Going Paper-less with Google Drive
As a technology company, we tend to go full-bore with any tools that can move us away from paper. When Google Drive (formerly Google Apps) made authoring, organizing and sharing digital documents something available to the masses, we jumped on it. Fully three years later, for us it has been a huge success.
How We're Organized
Since everyone has their own Drive, all of our employees can structure things as they like. That said, I've also created some master folders that I have shared with people, along with the underlying structure. Here's an overview:
- Contracts & MSAs
- Entities (private)
- Finances (private)
- Job Ads
- New Employee Docs
- Phone Screeens [Master]
- Role Descriptions
- Office Planning
Several folders feature subfolders. The HR folder is an example of one of the folders expanded. The Contracts & MSAs and Sales folders are further segmented by customer allowing us to make client specific information available to members of our team on an as-needed basis.
What About Security?
For our internal information (lease rates, proposal numbers, etc.) I tend to be fairly open with the team. This means I don't have huge concerns about the amount I pay per square foot or similar things becoming public knowledge. However security for any customer information is critical, especially if this information is protected under NDA. Keeping this in mind I actually find Google Drive to be a more secure way of storing and sharing information than traditional paper. Here's why:
- All transactions running over the internet with Google Drive are secure (SSL).
- Unlike paper, I can specify the specific people who have access to a file at anytime.
- Unlike paper, I can specify the type (edit, comment, view) permission that a particular user receives.
- Unlike email, any sharing of documents via Google Drive is secure (see #1).
Beyond improvements in security, adopting Google Drive has allowed given us the following benefits:
- Unlimited physical locations
- Access from any machine
- Rapid organization & retrieval
Unlimited physical locations
When compared to a physical filing system (which we still maintain for some things), Google Drive allows me access to critical paperwork no matter where I am. When is my current office lease going to expire? Let's pull that document up. Someone else needs access to those phone interview notes? I'll share it.
Access from any machine
When compared to digital documents that could reside on a specific computer there are other advantages. All access to Drive is gated by my Google account - and access is also made available to me on my mobile phone or other laptop. This means if I am working from my wife's computer or if I need to pull up information on my mobile phone, there's never a point where I can't continue my work.
Collaboration has been key in authorship of many of our internal documents. Our Developer Handbook, for example, allows consistent updates by any of the members of our team. Because Google tracks revisions, it's easy to check and see who has added what.
Rapid organization & retrieval
Organizing digital paper is a whole lot faster that it is to deal with physical paper. Once you have things in place, it's also a lot easier to find things. Even if something isn't in the proper folder the master search makes it relatively painless to find that missing document - as long as you remember what you called it, or some content it contains. This is the trickiest for spreadsheets.
Questions for You
If you use Google Drive (or another virtual paper system) I'd like to know how it's working for you. Did I miss a benefit? Did I overstate the ease of use? I'd love to hear from you.