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Google provides two products for syncing files between your Google drive and your local computer: Backup and Sync, and Drive File Stream. Both methods have their benefits, but when deciding which to use, the primary difference between the two is their focus:

  • Cloud-focussed:  If you want an easy way to access the files on your Google Drive via your computer's file structure without storing the full files (or syncing all of them) on your local machine, use Drive File Stream.
  • Client-focussed:  If you want a synchronized backup of all of the files on your client computers to be stored in Google Drive, use Backup and Sync.

Drive File Stream works by creating very small files in a secured Google Drive disk image file on your computer that is mounted like a disk drive to allow you to quickly access the contents of your cloud-based Google Drive from within the native infrastructure of your Windows or Mac computer. File Stream maintains a curated number of those files locally on your machine, based on frequency of use and / or whether you specify that you want a local copy.  The files are stored inside an encrypted disk image file that can only be accessed by your user account.  Depending on your selections, you may not be able to access a significant portion of the files without an internet connection.  The upside is that it will only take up a very small amount of space on your local storage, and allow you to search for and find files simultaneously both on your Google Drive and in local storage through your operating system.  As well, the entire contents of your Google Drive are not synchronized each time you log in, but rather only the small sub-set of recently-used or locally-stored files, speeding up the process of login significantly in the case of folks with lots of shared files.  File Stream also labels each file in your system as to it's status -- a cloud icon for online files, and a green check mark for locally-stored ones.

In contrast, Backup and Sync creates a folder on your local system that completely mirrors your Google Drive, and vice versa. A full copy of a file will exist in both places, and a change made on your Drive will be reflected on your local copy, and a change made to a local copy will also be reflected in your Google Drive. This allows you to work on your files without an internet connection and to have synced copies of files across multiple devices.  Since the syncing to your Google Drive is automated, it also allows you to use your Drive as a backup storage device that will allow you to recover your work even in the event of a hardware failure with your local machine. This method does require a little more user oversight; with Lehigh providing unlimited storage on your Google Drive, a full sync of those contents onto local storage can quickly use up your available hard drive space. 


FeaturesBackup and SyncDrive File Stream
Use files in 'My Drive'YesYes
Use files in Google 'Shared Drives' (prev. 'Team Drives')NoYes
Sync only selected folders in 'My Drive'*YesYes
Sync only individual files in 'My Drive'*NoYes
Save Non-google file types, like Microsoft Office & Adobe PhotoshopYesYes
See who's editing with real-time presence in Microsoft OfficeNoYes
Integrates with Microsoft OutlookNoYes
Sync other folders, like Documents or DesktopYesNo
Use with your personal Google AccountYesNo
Use with your work or school Google AccountYesYes
Upload photos and videos to Google PhotosYesNo

*With Drive File Stream, you can make selected files or folders 'Available offline' to sync them to your computer

If you are unsure which option will best fit your needs, reach out to the help desk for help with your decision or any questions about either of your syncing options.