By Sophie Gray-Bickle | March 15, 2019
G Drive - how to avoid oversharing
This blog discusses: - The origins and main providers of cloud storage - Tips for sharing files safely on G Drive - Changing permissions in G Drive
Cloud Storage and Sharing
Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider is believed to have invented cloud storage in the 1960s, although it wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century that it became a widespread part of everyday life in the western world. The phrase “Cloud Computing” became widely used from about 2006.
Drew Houston came up with the idea behind DropBox as a way to mitigate the forgetfulness which lead to him frequently to forget his USB stick while studying at MIT. Launched in 2007, Dropbox passed 1 million users in April 2009, 2 million in September 2009, rising to 500 million users by March 2016.
Other cloud storage companies saw similar user growth, with Apple’s iCloud launching in 2011 and gaining 782 million users by February 2016, and Google Drive passing an estimated 1 billion users 6 years after launching in 2012. According to Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, Google hosted an estimated 2 trillion files worldwide as of April 2017.
It is estimated that 1450 exabytes of data are stored in the cloud worldwide, and that is expected to rise to 175 zettabytes by 2025. To put that in perspective, David Reinsel, senior vice president at IDC says “If one were able to store 175ZB onto Blu Ray discs, then you’d have a stack of discs that can get you to the moon 23 times.”
Security in the Cloud - Dropbox and G Drive
Data stored in “the cloud” is hosted in data centres - defined by the OED as “a large group of networked computer servers typically used by organizations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.” - and leads to the popular saying “there’s no such thing as the cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer”, although it is more complicated than that.
Cloud storage providers are responsible for keeping these physical data centres protected and running, while also allowing users easy, secure access to their data. By default, configuration for these providers (Dropbox and G Drive) makes it easy to store and share data. Because both are based in the U.S., where privacy laws are a bit looser than in other countries, it is important to make sure you’re utilising the right controls to do this in the most secure manner possible. Or you could encrypt your files yourself, or jump ship to one of their zero-knowledge cloud storage competitors.
G Drive Sharing Options
Sharing files via G Drive is quick, easy, and convenient, allowing multiple people in multiple locations worldwide to work on the same documents or files. This ease and simplicity negates the risk of version conflict, and ensures only the latest version of a document or file is worked on.
But, to paraphrase, with this greater ease comes great responsibility: To make sure you are sharing safely and only with those you wish to see your files.
Choosing the wrong sharing option could allow anyone on the internet to find and access your files. G Drive offers a number of sharing options, and selecting the right one is crucial to keeping your information safe. Here is a summary of the options:
‘Public on the Web’ means that anyone with internet access can find and access your file, even if they are not someone who is part of your network, works for your company, or someone that you ever wanted to share the file with.
‘Anyone with the link’ means anyone who has the link can access your file. That can include people who aren’t part of your network or organisation. They just have to have been give the link.
Sharing your files with ‘Specific people’ by entering their email address(es) - Make sure you check what type of access you are giving them.
Sharing your files with ‘Your Network/Company Name’ means the files are available to anyone within your organisation. If you share only within your network or organisation, remember that people can still find your file accidentally if they search for a keyword in your file. This means that if you are writing a draft document on strategy, budgets, or something else that you will share eventually (but don’t want to share just yet), you need to make sure that the file is not available to anyone
The option ‘anyone at [company name] with the link’ is safer; just remember if this is currently selected, it means that people you share the link with can share it with others, without your knowledge.
If you want to check access for any of your existing files or folders, go to the ‘advanced’ window, where you can see who has access (and at what level), and you can make sure that people with edit rights can’t share, print, or copy your work using ‘Owner Settings’
You can also check out more options that will help your file stay safe.
It is possible to share your file with a distribution list (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and everyone on that list will be able to access the file with the permissions you’ve assigned. You can always change permissions later.
Once you have shared a folder with a group, for example as read-only, it is possible to change permissions for individual documents by opening the document, clicking on the ‘Share’ button, the using ‘Who Has Access’ to change individual permissions.