I used to experience a great deal of frustration trying to find Google Drivedocuments on a file-server. It was hard enough trying to find where I had saved documents, let alone, find documents that others had saved. Regardless of how many rules we put in place to standardise the filing of documents, documents were always lost within a FOREST OF FOLDERS.

In May 2013 I assisted an organisation move to Google Apps for Work. Google Apps for Work consists of business email, calendar, contacts, intranet/extranet sites and Google Drive file storage. This represented a SIGNIFICANT change for all staff in the organisation that had always used a file server type arrangement.

[notification type=”alert-info” close=”false” ]Google Drive comes as part of the Google Apps for Work suite that includes business email, calendar, contacts and intranet/extranet web sites. This suite is available for as little as $5 per user per month.

Each user is provided with 30GB for email and Google Drive. If an organisation has 20 staff this works out to be around $1200 for an organisation with total storage of around 600GB. Google Drive Unlimited is $10 per user per month and has no limit for storage.[/notification]

It was clear early on, that DECISIONS needed to be made around how the organisation would move from a file-server arrangement to Google Drive. The first of these decisions was about what files should be taken across to Google Drive. It was clear that they could not have one foot in the file-server space and one foot in the Google Drive space. It was DECIDED that the file server would be changed to READ ONLY from the day of adoption.

From the day of adoption, staff were told that they could only create and upload new documents to Google Drive. If a file from the file server was current, it was to be MOVED from the file-server to Google Drive.

The second decision to be made was around a corporate folder structure. This was an area of SIGNIFICANT conjecture. Folders in Google Drive are very different to folders of a file-server. Folders in Google Drive are more like LABELS or TAGS. For all intents and purposes, they look like folders but that is where the similarity ends. In Google Drive it is possible to have a file appear in MORE THAN one folder. The file does not exist in more than one location, it just has a RELATIONSHIP to more than one folder. There are two distinctions in Google Drive, these are: MOVE to folder or ADD to folder. This concept has proved to be very challenging to staff.

In a file-server environment, folders are used as a navigable hierarchy to find documents. The CHALLENGE with this approach is that each member of staff has a different understanding of where a file should be saved within the hierarchy. Retrieving relevant files was therefore always a daily challenge.

The Google Drive solution makes finding files through folder navigation REDUNDANT. Indexes are built every time a file is created or uploaded to Google Drive. The indexes are built based on words within the document title, words within the content of the document and words within the description of the document. These indexes are then used every time a user enters a query into the search field of Google Drive. To retrieve a pdf document with the word research in the title, the following query would be used:

type:pdf title:research

The results returned for such a query would only return documents that were CREATED by the user performing the search or SHARED with that user. To search across the whole organisation, the DOMAIN needed to be added:

source:domain type:pdf title:research

Over a period of time this type of query could result in HUNDREDS of results. A subtraction (-) can be added to the query to LIMIT what is returned in the search. So to find all pdf documents that had been produced by all users with the word research in the title but not the word AIDS in the title, the following query would be used:

source:domain type:pdf title:research -title:AIDS

These sought of queries are more like what would be used to find information in a search engine than what would be used within a business to find documents. This is the very point! We don’t use folders on the internet to find information so why do we use folders in an organisation to find content.

To maximise the benefits of the Google search engine, adopting a STANDARDS naming convention for all files created or uploaded to Google Drive is recommended. My client adopted the following convention:

{Code, Document Type, Document Title, Month in Full, Year in Full}

The code could be relate to a financial job code, project code, contract number or any other category. The document related to a standard document type category such as letter, map, invoice, contract etc. The document title was essentially a short five word description for the file, the month needed to be in full (March not Mar) and year in Full (1986 not 86). Conformance to this naming convention can be managed through Google Vault (standard as part of Google Apps Unlimited or $5 per user with Google Apps for Work).

So if the client wanted to find all invoices related to the job code SQWP in the month of April of 2012 that contained the word Alexander, they would use the following query:

source:domain title:SQWP title:April title:2012 Alexander

The word Alexander is not prefixed by title as they were after the word Alexander within the description or content of a file. In a standard file-server environment, invoices would be stored in the finance directory structure, evidence photographs would be stored in a folder related to audits, letters would be stored in a correspondence folder managed by the administration team. All files would relate to each other, but they would be located throughout the FOREST OF FILES. Using Google Drive and a standard naming convention, folders are irrelevant (other than for the personal management by individuals). The Search of Google is looking for words within file titles, content and description, it doesn’t even consider folders. It will return all documents irrespective of what folder an individual has stored it in.

Now the cool part!

If you scan a document or newspaper and save it as an image in Google Drive, the text is recognised within the image and added to the indexes. This also works for PDF documents. A query will return words found within a photograph or image that contains text. Objects can also be recognised within images such as dog, car, ocean, sky etc. So if I wanted to find all images that either contained the word dog or was a photograph that contained a dog, I could use the following search:

type:image dog