Share subfolders in Team Drives


If you're working to replace your file server with Google Drive, let us help! Google incentivises us to help organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Sharing Subfolders

We've been working with organizations of all shapes and sizes to migrate their file server to Team Drives. Companies are transitioning from traditional file servers as well as other cloud-based services like Dropbox and Box. 

A common question is, "how do I share subfolders in Team Drives?" With the current system, especially traditional file servers, it's extremely common to have different sharing permissions in subfolders than exist in the top level folder(s). 

What's the answer? It's simple, by design. You don't. If more flexibility is absolutely required, for whatever reason, traditional Drive folders can be used. 

We have received a large volume of questions regarding this functionality. If adjusting sharing models to accommodate Drive is not preferred, we also offer Egnyte. Founded in 2007, Egnyte is financially backed by Google and offers the same sharing model of a traditional Windows server and also allows hybrid deployments.

Team Drives Permissions

How many Team Drives will you have? That depends on how many different groups of Users will have different permissions to different content. Most organizations will not have a single top level folder like they may have had with a traditional file server. You cannot make Team Drives subfolders more or less restrictive than the top level folder. The Team Drive folder sets permissions of all subfolders. (You can share individual pieces of content with additional people.) 

I'd start by configuring Google Groups. Groups are a great way to simplify sharing permissions. Management, Finance, Operations, Marketing, All Users, etc. Groups allow you to configure permissions once and easily have them added or removed based on Group membership. When an employee changes roles, joins the organization or leaves the organization you can update their Group status accordingly. You'll use Groups when sharing Team Drives so rather than going through and trying to find all the places content has been shared with a User, their Group status automatically updates permissions across the board. 

But I really like sharing subfolders...

Old habits die hard and we can certainly understand the warm, fuzzy feeling created by a beautifully curated folder hierarchy. It's art, right? Here's the thing though, 99 times out of 100 the sharing permissions within an elaborate folder hierarchy are poorly understood, understood incorrectly, or not known at all. This makes administration and security auditing much more difficult. What we most often find in a traditional environment is 'security by obscurity' ... people actually do have permissions, they just don't know it. 

Search and prosper

Search makes the task of memorizing the path through a half dozen layers of subfolders obsolete. 

If Users are scrolling through Drive looking for content, they're doing it wrong. Search is your friend and Users should be encouraged endlessly to embrace Search like a boss. 


Search for files

Find a file in a specific Team Drive:

  1. In Search, click the down arrow off to the right.

  2. Next to Location, click Anywhere.

  3. Double-click Team Drives and select a particular team drive.

  4. Click Select.

  5. (Optional) Enter additional search options.

  6. Click Search.


Did you know you can search a traditional file server? Most Users don't. Why not? Because it takes forever, so Users never learn and cultivate the habit. I remember showing colleagues how to search file servers at Cerner Corporation and blowing their minds. It was amazing what we could find with enough patience. Today we have unlimited horsepower, searching massive amounts of content is trivial. A 'search first' mentality does require a change in thinking and a change in behaviour. Change is the key word. 

If you're working to replace your file server with Google Drive, let us help! Google incentivises us to help organizations of all shapes and sizes.