Avoiding Real Drive Security Threats

Are Your Users Letting Data Thieves in Through the Front Door?

When most organizations think about protecting files in Google Drive, they focus on Google’s security certifications, whether or not to allow external sharing, and setting up groups to make assigning permissions easier. Too often, they fail to consider the bigger risks to data: users and apps.

Users typically have the ability to share Drive content within your domain and externally. A simple user error (and the occasional intentional act) can expose sensitive data, creating headaches and potential liabilities.

Apps, whether browser extensions or on smart phones, can be installed by your users without your knowledge. These apps often request broad access to data ranging from contact lists to Drive content and can expose data before you know the apps even exist. Human nature tells us that if person wants an app, they “Allow” and “Accept” without necessary reading or understanding the permissions being granted.

Critical to securing data in Drive, organizations should monitor and manage both user permissions based on policies and content and third-party apps with access to data. An understanding of the access granted each App and whether others have deemed the App trustworthy, gives you the power to allow Apps that help your team work efficiently while blocking Apps that pose too much risk.

The First Step to closing user sharing and Apps permission risks is to audit and assess your environment. Audit user assigned permissions and third-party Apps with access and review the results for potential data security issues.

With an understanding of the scope of your risk, you can best decide if you should further investment in your Google Apps ecosystem.

In partnership with CloudLock, we are offering great discounts on our Google Apps Risk Assessment service. Normally a $1,000 per audit service, we will examine collaboration and permission settings as well as the 3rd party Apps that already have access to your domain for $300 or less.

Contact us for more information or to request a formal quote.

4th of 5: More Ways to Collaborate in Google Apps

Google Apps is designed for secure sharing and collaborations.  Many users, however, still rely on the back-and-forth of email to get their work done.  Here is the 4th of 5 other ways to collaborate in Google Apps.

Comments and Real-Time Chats in Google Docs

You already know that, with permission, colleagues can view and edit shared documents together in real-time.  They can also engage in real-time chat from directly within the document windows.  Instead of calling a meeting, or setting up a conference call or hangout, team members can ask questions, suggest edits, and provide feedback immediately while working on the document.

If team members are working on the document at different times, they can highlight text and add a comment.  Visible in the margin, fellow collaborators are notified by email of the comments and receive a link that opens the document at the comment.  Comments can be directed to specific team members and team members can respond to directed requests by replying to the email.

Once a comment thread is finished, or the issue resolved, mark the comment as “resolved”. While the comment disappears from view, comments remain part of the document history and can be recalled should questions arise down the road.

Helping users get the most out of Google Apps is one of the reasons we offer a range of training and professional development services.  Contact us if you want to learn more.


3rd of 5: More Ways to Collaborate in Google Apps

google drive
Google Apps is designed for secure sharing and collaborations.  Many users, however, still rely on the back-and-forth of email to get their work done.  Here is the 3rd of 5 other ways to collaborate in Google Apps.

Shared Folders in Drive

Instead of sharing individual files with users or groups, create a project folder and share the folder with the team.  When you share a folder, all work uploaded to the folder or created within the folder, the file automatically is assigned the same sharing settings as the folder.

Project managers can still set permission levels based on need — view, comment, or edit — and you can override the inherited permissions for individual files and for sub folders as needed.

Training users to find and enter a project folder before working on the project is an easy tip that saves time and effort.

If you want to help your team get more from Google Apps, Contact us about our training options.

Restore Google Drive Files Offers Some (but not enough?) Protection

google drive
Among the myriad of new features and upgrades announced at Google I/O this week, Google added the ability to restore users’ Drive files that have been deleted from the Trash folder.

While offering some protection, the feature is limited in its scope.

  • You cannot restore individual files; you can only restore all files deleted within a date range you provide.  The minimum date range is 1 day (24 hours).
  • You can only restore files for individual users, one at a time.
  • You can only restore files that were deleted from Trash within 25 days.
  • When restoring files, the permissions are not restored.  Only the user will have access to the files.

With these limitations, we do not expect the ability to restore a user’s Google Drive files will be of great use to most organizations.  With a limited retention period and lack of granularity, the tool provides a big shovel when most users need a spoon.

The solution also depends on users’ ability to recover information from the Trash folder, a process we find difficult at times due to the limited ability to search Trash in Drive.

