Will Google's latest play give it the boost it needs in the enterprise space?

Google this week opened up its new file-sharing tool, Team Drives, to businesses interested in becoming early testers.   

While businesses have many file sharing applications to choose from, Google (unsurprisingly) claims that its solution is easier to use and offers more granular controls than any comparable offering on the market.

Google Team Drives Into the Enterprise Market

Google announced Team Drives in September, calling them shared spaces where teams can store files and access up-to-date documents, no matter where the documents are found.

The company designed Team Drives to store content collectively so if one person leaves the team, the content or data remains. Granular controls ensure that content can’t be removed or deleted accidentally or deliberately.

The team element here is key if Google is to regain ground in the enterprise. While it already allowed individuals to share documents, presentations, spreadsheets, photos and other files with co-workers, the team setting puts in place much tighter security measures around the content. 

The Early Adopter Program (EAP) currently limits access to the Team Drives to G Suite Business and Education customers.

In addition to this, only G Suite administrators are allowed to sign-up for a given organization. As a result, at least initially, administrators will be responsible for enrolling their primary domain in the EAP. Secondary domains cannot be enrolled.

Separating the Challengers From the Leaders

Google clearly hopes Team Drives will give it a more competitive edge in the file sharing and collaboration market.

Gartner placed Google in the Challengers Quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing 2016.

While Gartner called Google a good choice for companies who are migrating collaboration tools to the Google Apps suite (now G Suite), the analyst firm cited one significant caution worth noting.

The MQ report specified Google Drive's poor integration with IT deployments and third-party IT products as a problem area. It also lacks native connectors to on-premises content repositories and business applications, including Microsoft SharePoint, as well as integration with Microsoft Office Online.

Team Drives does not currently integrate with the desktop for Google Drive, nor does it allow organizations to onboard users who don't hold a G Suite account linked to a company’s main domain.

This limits collaboration possibilities with business clients outside the firewall, or subsidiary firms with their own distinct online identity and domain.

Team Drives, even in limited release, should help extend the ability to collaborate. But it's a tough market. Six years after the inception of the enterprise file sharing and syncing market (EFSS), the most common adjective used for the area continues to be "overcrowded." Over 100 vendors currently offer either full EFSS or elements of it.

According to Gartner, the vendors that survive the productivity space — which includes EFSS — will be those who distinguish themselves based on feature sets that support digital transformation efforts.

Whether Team Drives will be that distinguishing feature for Google remains to be seen.