Google decided to be helpful today and automatically turned on the “Offline Sync” feature of Drive. It wasn’t actually very helpful at all. In a way, it upset me a bit.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the ability to work on documents created through Google Docs if and when I lose my internet connection. That’s kind of handy. It’s that Google made the choice for me, and decided to start caching large amounts of data on my local hard drive. I already have the Google Drive App running locally on my machine for quick access to non-Google Documents files stored in Google Drive. For documents that I know I’ll need access to offline, I use Pages and other iWork applications and then let iCloud sync them for me. The engineers and servers at Google obviously don’t know this, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they did with as much access to my data as they have. So I’m guessing someone thought it would be helpful for the offline sync feature to be automatically turned on.
And by making that decision, my machine started to automatically download and cache up to an additional 5 GB of information. Like I said, perhaps handy for some, but I wasn’t thrilled from the perspective of a school “tech guy.” If you’re district is like ours, most of your machines available to students are publicly shared devices. The students all have separate logins, but they share machines in labs, on carts, and in classrooms. With the potential for dozens of students using a single machine, that storage space gets eaten up quickly!
I’m hoping that this feature was only automatically turned on for non Google Apps for Education users, or even better through some fluke of my own random keyboard mashing (not that I’m in the habit of doing that). You might want to check your own machine and your districts, especially if you use Chrome as your default web browser, as it seems to be much more eager to “help” with these sorts of features. I made a quick tutorial on how to turn it off if you’re interested. Enjoy!
Update: I realize that this automatic feature isn’t new, and only for Chrome OS or Chrome Browser users, but for some reason it was just activated on my account today. Paul Murray, colleague and one of my go-to Google power users, recommends that this is actually a GOOD thing on Chromebooks, as it helps improve speed and access to documents. Chrome OS is built to handle a crowded drive, and will efficiently manage data for you without local storage becoming full. This is good news for Chromebook users. So yay for Chromebooks in schools, but for me the jury is still out on full feature laptops that are shared throughout the day. I’ve seen student laptops fill up FAST when used among a dozen or more students, and I know the tech department sometimes gets headaches when there’s one more cloud sync happening in the background taxing the shared devices.