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Goodbye, Google! Part I

Google 2015 logo
Google Inc., Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons

I started using Google's applications (often called G-Suite) back when Google's motto was still "Don't be evil," so when Xavier switched us all over to Google in 2015, I was pretty pleased. Over the years, I've amassed a massive amount of data on my Xavier-based Google Drive and YouTube account, and I've pretty much stopped using my personal Google account. When we learned this past summer that Xavier would be migrating all of our accounts from Google to Microsoft, I panicked. Not only do I greatly dislike Microsoft's products, but I also have a ton of work that I was worried about. We've been told that all of the files on our Google Drives will be moved and translated to Microsoft's Office 360 system, and that only Google Forms will not survive the process. However, we've also been told that although our YouTube accounts will not disappear, we will not be able to manage them any more. Apparently, those videos will just sit on YouTube's servers with no one having any editorial control over them.

Personally, I'm concerned about what might happen as a result of this migration, so in addition to moving my most important documents (current Works in Progress) to non-Xavier space, I've started playing with some options for moving my data and files before the migration takes place at the end of this semester. Why? Why not? I'm a bit more obsessive about the appearance of my documents than some people, and I'm guessing some of the formatting will get messed up in translation. I also use a lot of formulas in Google Sheets to automate things, and I know there will be a problem with many of those formulas, since Google and Microsoft don't always follow the standards.

What follows are a few things I've tried out of personal concern and curiosity, things that I thought I would share with my colleagues, in case they have similar concerns. Just to be clear, CAT+FD is not involved in the Google to Microsoft migration, and we are not advising any actions by faculty and staff.

Don't Do This.

You can get to Takeout via the Data & Privacy tab on your Google Account or by going to

Google has a lot of services that people don't seem to know about. Takeout is one of those. Google Takeout is system for moving some or all of your data from one Google account to another Google account, but it also functions as a useful data backup service. (You can even set up routines to run exports on a regular schedule.)

When I learned about it, I decided to give it a try and set up an export to transfer the entirety of my Xavier Google Drive to my personal Google Drive.

Screenshot of the confirmation message from Google Takeout saying that the copy and transfer had begun.
On Sept. 16, Google told me it might take up to a week to complete the process. As best I can tell, it never finished.

This, I eventually discovered, was a huge mistake. Don't do this. First, the process took weeks. Actually, although I started this export back in September, I still haven't received confirmation from Google that the process is complete. The problem is that I just had too much stuff on my Xavier Google Drive. I ended up having to upgrade my personal Google account to a paid Google One account, just so that I'd have enough space for the transfer. And now that the transfer is (at least, I think) complete, I've got to go through and clean up the mess that is my personal Google Drive. In addition to having too much data, Google copied all of the directories and subdirectories that people have shared with me through the years, even though it didn't copy any of the files in those shared directories (since they don't actually belong to me). So, in addition to having all my files, I have all these empty folders that I still need to go through and clear out.

Archives Are Better — Or Are They?

The better option, I found, is to select specific folders from your Drive. These you can either send directly to another Google account or download as a compressed archive file. For example, I have one very large folder full of all the materials from when I was Xavier's QEP Director. I will likely never need to look at these again, but I'm not about to get rid of them. For this, I ran an export and downloaded the folder and everything inside it. I'll keep it compressed and unopened for as long as I feel the need to.

For files created with the native G-Suite apps, you will need to specify the format you want those converted to. Notice that Forms and Jamboards are not really convertable.

However, with the archive option, you have to tell Google how to convert some of your files. Google Drive is unique in that the “files” produced by the core G-Suite applications (Docs, Sheets, and Slides) are actually just links to data on the cloud. So storing those in a local archive file is pointless. Instead, Google let's you choose how to convert Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. Converting them to the the Microsoft Office equivalent is the default, but there are other options. This is a route best suited, in my mind, to long term storage, as I suggested with my QEP files. I don't want to convert my teaching files, especially those from recent semesters, since I don't plan on using Microsoft 360. (Here, again, though, I will run into the problem of formatting and formulas not translating perfectly.)

You can also send specific folders and files from one drive to another. This preserves the native G-Suite formats, and ensures things will look and work the same. For the time being, this is what I'll be doing with the documents I still expect to use or need access to in the next few semesters, at least. For example, I'm already developing the syllabi for my Spring 2022 classes, and I'm using Google Docs and Google Sheets to do that.

Meanwhile, I'll be trying to figure out if I want to continue using Google through my personal account (I'm less pleased with them these days, now that the parent company, Alphabet, seems less troubled by being evil).

What About YouTube?

The status of our YouTube accounts is a similar but different problem, one that I'll address in a separate blog post next week.

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About Jason S. Todd

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction has appeared in various literary journals. Since 2007, he has been a member of Department of English at Xavier, where he teaches American Literature, Freshman Composition, Modern English Grammars, and The Graphic Novel and Social Justice. From 2007 to 2010, Dr. Todd served as Xavier's Writing Center Director. From 2010 until 2015, he served as QEP Director, managing Xavier's Read Today, Lead Tomorrow initiative. In 2015, he became the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development's first Associate Director for Programming. As Associate Director for Programming, Dr. Todd assists in providing high-quality, relevant, evidence-based programming in support of CAT+FD's mission to serve faculty across all career stages and areas of professional responsibility. You can follow him on Twitter at @jason_s_todd.

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