There are many valid ways to set up file synchronization systems using Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, and a variety of other file sharing programs.  This post is a description, not an endorsement, of one option, the use of Google Drive for Desktop.

Collaboration in a time of COVID-19 using Google Drive

With the COVID-19 pandemic, a research project needed to make some changes to their overall workflow in order to continue their collaborative analysis of a large body of video data.

Prior to the pandemic the project used Transana Multiuser for their analysis, both because of Transana’s superior tools for the analysis of video and because of Multiuser’s data sharing tools that allow everyone on the team to analyze the same data in the same program at the same time.  They used desktop computers in their university offices, connecting to a department Transana Server, and sharing a single copy of their media files in a volume on their department network.  Then, with the pandemic, they all needed to start working from home.

Sharing the project’s Transana Database was easy.  Each team member downloaded and installed Transana Multiuser on their computer at home.  The IT department opened ports 3306, 17595, and 17596 on the Transana Server to make it accessible from the internet.  IT distributed the appropriate connection information (Database Server IP address and port, Message Server IP address and port, and the associated SSL files) to each researcher.  (Researchers already had their usernames and passwords for that database.)

The project, with the advice of the IT department, chose Google Drive as their tool for sharing their project media and image files.  The project manager uploaded the project video, audio, and still image data from their network drive in the office to the shared Google Drive and shared the Google Drive with everyone on the project research team.  All project files appear on Google Drive in a folder called “Project” so they won’t get confused with other non-project-related files on the Google Drives of the researchers associated with the project.

Each researher installed “Google Drive for Desktop” and configure it to share files using the “Stream files” option.  (This is the default as of the time this post was written.)  They take note of the path to the data, which is something like “G:\My Drive\Project” on Windows and “/Volumes/GoogleDrive/My Drive/Project” on macOS.  (If they use the “Mirror files” option in Google Drive, their paths are probably something like “C:\Users\(username)\My Drive\Project” and “/Users/(username)/My Drive/Project” respectively.  This option requires more free space on the drive, as it copies all of the files onto the local hard drive.)

Then each researcher started Transana Multiuser.  They enter user name, password, Database Server IP, Database Server Port, and Database name on the first tab, Message Server IP and Port on the second tab, and they browsed to each of the three SSL files they’d been sent on the third tab.  With this information correctly in place, they were able to connect to the Transana Server and see all of their shared data in the Database Window.

The first time each researcher connected to the database, they also needed to configure their Media Library Directory setting for their project database.  On Windows, they went to Options > Program Settings > Directories Tab, while on macOS, they went to Transana > Preferences > Directories Tab.  They then used Browse to set the Media Library Directory to the appropriate Project directory on their Google Drive, using the folder location they took note or earlier.

To check that everything is set up correctly, they go to Tools > Find Missing Files.  This list should be empty when all files are correctly in place and everything is configured correctly.  If all the files are listed as missing, they probably have the wrong directory selected for their Media Library Directory, or they have not set up their connection to the project Google Drive correctly.

If only a few files are missing, these files were likely added to the shared Transana Database from a folder that lies outside of the Media Library Directory, and intead point to a file on one person’s computer that does not get shared with everyone else on the project.  In this case, the appropriate media or image file should be located, copied into the Media Library directory or a subdirectory within, and then the database should be updated using either Transana’s Find Missing Files tool or Transana’s File Management tool.

Transana Multiuser and the Transana Server make sure that each user has access to all changes to the shared data made by any user connected to the server.   The Google Drive tool makes sure that all files placed in the Media Library by any researcher are automatically available to all other users who are also correctly connected to the Google Drive.  With both of those pieces in place, Transana Multiuser allows seamless collaboration in the analysis of qualitative data.