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Google has added several new settings to its Google Docs online document creation and editing software designed to make it easier to control the distribution of files to the right people in an organization or group.
Sharing documents has always been a signature feature of the cloud-based Docs service, which ties in well with the growing interest in deploying collaboration technologies in enterprises. But while Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has made significant strides in attracting large companies and organizations to its applications, security and privacy concerns related to cloud-based or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications remains.
The new feature set includes a "Private" setting that lets users designate Docs files as accessible only to people or groups they've explicitly invited. Another setting, "People at your organization with the link," lets users make Docs files available to anyone in the company's domain who knows the URL of the file. Selecting the "Allow anyone to edit" option gives these same users with access to the URL the ability to edit the file as well and copy and paste the file's link into chat, e-mail and calendar invitations.
The broadest setting, "People at your organization can find and access" setting means the Docs files will be indexed by Google Docs search and may be opened by anyone in the organization.
Users can also make a file "Public on the Web" if the company's Google Apps administrator allows sharing outside the organization.
"The new sharing settings make it easier to share information across our organization, and will save us huge amounts of time when rolled out across our 35,000 users on Google Apps," Gavin Haslam, IT manager at business services company Rentokil Initial, said in a statement on Google's Enterprise Blog.
Another new feature is the Visibility options, which let users see the full list of authorized editors and viewers. Editors now appear next to every file in the list of Google Docs files and next to the title within each Google doc.
Also, Google has added a simple one-click reset option for changing a file's URL. The reset option "helps you better control who has access to your files," Google product manager Shimrit Ben-Yair said in the blog post, which includes a brief YouTube video demonstrating the new features.
"What I like about what Google's doing here is that it's almost more of a social network approach that says all of us want to keep some files private, while there are others we don't care who sees," Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told InternetNews.com.
"As companies move more to collaborative activities, the issue of how employees share data, but share it in a secure manner that preserves their privacy, is coming to the fore," King added. "And it looks to me like Google has a firm grasp of the issue."