Anthony Snead, Digital Champion for Southern Housing Group, talks about how Southern Housing Group uses Google Drive to store and share documents quickly and securely.
Tell us a bit about yourself. (Your job, organisation, and your technical ability!)
I am a volunteer and Digital Champion for the Southern Housing Group. As part of the Digital Inclusion Programme, I am looking at technologies which will help people use a computer to find information, do simple day-to-day tasks like shopping and talking to family, and increase their confidence in using technology to make life easier.
Why did you look for this tool in the first place? What did you need help with?
We were looking for an online tool that would help us disseminate essential documents and resources that volunteers would require (i.e. expenses forms, policies, teaching resources). Google Drive appealed to us because it can sync with other Google features we use such as Google+ Hangouts and Gmail.
What is this tool mainly used for?
Part of a suite of applications called Google Apps, Google Drive allows you to store documents safely, access them from anywhere you have access to a browser and the internet, and collaborate on documents in real-time with other people. Once documents are uploaded to Google Drive, you can share the documents with other people, organise your documents into folders and convert documents to the Google format to allow other people to view the documents without Microsoft Office or other productivity suites.
What do YOU use it for?
Southern Housing Group uses the tool to store our Digital Champion TOOLKIT. This TOOLKIT contains information regarding our organisation, volunteer policies and an expenses spreadsheet in addition to other documents which helps us support our Digital Champions.
What have been the benefits of using this tool?
The benefits of using Google Drive are being able to easily access documents from any location where you have access to a browser and the internet, the tool is free to use and Google Drive is a good place to store your documents securely and safely.
Is there any cost attached to using this tool?
Google Drive is free to use. Just register at http://drive.google.com and get started uploading your files.
Are there any online tutorials available?
Google has a site where you can get more information on what Google Drive is and how it can help you store files in a safe place and share files with the people who need to see them. The site can be found at this URL: https://www.google.com/intl/en_US/drive/start/index.html.
Did this tool need much of your or a colleague’s time to set up at the beginning?
We spent about 30 minutes creating an account and getting familiar with Google Drive. It then took us a further 30 minutes to upload folders and documents and share them with others. People who currently have a Google account already have access to Google Drive as part of the suite of Google applications.
Are there any limitations to using this tool?
There are a few limitations when using Google Drive. Formatting is not always preserved when converting a Microsoft Office or other proprietary document to a Google Drive format. If you have multiple people sharing documents related to a common project or organisation, it is difficult to centrally manage these documents. It is recommended to either store all documents and share them from one account or create a "Google Apps for Business" account. A cost is associated with this type of account. If you are subject to EU policies regarding data protection, you may not be able to use Google Drive. Check with your organisation before using this tool.
Do you have any top tips for using this tool?
Before using Google Drive, I would recommend deciding whether your files need to be centrally managed or if it will be ok for individuals to share files using their own Google Apps accounts. The decisions will dictate if you should set up a "Google Apps for Business Account" which has a cost associated with it or use free Google Apps accounts. Questions you should ask are, 1. Will our organisation be impacted if a personal Google Apps account is suspended or deleted and we no longer have access to those files, 2. Do we want to store, manage and share files from a single account, 3. Do you have more than 5GB of documents you wish to store, 4. Do you need 24/7 customer support?
Do you have any other recommendations of digital tools you use, and what you use them for?
We also use Google Hangouts to "meet" with Digital Champions and other stakeholders. We can have a video and audio conference call with any one, two, three+, any where in the world. This helps us save on travel costs and travel time!