Using Google Drive and Team Drives as your file server

Google Drive File Stream with Excel file

Google Drive File Stream with Excel file


If you're working to replace your file server with Google Drive, let us help! Google incentivizes us to help organizations of all shapes and sizes. Working with a Google managed partner like Umzuzu doesn't cost you anything. 

Replacing Windows file server with Google Drive

The best way to move from Windows File Server to Google Drive depends. For larger organizations, a dedicated migration software is going to be needed. Umzuzu offer's DIY Google Cloud migration software starting at just $11/user. We also offer Managed Migration services for more complex transitions. What about organizations with 5, 10, maybe 20 employees or with relatively straightforward file server requirements? Well, we can get a bit more creative. 

Backup & Sync + Windows Server

Google's new File Stream client does not support Windows Server. Google's new Backup and Sync application does. You can leverage Backup and Sync to continuously copy data from the current file server to Google Drive. We would typically recommend giving the current file server its own G Suite account. (G Suite Business with unlimited storage and the Team Drives service is handy for this work.)

Backup and Sync is configured on the Windows Server. Importantly the Drive folders created by this process are not shared with employees. The exception being those who understand what's going on and are helping with the process. We do not want people making changes in different places. We want to leverage either Windows network sharing or Drive sharing for specific content, but not both. 

Using Google Drive as the file server

The timing of the transition is critical. Importantly we do not want people making changes to the file server. With this process, we need a hard cut over. Backup and Sync will have been running for days or maybe even weeks depending on the size of the current file server. We should now have a copy of our data at Google. We've effectively already migrated to Google! Now we need to recreate our sharing permissions. 

Team Drives offer more control over content than Drive folders and are recommended, but not technically required. If you have Team Drives, you have unlimited storage so we're good there. Each individual Team Drive has an item, folders and files, limit of 100,000 (Google may increase this in the future). It's good to check the properties of file server folders to verify the current item counts. If a file server directory has more than 100,000 items, several Team Drives will be needed to take its place. This single file share directory will need to be broken into multiple Team Drives directories.  

As an example, let's say we have a file share folder called Contracts and it's shared with 2 people in accounting and 10 sales associates. We can create a new Team Drive called 'Contracts' and share it, ideally via Groups, with the same people. You can disable the notification if you'd like as a Team Drive will automatically show when File Stream is configured.

  1. Notify these 12 people the Contracts network folder will be temporarily unavailable.
  2. Disable Windows network sharing
  3. Remove the folder from Backup and Sync preferences 
  4. Copy the content of the Backup and Sync folder to the Team Drive folder. (This process can take a while on Google's end.) 
  5. Have each team member install File Stream (and it's a good idea to right-click and disconnect the now nonfunctional Windows network drive. Press F5 if it does not disappear after disconnecting.)

Now they should see the same shared folder and have a nearly identical experience. The transition is extremely easy for end users. 

What's the catch? 

This is a relatively simple process which is nice. However, it's very manual which comes with some issues. It's only appropriate for relatively straightforward, small migrations. For more complex migrations, we'd want more reporting regarding processing status and errors. A dedicated migration software should be used. There's not a lot of transparency as Google moves content from the Backup and Sync folders to Team Drives. It just says it's working on it. There's no progress indication or error reporting. We're not deleting any data so that's good, but if 5 files out of 10,000 are missing we're not going to know. Content not moved is still visible in the Backup and Sync location, so that works as an effective check. 

At the end of the process, you might consider re-running backup and sync for its intended purpose and create another copy of the file server data for redundancy. 

It's important to note these are all new services and applications offered by Google. While File Stream should be Generally Available any day, it's technically still Early Adopter. Backup and Sync is new. Team Drives are new. We should have additional processes and services available as Google roles out updates.