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Google Drive - Synchronization Tools

Google offers two tools for synchronizing your online files in Google Drive with your desktop computer: ‘Google Drive File Stream’ and ‘Backup and Sync’. Both tools are enabled for use at Lehigh, but they work very differently.

Google Drive File Stream

Google Drive File Stream is intended for organizations, and keeps and synchronizes a list of all of the files to which you have access at Lehigh, both in your personal Google Drive (‘My Drive’) and in any Team Drives. Unlike the original ‘Google Drive’ file sync utility, Google Drive File Stream mounts a virtual ‘disk drive’ on your desktop’s file system, rather than a single folder, in which you can navigate the list of folders and documents. Double-clicking on a document downloads a local copy for you to access and edit. Any changes to the files are synchronized back to the online storage space when the file is saved. Those downloaded files are only stored temporarily in this local cache, and cleared out automatically unless you specifically tag them for offline availability. This saves a great deal of disk space on your local drive, and significantly reduces the burden on your computer of synchronizing large numbers of files that may be shared with many other users.  It just assumes that you're going to usually have a fast connection to do on-the-fly downloads.

This method is highly recommended for staff and faculty.

Google Backup and Sync

The Backup and Sync tool is more like the old ‘Google Drive’ sync tool in that by default, it keeps your whole online Google drive completely synchronized with your local files. The change from the original Google Drive tool is that rather than creating a single local folder that is synchronized, you select which local folders you wish to sync -- such as your local ‘Documents.’ ‘Pictures,’ ‘Movies’ etc., and all of those items are copied up to Google into your personal Google Drive (‘My Drive’ only -- no Team Drives). You can configure which elements of your local files to exclude.  It's a good tool to use for personal systems for which you want to make sure there's another copy of any file (like photos) in case of disk failures or losing your device.

Nevertheless, despite the name, it’s important to understand the difference between a sync tool and true backup -- if you delete a file, or a virus encrypts it -- that change is automatically synchronized to the cloud copy.  A true backup keeps a set of separate, archived, off-line copies of multiple old versions of files going back some amount of time (a year, for most Lehigh systems that are backed up by LTS).

The two tools can be used together, if desired, depending on how much space is available on your local device, or which things are intended by the organization not to be stored and accessed without authorization. File Stream defaults to leaving everything in the cloud, and only pulling down what you need(or are allowed), while Backup and Sync defaults to being able to upload everything that you have locally to the cloud.

As always, be aware of Lehigh’s Data Storage Policies when using these services.  For more info, see Google's 'Choose a Sync Solution'

For additional help, please contact the LTS Help Desk at 610-758-4357 or helpdesk@lehigh.edu