IT administrators have been telling Google that they want to be able to limit how Google Drive files can be used. Now, Google is obliging.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

April 1, 2015

3 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Google + Photoshop)</p>

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Google eliminated storage limits for business customers using Google Drive for Work last summer. But unlimited storage isn't enough.

Unlimited storage has become a common feature among online storage providers. Beyond Google, both Dropbox and Microsoft are offering unlimited online storage to business customers. Amazon began offering unlimited photo storage to Prime members last year, and recently expanded the scope of its largess to include all types of documents.

So Google is adding limits, not to storage capacity, but to the way its business customers can use the files stored in its data centers. Social networks may thrive by promoting heedless sharing, but businesses have to pay attention to how employees distribute information.

On Tuesday, Google said it plans to add sharing controls, alerts, and audit events to Google Drive for Work and Google For Education.

IT administrators have been telling Google that they want to be able to limit how Google Drive files can be used, explained Scott Johnston, director of product management for Google Drive, in a phone interview.

Soon, Google Apps administrators will be able to restrict sharing by department. Johnston explained that a company might want to prevent finance employees from sharing Google Drive files externally, yet allow public relations employees to do so.

Google is also adding the ability to create custom Drive alerts to notify administrators when a specific condition has been met. For example, Drive can be configured to send an alert any time someone shares a document with the word "Confidential" in its title.

In addition, Drive's audit log will be made aware of actions like download, print, and preview shortly. And Apps admins are gaining the option to allow employees to reset their own passwords, a potential time saver.

Finally, Drive will soon have IRM -- information rights management -- not to be confused with DRM -- digital rights management. What's the difference? A vowel. Using IRM, Google Apps admins can disable copying, downloading, and printing from the advanced sharing menu. At least it's not DRM.

Of course, no such scheme is foolproof, particularly when so many people carry a camera-equipped smartphone.

But Johnston acknowledged the difficulty of making an organization truly leak-proof. "It's really about presenting roadblocks that let people know what they should be doing," he said. "If you're taking mobile phone screenshots of a presentation, you're definitely going out of your way to subvert a process."

This update to Drive isn't exclusively about locking things down. Another new capability includes the option to share documents to anyone with an email address, even if that person doesn't have a Google Account.

Google says these changes will be rolling out over the next month and that it's working on establishing trusted domains. Partner organizations can then be included in a circle of trust and on access expiration.

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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