There are two ways to share a bunch of files in Google Drive with others: a shared folder or a Shared Drive. There are some big differences between the two, mainly with ownership and permissions.
Every file and folder in Google Drive needs an owner. The owner has full control over what happens to the file or folder.
When you share a folder, the other participants with the folder retain ownership of files placed in the folder. That means if the account which owns the file is deleted or the person leaves, so does any file owned by the account.
Files placed in a Shared Drive transfer ownership from the person to the Shared Drive itself. If a person is removed from the Shared Drive or their account is deleted, nothing happens to the files stored in the Shared Drive because they are owned by the Shared Drive.
Along with an owner, every file and folder has permissions attached to it which dictate how a user may interact with that file or folder.
With a shared folder, you are limited to three permissions: Viewer, Commenter, and Editor. A viewer may only see files. A commenter can add comments to a file but cannot change the file. An editor has full control over what can happen to the file, including deleting it.
Shared Drives ditches the Editor permission and adds three others: Contributor, Content Manager, and Manager. This gives the manager of a shared drive vastly improved controls over what users may do in the drive. A contributor can add or edit files, but they can’t move or delete them. The content manager can add, edit, move, and delete files. A Shared Drive Manage can do everything the content manager can do, along with managing the users of a Shared Drive and a Shared Drive’s settings.
So when do you use a shared folder and when a Shared Drive?
Shared folders are good for projects that occur within a single school year and won’t have a lot of turnover of people needing access. They are not good for grade level or content area groups of teachers. What has happened in the past is that a teacher will change grades or content levels and then delete the shared folder because they don’t need it anymore. Unfortunately, this also deletes the folder for everyone, so then I end up helping restoring it.
For multi-year and ongoing projects, committees, grade level, and content areas I recommend setting up a generic sounding Shared Drive. Don’t add a school year to the drive name though. Well, I guess you could if you want to rename it every year, but I would recommend making school year folders inside of the Shared Drive. You don’t want to have to change the name of Shared Drive, people don’t like that.
Once you have the Shared Drive, add people to it and give them permissions. For grade level/content areas, Content Manager is a good permission which gives teachers the ability to add, edit, move, and delete files. For committees and groups a more likely permission for users would be Contributor. This allows the users to add and edit files inside of the Shared Drive.
To learn more about Shared Drives, check out Google’s support pages on Shared Drives and Google’s video on what you can do with Shared Drives.