share” option to input email addresses and set permissions provides a measure of security.
If you’re sharing Google Docs, Slides or Sheets files, you can give users permissions to view-only, edit or comment on files. Comments let others leave comments in the margins of Google files, which is a feature we use frequently at Cloudwards.net to produce content. Edit privileges also let others leave suggestions for edits that can be approved or not.
Up to 100 people can comment on and edit a shared Google document at the same time. More than that can view it, but it’s easier to distribute a universal link than input 100 email addresses.
Advanced share settings let you automatically post links to Facebook, Google+, Gmail and Twitter to increase your audience.
Google Drive Shared with Me
Google Drive allows others to share folders and files with you. To help manage those, the web interface includes a special “shared with me” view to see what content is available to you.
The list includes both the file shared and the name of the person who shared it with you.
Unfortunately, there’s no similar view to audit what content you’ve shared with others. That makes it easy to lose track of links. The best you can do is scan the list of files in the “my drive” view and look for the “link” icon beside an object, which indicates it’s been shared.
That can be time-consuming and it’s easy to overlook files. Hopefully, Google will consider a feature addition to fix the oversight.
Google Drive Sharing Weaknesses
Google Drive makes it easy to distribute files, but, in addition to a view to audit share files, there are troubling misses with how Google Drive goes about file sharing.
The biggest weakness is that Google doesn’t let you set passwords or expiry dates for links. Link passwords ensure that only those with a password can use a link to view or download shared content. Without them, anybody who obtains the link can view it.
Link expiry dates set a timer on how long a file link is good for. Expiry dates provide a reasonable solution to how easy it is to lose track of what links you’ve created and the problems that come with that.
Most cloud storage providers miss on those counts, too. The few exceptions are mentioned in our best cloud storage for file sharing article. The best of the bunch is Sync.com, which lets you set passwords, expiry dates and download limits.
Sync.com encrypts file sharing, too, using private, end-to-end encryption. That is another matter, though.
The takeaway is that, while great for file sharing and one of the best cloud storage tools for collaboration, Google Drive is far from perfect.
As a final word of caution, the Google Drive terms and conditions agreement grants the company leeway to scan stored and shared content. There are many reasons for that, including targeted marketing, but there’s one reason in particular that’s pertinent to this article: copyrighted material.
If you’re planning on storing torrented movies in your Google Drive account and sharing them with others, reconsider your plan. The system uses hash matching to detect pirated content and may not permit the share if it flags something suspect.
While we don’t advocate piracy, if you were going to store torrented files, you’d be better off with a zero-knowledge cloud storage provider. Sync.com, pCloud and Tresorit are the best bets, with MEGA a distant fourth.
Without file sharing, Google Drive wouldn’t be as compelling a cloud storage solution as it is. That’s because file sharing is behind what Google Drive does best, which is collaboration.
Co-authoring Google Docs, sharing presentations and distributing spreadsheets are all vital elements of the Google Drive experience. For the most part, file sharing with Google Drive is straightforward and this article should have put you on the right path.
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Of course, nobody’s perfect. If you’re still feeling lost and need advice, let us know in the comments below and we’ll be more than happy to share our knowledge. Don’t forget to sign up for your 15GB of free Google Drive storage to start sharing files or give our best cloud storage for sharing review a read for more options. Thanks for reading.