Need to get somewhere quickly in the year 2265? Star Trek makes it look easy: step onto a platform, wait for someone to press a few buttons, and a transporter beams you to a location nearby.

In 2015, Google Drive moves files to Google’s system almost as fast. Select a file (or folder) on your desktop and drag it into a browser window opened to Google Drive. Wait a bit as Google beams the information from your system to theirs.

However, if you want to move all of your files from local storage to Google Drive, you need to plan the journey.


Review your storage needs, connection speeds, and examine your file sizes and types. Identify the total storage space needed for files. Remember, Google provides 30 GB of storage for each Google Apps for Work account. If you need more, purchase additional storage or upgrade to Google Apps Unlimited to alleviate storage constraints.

Look for large files and unusual file types. For example, if you have folder filled with out-of-date videos, you could choose to archive that offline and not move those files to Google Drive.


You have three important decisions to make.

First, choose how to handle unusual files — in other words, files that are not traditional documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, or images. Databases are unusual files, as are Visio files, Publisher documents, AutoCAD files, and so on.

  • Often, you can move to an online version of an installed app. For example, you might move to QuickBooks Online from the installed version of Quickbooks.
  • If there isn’t an online version, you may be able to switch to an alternative app. For example, you could move to LucidChart, since there isn’t an online version of Visio.
  • In some cases, you might opt to maintain your existing app. If that’s the case, you’ll need to choose where to maintain the app and related files, plus ensure appropriate app access and backup.

Next, choose whether to convert uploaded files to Google Docs format (Figure A). If you do, files you upload in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats will be converted to their respective Google Docs formats. Files that are uploaded and converted don’t count toward your storage totals. However, the conversion process may change formatting or lose information if your documents use features not supported in Google Docs. So, convert files with care.

Figure A

Choose whether or not to convert uploaded Office files to Google Doc format.

Third, select administrative sync settings. Decide whether to allow offline files or prevent people from installing the Google Drive sync app (Figure B). As the Google Apps administrator, login at, go to Apps | Google Apps | Drive | General settings, then review and adjust the settings (see my earlier article, “The Google Apps productivity dilemma” to learn more).

Figure B

Configure offline sync and Google Drive app settings.


Log in to Google Drive, open to the Google Drive folder in which you wish to store files, then select files on your desktop, and drag-and-drop them to Drive. You files will upload one-by-one, and you’ll see a list of the queued files in your browser. If you see a failed upload error, choose “Retry” to repeat and complete the upload.

Schedule your uploads to minimize conflicts with daily work. You might choose to upload large files during off-hours to minimize the impact on outbound internet traffic. Review your internet provider’s terms of service to make sure your file uploads don’t trigger fees or penalties.

You also might move logical groups of data together. For example, upload all Finance files one week, and Marketing files the next.


Review and modify folder — and file — share permissions after your uploads. For example, Finance files might be shared only to a few people, while certain Marketing files — such as the organization’s logo — might be available to everyone in the company. Some folders could be shared with the public, such as official product documentation files. (If you have a complex setup or thousands of files, you might pay for a third-party tool to manage your file migration and permissions. See Scott Matteson’s article “Migrate data and permissions easily with Linkgard’s Nava Certus.”)

Once your files are moved, enjoy the flexibility. With all your files on Google Drive, you don’t need to worry about local drive failures. You can pick up almost any device, connect, work, and collaborate. Google Drive — along with Google Docs — offers a collaboration system that enables a diverse team of people to work together, almost anywhere.

Have you — or your organization — moved most or all of your files to cloud storage? Have you completely eliminated on-site shared storage (such as a NAS or file servers)? What one tip would you share with others?