Where should I store my shared files?   

The Take Home Message 

Both Google Drive and Microsoft’s SharePoint store files and allow collaboration. Both store other types of files, and both allow collaboration with external stakeholders. Creating an organizational policy and strong training for staff on how to store and share files is essential in a modern nonprofit office.

Where possible, sticking to a single platform is beneficial, but it is also possible to manage a hybrid when necessary. Allowing individual preferences/no policy can create inefficiency and security issues. If you are experiencing storage and collaboration challenges, we recommend starting with stronger training before contemplating switching platforms.

SharePoint and Google Drive Basic Questions

If you have to make a choice about storage, what are the pros and cons of Google Workspace vs. Microsoft’s SharePoint? 

Community IT often receives questions about these two platforms, and one of the questions we get the most is which is “better” for storing and sharing files.

Nonprofits are increasingly reliant on cloud storage solutions to store and share files. But with so many options available, choosing the right platform can be a challenge. Google Drive and Microsoft SharePoint/OneDrive are two of the most popular options. Both offer a variety of features and benefits, but they also have their own strengths and weaknesses.

To clarify, Microsoft 365 users have access to SharePoint for sharing and storing files. They also have access to OneDrive, which can be considered individual storage in SharePoint. It can be confusing because one can also share files from OneDrive to SharePoint, Teams, and other Microsoft products. For the sake of this article, we will refer to SharePoint as the general files storage and collaboration tool. Frequently Asked Questions About SharePoint.

SharePoint and Google Drive Considerations

How Much Data Is My Organization Sharing?

Does my organization have more than a couple terabytes or less of data to save to shared repositories? Since the 2023 storage improvements to Google Workspace to storage limits for the Google Charity Tier of Service, Google has had an advantage in this dimension. Microsoft 365 provides up to 2TB per OneDrive, but SharePoint storage is currently limited to 1 TB plus 10 GB per license purchased. It won’t be surprising if Microsoft ups this limit in the next 12-18 months now that Google has raised the bar.

Does My Organization Rely on Microsoft 365 Integrations to Be Productive?

Does my organization use the Microsoft Office Desktop Suite (Word, Excel, etc.) for most productivity work? Microsoft 365 has the advantage here. Microsoft owns the Microsoft Desktop Suite, and it owns SharePoint/OneDrive. It has built terrific integrations between the two. Co-authoring in Microsoft Word is a functionality that Word/SharePoint-using nonprofits really appreciate. It’s not possible if your Word files are stored in Google Workspace. Similarly, you can share a Word document with an easy click directly in Microsoft Word if the document is saved to SharePoint/OneDrive. 

It’s worth noting that Microsoft Office Desktop Suite users can save all their Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents to Google Workspace. It’s just that Google Workspace doesn’t come with all the integrations that Microsoft 365 does.

Does My Organization Use Google Apps?

Does my organization have a need to use Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides)? You can ONLY save those documents to Google Drive. If you need to save a Google Doc/Sheet/Slide to another location (any other location) it will be converted to a Microsoft Office Desktop Suite format.

Does My Organization Share and Save Other File Formats?

What about other file formats, like Adobe files or other media files? There is parity between Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 in terms of storing file types from non-Google, non-Microsoft file formats.

Should My Organization Use SharePoint or Google Drive to Hold Large Media File Libraries?

Are SharePoint or Google Drive adequate to hold a large video or graphics library, or should I use a dedicated Digital Asset Manager (DAM)? This is largely a question of scale, ease of use, and familiarity. If your organization is holding a few videos of board meetings or a few folders’ worth of photos, either SharePoint or Google Drive can handle it, especially if staff know where to find and store this type of file. If your organization’s mission is such that you hold lots of video files or have specialized needs for working on and collaborating on large files, you probably already have a dedicated DAM, or should invest in one.

Does My Organization Collaborate with External Stakeholders?

If we are sharing work with external collaborators, which platform is better? Both platforms provide opportunities to share files with external stakeholders. It is generally easier if the external stakeholders are also regular users of the platform from which the files are shared, but neither Microsoft 365 nor Google Groups require it. 

This is probably the area in which each platform can have the greatest advantage over the other.

Does My Organization Already Use Both Platforms?

Could we use Microsoft 365 for some files and Google Workspace for others? Yes, but for understandable reasons, a lot of organizations are reluctant to go this route. Organizations want control of their information assets, and this is hard enough to maintain on a single platform, let alone when documents are spread across multiple platforms. If an organization uses more than one platform for storing documents, our advice is to be very clear about (and strictly enforce) governance on when to use which platform. Users should not simply choose the platform they prefer for saving any given file. 

How Can My Organization Create a Sharing and Storing Policy?

Of course, in most organizations, there is a certain amount of users choosing the platform they prefer for saving any given file if staff have equally easy access to both storage options. But this is not ideal. It creates inefficiencies that can eat into productivity and create job dissatisfaction and stress. And while both platforms can be used securely, an organization without a strong storage and collaboration policy may be opening itself up to security lapses when staff unknowingly share too much with collaborators or store sensitive documents in folders with wide access.

You can use formal surveys, training, staff feedback, or informal (potentially virtual) “brown bag” events to determine if your staff users are losing time during the day searching for collaboration documents across platforms. Or you may find out the hard way during a security breach that sensitive documents were being stored insecurely.

Put another way, if storage is inconsistent and that is impacting your operations, then invest in solutions – from more training on the staff end to managing storage options better on the admin end.

Perhaps a policy would be that all internal documents are stored in SharePoint/OneDrive and all documents related to a specific program’s work are stored in Google Workspace. The ideal policy will depend on the organization, the important thing is that there ARE rules and that they are followed. This makes a single platform attractive, as staff compliance is higher if there is only one choice.

We see credible examples of this approach with some of our clients who do legal work. Some use a purpose-built storage system for their documents involved in court filings and another platform for everything else. Everyone knows exactly which documents are stored where because there are strict rules, and everyone follows them.

Ready to get strategic about your IT?

Community IT has been serving nonprofits exclusively for twenty years. We offer Managed IT support services for nonprofits that want to outsource all or part of their IT support and hosted services. For a fixed monthly fee, we provide unlimited remote and on-site help desk support, proactive network management, and ongoing IT planning from a dedicated team of experts in nonprofit-focused IT. And our clients benefit from our IT Business Managers team who will work with you to plan your IT investments and technology roadmap, if you don’t have an in-house IT Director. 

We constantly research and evaluate new technology to ensure that you get cutting-edge solutions that are tailored to your organization, using standard industry tech tools that don’t lock you into a single vendor or consultant. And we don’t treat any aspect of nonprofit IT as if it is too complicated for you to understand.

We think your IT vendor should be able to explain everything without jargon or lingo. If you can’t understand your IT management strategy to your own satisfaction, keep asking your questions until you find an outsourced IT provider who will partner with you for well-managed IT.

Google Workspace Management As You Grow

Microsoft and Google are the two main platforms used in nonprofits today, and Community IT has expertise in supporting either or both. Many MSPs find it challenging to support clients using Google. Unlike many outsourced IT providers, we have a dedicated team providing support to nonprofits who have outgrown their ability to manage Google Workspace in-house as their IT needs have grown more complex. If you are ready to move into better IT management and security and want to stick with Google Workspace, let’s talk.