September 16, 2017

It is not often that technology and especially Google, doesn’t work for me, but this last week was one of those times. After hearing about Team Drives from various sources and researching it a bit, I thought we should try it since it will make life a lot easier. Big mistake…huge mistake. I have spent the past two days trying to clean up the mess, and I am still not on top of it.


Google released Team Drives on its Business and Education accounts earlier this year. While I was aware of them, I didn’t really look into it at first for two reasons. Firstly, I could not see the advantages of Team Drives over shared folders. Secondly, in my dealings with Google, I have realised that Google does not like paying people to find the bugs in their systems. Instead, they release new features to the public and wait for people to find the bugs and send feedback. So I very seldom use anything in the first few months after it is released. I am quite happy for other people to be the guinea pigs. I can wait until they have sorted the bugs and everything is running smoothly before I start using it.

After giving Team Drives my customary three months waiting period and hearing some good things about it, I decided to investigate. At first glance, Team Drives are just fancy shared folders. But they have one big advantage, ownership.
Shared folders have been a game changer since everybody can add to the folder. One person no longer has to carry the responsibility of managing the department’s resources by themselves. Collaboration is the word. However, the problem comes in when somebody leaves, and their account gets terminated. The other members of the shared folder lose access to all the documents owned by the member who left, unless they transfer ownership of all the files first. There are almost a thousand files in the folder shared by my maths department, the majority of them added by me. If I should leave at some point, it would take hours if not days to transfer ownership of all those files.

Google created Team Drives to solve this problem. Unlike shared folders, in a Team Drive, the documents are owned by the Drive instead of an individual. Should somebody leave, the documents they added to the Team Drive would remain. A second advantage of Team Drives is that there is an extra level of permission. You can set it so that some members can add files but not delete or move them. Anybody who has ever had a colleague delete a file or mess the whole folder up by accident will understand why this feature is useful.

Very excited by my research I decided that we should introduce Team Drives, starting with our maths department.Red lights

Red lights

After creating a Team Drive and migrating our shared folder to it, the red lights started flickering. Nowhere in my research was it mentioned that Team Drives does not sync with the offline Google Drive on your computer. For some that might not be an issue, but with

After creating a Team Drive and migrating our shared folder to it, the red lights started flickering. Nowhere in my research was it mentioned that Team Drives does not sync with the offline Google Drive on your computer. For some that might not be an issue, but with internet that is not 100% stable and the majority of our resources in Word, it is imperative for us that our shared folder sync with everybody’s computers. Downloading documents every time you want to open it is just not going to cut it. My colleagues that are not as au fait with computers are barely managing the shared folder because they can save new documents to it in the same manner that they save files to My Documents and it syncs without them even noticing. Uploading it to the online Google Drive is just not going to happen.

It didn’t even take a day to realise that Team Drives are not working for us. But no worries, I can just move everything back to the shared folder, and we will wait until Google add a feature that will allow Team Drives to sync. Or at least that is what I thought. It has been two days and files are still appearing and disappearing from the folder. At first, we thought that we lost all our resources, but then I realised that it was more bizarre than that. I can see some of the files on my Chromebook and iPhone, but not on my computer. That lead to frantic downloading of everything I could via the Chromebook. I realised that the fact that Google Drive is based on links instead of actual files has its downsides. I can’t just copy the folder on the device where I can see the documents and be assured that a spare copy exists. For all, I know it is copying a link to a file that doesn’t exist anymore.

In the mean time, a lot of the files have appeared again (there is also the chance that they will disappear again). I now have at least three versions of the shared folder on different devices, and neither of them is the same. Sadly I could not find and save all the files. We lost the majority of our grade 10 resources and some grade 8 and 9 ones. The worst of all is that it will probably take a year to realise what we lost.

Before you ask, the files were not actually deleted, they just disappeared into cyberspace, so I could not retrieve them from the Trash. Search is also not offering any help. I have tried everything I can think off, but without knowing exactly what is missing, there is not much more I can do.

Backup, backup, backup

The moral of the story? Do not trust technology and always have up to date backups. I backup my own work every so often, but I have never made a backup of the shared folders. Stupid of me, I know. I did not even think about a backup before I moved everything to the Team Drive.
It has also made me a little less confident in Google Drive. The fact that things could just disappear without a trace does not sit well with me. I realised again that everything I have on Google Drive is dependent on Google. If something goes wrong, I have nothing to fall back on.

I am not blaming Google for all of this (maybe for some of it though) I should have made backups before I messed with the folders. It is also not like you do not lose files when you save them on your computer. A few years ago my laptop burned out, and I lost everything on it. Luckily for me, I had some fairly recent backups that time. The difference is that previous times when I lost files; it was only my work that I messed up. This time it also affected my colleges. There is no worse feeling than telling your colleagues that you deleted the resources that they spend hours creating.
Don’t be surprised to find me at the printer creating hard copies of my resources again.

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