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Moving Google Files to another Domain via Shared Drives

By Patronum

November 17, 2022

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Historically, if you needed to move files from one Google domain to another, you needed to perform a complex migration due to a merger or acquisition or just consolidating. Multiple migration tools exist which work by first sharing the file with the corresponding user in the new domain, making a copy of the file, potentially adding comments to the new file, applying the source permissions, before unsharing the original file. However, this method had many drawbacks. Due to the file being a copy/clone of the original, several critical elements are broken, specifically, file IDs and version history are no longer available in the new files. 

However, with the introduction of Google Team Drives, or Shared Drives as they are now called, it is now possible to move files through a Shared Drive from one Google Domain to another. This solution solves the issues mentioned above preserving file IDs and version history. It, unfortunately, presents other challenges around permissions on the files after the move. In this article, we explore those challenges and how to work around them.

Migration Steps

The following are the steps necessary to migrate files through a Shared Google Drive.

  1. Using an account within the destination domain create a Google Shared Drive.
  2. Share the newly created Shared Drive with a user within the source system. This user should be a Manager of the Shared Drive.
  3. From the source user account, (we recommend a super-admin user), move files into the Shared Drive.
    1. If you’re not using a super-admin you will need to enable Migration for users. This is performed via – Apps > Google Workspace > Drives and Docs > Migration Settings > Allow users to migrate files to shared drives.
  4. Move files to a My Drive location.
    You may not want or need this step.

Using the above process files from the source users My Drive is moved and become the property of the destination domain. 

This approach can also be used for moving files from personal accounts looking to move to Google Workspace.

Multi-Parented Files & Folders

With previous versions of Google Drive and the Google Drive API is was possible for files and folders to have multiple parents. This feature has been removed and replaced with Short Cuts. However, sometimes, files showed having only one parent, when they have multi-parented. Using tools like GAM can be useful here to list all users drive and count the file IDs. If the file ID appears more than once, and it’s not in SharedWithMe then you have multiple parents.

Number of Files

When moving files to Google Drive you need to make sure that you’re not going to exceed some of the Google Shared Drive Limitations.

Maximum items in a shared drive

A shared drive can contain a maximum of 400,000 items, including files, folders, and shortcuts.

File sharing limits

A given file within a shared drive can be directly shared with a maximum of 100 groups.

Folder limits

A folder in a shared drive can support up to 20 levels of nested folders.

Hidden Files

Within Google Drive it is possible to share a folder with other users and for these users to add files to your folder which you are unable to see. This is done when a user specifically removes (you) the owner of the folder from the permissions of files within that folder. These files become “hidden”. Traditional migration tools have to log in to multiple accounts within the Google domain to check that files are not hidden from the owner of the My Drive as they perform their migration, this adds significant time to the migration process.

Using the Shared Drive migration approach, super admins can move hidden files over to the Shared Drive, however, these files will now be visible to all members of the Shared Drive.

Remember: With a Shared Drive permissions can not be taken away, only added to.

Folders don’t move

Migrating via a Shared Drive has many advantages, however, one area that it is not possible to fix is Folder IDs. Currently, it is not possible to move a folder from My Drive to a Shared Drive, instead, the Google Drive UI recreates the folder structure first and then moves the files. Therefore any Folder ID’s that you have shared will become invalid after the migration.

External Files

Files that are owned by an external domain (that you don’t have control or access to) can not be moved to your Google Shared Drive. To work around this, you will first need to create a shortcut to the file and then move the Share Drive shortcut. As long as the member has access to the original file, they will access the file via the shortcut.

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