True backup/recovery solutions give users and administrators that critical features that deliver more usability and effectiveness:

  • Flexible retention:  Allow organizations to implement policies related document and records management, including extended retention and removal of data past retention windows.
  • File-Level / Item-Level Restore: Most data loss and restore needs result from human error or action and impact fewer than 5 files.  Acceptable restore capabilities include the ability to restore individual files (or entire accounts) and should include the ability to select file by version or point in time.
  • Protect Meta Data:  Protect the meta data as well as the files themselves.  File ownership, permissions, etc. should be preserved and recoverable with the file.
  • Data Export:  Provide the ability to export data so that it may be migrated to other accounts and/or other systems.
  • Administrative Control:  Identify and allow backup/restore administrators that are not full domain administrators.

Absent many of these features, the ability within Google Apps to restore a user’s Drive files is a limited feature that will not meet most organizations’ needs for data protection.

Third party backup/restore solutions are still a necessary and appropriate component of a robust Google Apps environment.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to explore backup/recovery options and solutions.

Alternatives to MS Office



With more businesses moving to the cloud, and Google Apps in particular, one of the questions that comes up is whether organizations still need MS Office.  The fact that MS Office use is drastically lower than peceived within most companies is a subject for another post.

For many organizations, they still need a solution for existing (legacy) documents as well as documents shared with them by others still using MS Office.  The good news is that you have a number of strong competitors that are free, or very low cost, and that run across multiple platforms.  Here a few.

Kingsoft Office

Cost:  Free; Premium Edition for Windows is $69.95
Platforms:  Windows, Android, iOS, Linux

Kingsoft Office is a free MS Office compatible suite available on Windows, Android (including Samsung devices and International), iOS (iPad and iPhone), and Linux.  The suite integrates with Google Drive, as well as Box and Dropbox.

Office Suite from Mobile Systems Inc.

Cost: Android: Free or $9.99 for Premium; iOS: $1.99 (promotion; normally $14.99)
Platforms: Android, iOS

Work with and print Office format documents, as well as PDF and ZIP files.  A file manager works with local files and attachments on smartphones and tablets and can also access Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive and SugarSync, plus sharing via email, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct.

QuickOffice form Google

Cost: Free with Google Apps account
Platforms: Android, iOS

Edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files read PDFs.  Works only with Google Drive and supports printing to Wi-Fi printers.

DocstoGo from DataViz

Cost: Free
Platforms: Android, iOS

Supports MS Office 97, 2010, and 2013 formats.  An in-app purchase is required to use Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Polaris Office 5

Cost: Free
Platforms: Android, iOS

Allows workgroups to use email or social contacts to collaborate on documents.  Works with Google Drive, Box, Dropbox and other WebDAV sites. The iOS version supports OneDrive as well.


Cost: Free; Pro version for $3.99 per month includes printing
Platforms: Android, iOS

Rather than building apps to execute on the local device, the CloudOn connects to a free service that executes Office apps in the cloud, and opens and edits files there. Only screen updates and gestures go back and forth. CloudOn saves to a Google Drive, Box, Dropbox or OneDrive account.

Google Docs & Drive: Small New Features Make a Big Difference

docsGoogle continues to enhance the Google Apps suite with updates to Google Docs and Drive.

In Google Docs:

  • A new spell checker runs in real-time.  Marking misspelled words, the checker lets you review spelling via a traditional style tool, see spelling suggestions as you type, and setup automatic correction.   You can learn more here.
  • New presets for numbered and bullet lists provide more formatting options in Documents.  You can now also change the color, size, and style of individual bullets, as well as customize your own bullet styles.  See this Google+ post for an animated demo.

google driveIn Google Drive, the current release (1.11) of Google Drive for Mac or PC includes two new features:

  • On Windows, you can now have shortcuts to Documents, Sheets, and Slides on the desktop or in the Start Menu — making it easier to use Google Docs as a primary (or strong secondary) productivity suite.
  • You may now also select where your Google Drive sync folder is located and choose your own name for the folder.

While major in scope, these updates reflect Google’s process of continuous improvement based on user feedback and requests.  These changes improve ease of use and the end user experience.

Quickoffice: More Than Office for Mobile Users



QuickofficeWith this week’s release of Quickoffice for iPhone and Android platforms, Google Apps for Business mobile users can now access and edit MS Office files on any iOS or current Android device.  Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files are no longer captive to heavy and more expensive Windows laptops, netbooks, and tablets.

