Usage guidelines

The following provides some outline guidelines for Google Apps usage in relation to the sharing and storage of documents and data.

Bulk email

The University has a policy of minimising bulk emailing to constituencies within the University.

See the Bulk Email Policy for more information.

Sensitive/personal information

If you work with confidential information you should use the appropriate system designed to manage this information securely.

Avoid making your own copies of student or staff data and never keep copies of personal information on portable computers or storage media.

Email attachments

The University of York actively discourages sending files as email attachments as it leads to poor data integrity and multiple versions. Instead, send a link to the file which should be available on a file store or on Google Docs (as per the Documents and Data guidelines below).

Received files should not be left as email attachments. Instead they should be detached from the email message and stored accordingly.

Retention and disposal of files

Please consider carefully whether you actually need to keep a copy of each file you create; you should delete files once they have fulfilled their purpose. This includes email messages.

Information legislation (including the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act) attaches a legal responsibility for all information stored on computers and you may inadvertently find yourself in breach of this legislation.

Naturally there are some files which must be retained and stored but these should be kept to an absolute minimum based on real necessity.

Files that need to be retained should exist as a single definitive copy. Where there is a statutory need to store information there will be a recognised system designed for the purpose.

Documents and data

While Google Docs is an excellent tool for quickly creating documents that can be easily shared with colleagues and worked on from any location with internet access, the following issues should be considered:

  • Exported documents may not meet accessibility guidelines
  • There is no facility for customising styles
  • There is limited functionality compared to desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office
  • Bibliographic referencing software, such as EndNote, is not supported
  • Documents are stored in the cloud
  • You cannot access your documents without internet access

We would not recommend Google Docs for producing a final thesis because there is no support for using bibliographic tools, and because the styles used by Google Docs are not 'true styles', ie they only change the appearance of text but don't provide structure to the document.

We recommend that care is taken if you are creating private or sensitive documents, or using sensitive data supplied as part of a research contract - ensure that you are aware of data protection requirements, and consider whether the documents would be more appropriately stored in the University's file store.

For more information see the Information Access and Security Policy.