G Suite’s fail proves the need for resellers

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This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of CRN magazine.

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G Suite’s fail proves the need for resellers

COMMENT  |  Tech companies that sell to enterprise continually fail to understand the SME. It’s a great thing for the channel community because it creates opportunities for resellers to patch the divide.

This was really brought home recently during an upgrade from the basic to the business subscription of Google’s productivity collection, G Suite.

There’s a lot to love about G Suite. Google took powerful technology such as simultaneous co-editing and baked it into the three core activities of writing, presenting and counting.

Office 365 is more expensive, the co-editing isn’t as smooth, and it requires more work to administer. The latter point is very important. Young entrepreneurs with no budget for IT support can very easily fire up a G Suite account and get going quickly.

I also like the stripped back Google aesthetic. So do a lot of other businesses – over 4 million businesses have set themselves up on the platform.

Given the above, it is astonishing how badly Google fails to help business owners doing their own upgrade. Given the simplicity of the G Suite set-up one would expect a step-by-step walkthrough of upgrading to the business version. And there is some documentation that is really nicely presented.

But there is no walkthrough. And I’m pretty sure it is because it would involve admitting that Google Drive’s permission structure is completely insane.

When Google came up with Google Drive it gave the creator of any document a set of ironclad, perpetual rights. In a utopian, Silicon Valley Koolaid kind of way I can see how this came about. It makes sense when you’re sharing files as individuals between individuals.

But when the creator is an employee the libertarian property model falls apart. Employees come and go. The business itself should own and control access to the documents.

Google recognised this with G Suite for Business. Moving any document to Team Drives (a Business edition feature) reassigns ownership rights from the creator to the business.

This is where it gets messy. A small business on the Basic edition of G Suite will have a tonne of documents owned by a small village of collaborators. Contract designers, programmers, IT support and developers, marketing agencies and the like. Following Google Drive’s logic, the only way to move those files to a Team Drive is to ask each of those people for permission to hand over ownership of the file to your business.

Now, no one in their right mind is going to contact all current and former suppliers to hand over ownership of all shared documents.

So you either have to copy each document across manually or export the whole Google Drive to your desktop and re-upload it to your Team Drives as the new owner. (Losing any external shares in the process.)

The most intuitive behaviour – to drag and drop folders from your Google Drive to Team Drives – results in duplicate folders in both locations. Any files that you personally have created move across. Those made by anyone else stay in your Google Drive. Now you need to manually export the remaining files in each folder to your desktop and reupload them, folder by folder, starting with the smallest folders in your tree structure.

The amazing thing is that there is no red flashing warning sign in the upgrade instructions screaming “Don’t drag-and-drop folders!!!”

The only documentation encourages you to drag individual files over yourself but if you need to move a folder to contact your administrator. The administrator link just goes to an explanation of the administrator role. Not very helpful when the business owner is the administrator, as would be the case for the majority of basic G Suite setups.

After you make the migration you learn that it is impossible to share a folder in a Team Drive – you can only share a single document or the whole Team Drive. This is an epic fail which forces a business to create a forest of Team Drives. No mention of this in the upgrade process either.

I went through this experience a couple of months ago and still can’t understand how Google could make such a fundamental error. The only explanation I can come up with is that the people building it are too far away from their customers – a classic enterprise tech company mistake.

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