How to Set Up Google Drive: A Quick Guide for Small Businesses

Posted 5 years ago in Small Business Tips
by Tim Chaves

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve likely used a personal Gmail and Google Drive account, and at some point discovered you needed to upgrade to a G Suite account. Maybe you added headcount or needed a business email address with secure document storage and sharing capabilities. Regardless of why you made the decision, there’s a definite right way to set up Google Drive and configure G Suite.

Here’s a quick guide on how to get started.

Step 1: Set Up Admin Privileges

One of the first steps to setting up G Suite is deciding who should be admins, as well as what level of privileges to assign to each person on your team. As a general rule, you should only grant the minimum permissions needed for administrators (and try to limit the number of privileged users overall).

There are three key roles that are important for SMBs to consider in the setup process. Anything beyond these roles is probably not necessary until you reach a certain level of growth.

  • Super Admins have access to all features in the Admin console and Admin API, and can manage every aspect of the organization’s account. Super Admins also have full access to all users’ calendars and event details.  Google recommends that at least two people should have Super Admin access, just in case one user forgets his or her password (the other user can reset it). For SMBs, super admins could be a founder and co-founder.
  • Groups Admins can add or delete Google Groups in the Admin console, managing the members and access settings within groups. It can be useful to have additional Groups Admins on top of the Super Admins to make team-level changes.
  • User Management Admins can perform all actions on users who aren’t administrators, including creating or deleting users, or managing users’ passwords and security settings. These might be the people in the organization responsible for employee onboarding and offboarding, such as an HR team member.

Now that you’ve assigned your admins, it’s time to set up  your Google Drive.

Step 2: Set Up Google Drive

The Super Admins should be the ones to set the standards for how Google Drive is set up in your organization. For example, the Super Admins should set up a folder structure from the outset that make sense based on your business’s needs. When you create a new folder, it’ll appear in your own “Drive”, and you can share it  with the right users from there.

Leaving the rest in the hands of employees can sometimes create chaos, so it’s important to give clear instructions on how you’d like your files and folders maintained. For example:

  • Click “Add to Drive”: Employees should add each of their new shared folders to their Drive ensure that each one is centrally located and not sitting in the “Shared with Me” folder. They’ll know it’s done right when they see the folder in their “My Drive” section.
  • Only create new files from a folder: Employees will know they’re in the right place when the header says My Drive > Folder name. Then click the New button, and the type of document, and the file will AUTOMATICALLY be shared with everyone who has access to that folder.
  • Download the Google Drive desktop app: If each user downloads the desktop app, all folders will be saved and synced for offline access.

Alternate Step 2: Use Team Drives (For G Suite Business or Enterprise)

If you have G Suite Business or Enterprise editions, you can take advantage of Team Drives (and you should!)

With Team Drives, once you have your users added to G Suite, you can set up groups to create distribution lists for teams. Groups can help admins manage access to documents, sites, videos, and calendars.  In addition, groups can make it easier to manage access and admin privileges.

A best practice is to sync Team Drives to Groups for easier document access management and employee onboarding and offboarding. With Team Drives, files belong to a team rather than an individual. This feature makes your data far more secure (but more on security later).

For example, if you create a new Team Drive folder for a specific Group,  and if an employee leaves the organization, offboarding that employee becomes as simple as revoking access to the group (there’s no need to transfer document ownership for dozens or hundreds of documents or completely reset permissions). To share a Team Drive with everyone in a group, simply invite that Group name to the Team Drive settings.

Step 3: Follow G Suite Security Best Practices

Security policies are only followed when they’re easy for users to understand. Better yet, if you can set up security best practices that feel almost invisible to the user, your small business will be protected against many potential security incidents.

Some basic G Suite security best practices for SMBs include:

  • Requiring Multi-Factor Authentication: This simple step greatly reduces the harm that an attacker can do with stolen credentials. While this may seem like a requirement in today’s age, Blissfully data shows that the average company only has 37% of their employees using MFA on their main G Suite account. And this number gets even worse for smaller and early-stage companies, where just 22% of employees at companies with less than 50 people have multi-factor authentication enabled.
  • Using Google Identity / Single Sign On: Many SaaS apps both inside and outside the G Suite Marketplace offer Single Sign On (SSO)  with Google functionality. This feature is useful for admins who want to know which permissions people are giving to which apps.


    Checking App and File Sharing Reports: Another important function of the G Suite Admin Console is reporting. Two especially useful reports are “Apps Usage Activity” and “File Sharing Activity.”  Using these reports, you can discover whether there’s suspicious activity happening within a Google App, or whether there’s an unusual number of shares outside your domain that might merit a security investigation.

Taking the time to properly set up your Google Drive and G Suite account can ensure that your business — and your employees —  are protected for years to come.

Setting up your Google Drive is just one of the things every small business owner needs to know. Read more “Small Business Tips” here and learn how ZipBooks can help you grow your business

About Tim

Tim is Founder and CEO of ZipBooks. He keeps his desk really nice and neat.

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