Overdrive … 

The Quickoffice app also expands access to all files in Google Drive.  In addition to users’ My Drive content, Quickoffice provides folder views for Shared with Me, Starred, Recent, and any subfolders.

Helpful Hint: Modern Preview in Google Drive


In the beginning, seeing a preview of documents in Google Drive meant clicking an link and waiting for a new browser window or browser tab to open up.  Your preview would appear, if the file type was compatible, surrounded by all the menu bars and trappings of a Google Doc screen.

All that is changing.Google Drive Preview

Google is rolling out a new preview for files in Google Drive, starting now.

Google Drive will let you quickly preview more than 30 file types and quickly flip between files until you find the one you want.  You’ll see the new preview automatically if you open a photo, video, or PDF. To see a preview of a Google document, right-click on the file name and select “preview.”

Once the preview window is open, you can …

  • Click on the arrows on either side to flip to other files.
  • Watch video files or scroll through multi-page documents.
  • Select and copy text from the preview — even for a PDF or Microsoft Word document
  • Use the zoom buttons to see a file in more detail.

Each file preview also gives you one-click access to share, download, print or open a file for editing. 

The Video Service in Google Apps

OK, it is not really new.  But, major changes are in the works.   By the end of this year, Google Video for Business will be shut down with companies’ videos and the service capabilities moving to Google Drive.

Google Drive has many advantages over Google Video for Business. including:

  • Uploading and streaming HD quality video
  • Captions/subtitles in over 100 languages, and multiple tracks for each language
  • The ability to embed a video on any page
  • Advanced sharing controls, including the ability to prevent viewers from downloading the video
  • SSL streaming for secure watching of videos
  • User comments on the video page
  • API access to manage videos

Migrated Google Video for Business video files will not count against the user’s Google Drive storage quota (new videos will), and all links to them will be automatically redirected to Google Drive.  As the migration happens, videos will be stored in a folder named “Google Video for Business.”

Best Practices

While migrated videos will not count towards Drive storage quotas, future videos will.   Uploaded videos go through the same processing and compression as they did with the Video for Business service (a 30 minute video we uploaded uses only 28K), organizations that heavily use video may want to setup an additional user account to serve as the owner of videos.  By creating a central account, managing additional storage, when needed, becomes easier.

More Information

For more information, feel free to contact us.  Google has also published a nice help article on the subject.


Inbox Size versus Email Relevance

Now that many email services are matching Google Apps’ 25GB inbox, the IT folks areA Clean Inbox wondering if users really need that much space and if mailbox limits are still a good practice.  For most companies, the answer lies in how users use email.

Most emails lose value over time.  Like most conversations, the value of the discussion itself fades once the conclusion or result is reached.  Granted, emails dealing with legal, contract, or financial issues have historical value and should be kept around.  But think about the back-and-forth emails for scheduling a lunch meeting and picking a location.  The conversation is fine; the end result is what really matters.

Use and content are more important than size. For users that do not have mobile access to documents, saving emails with attachments may be the only way to access important information in a timely manner.  For these users, large mailboxes seem useful.

For users addressing customer service issues, emails from past cases create unnecessary clutter in the inbox and folders that can lead to disorganization and inefficiencies.  For these users, limiting inbox sizes forces organization.  Combined with an archive, customer related information is not lost while users have a cleaner environment.

And while some users believe that they need to keep everything and that they will need access to any past email at any point in the future, reality dictates that the need to go back to old emails is very limited.  For these users, the discussion is philosophical more than pragmatic.

The challenge for the IT team, is that nearly every organization has all types of users.

You can provide a common solution. Instead of focusing on “how much” space to provide users, focus on “information value”.  Users should have immediate access to information contained in emails that they need to perform efficiently and effectively.

Taking this point of view, email services can meet all user needs when:

  • Users have local, remote, and mobile access to collaboration tools and shared file services, eliminating the need for sending documents as attachments.
  • The system automatically archives email messages, potentially indefinitely, for future viewing by the end user.
  • Users can automatically groom they size of their inbox and email folders based on age, rather than volume, letting users keep and focus on information with the greatest value.

Creating an email service with these attributes eliminates concerns about remote/mobile access, sending/receiving messages with large attachments, and user efficiency.

The good news: The integrated tools within Google Apps — Gmail, Docs, Drive, and remote services — along with Google Apps Vault (or Message Archive & Discovery) deliver this ecosystem without complex configuration and expensive infrastructure.