Permissions vs. Access vs. Groups

You cannot have your cake, and eat it too. It is the quintessential challenge facing technology administrators looking for granular user permissions. Granularity breeds complexity, and SmartFile permissions are no different. The permissions can be very simple or very intricate.

I’ve written about complex permission before, but a more general question that keep arising is the difference between PERMISSIONS, ACCESS, and GROUPS.


Permissions are the file permissions assigned to the ‘Home Directory’. By default a user’s Home Directory Permissions will cascade down to all folders and files in the directory. GROUPS or ACCESS updates can explicitly change those permissions for files/folders within the Home Directory structure.


Access permissions are file/folder permissions that are intended to alter the permissions that would otherwise be set by the user’s Home Directory PERMISSIONS.

  • If you click the ACCESS button, it will show a check mark next to the Home Directory. If you highlight the line item, it will show what permissions are assigned to that particular file/folder. By default, no other files or folders (besides the Home Directory Folder) will have a checkmark because the files/folders are set to look at the parent folder for permissions, which initially will lead to Home Directory PERMISSIONS to determine the file rights. If you click the checkmark next to a folder/file AND highlight the row, you may assign different permissions. Clicking the check the box without assigning permissions will remove that file/folder from the user’s view (because it is assigning NULL permissions).


Groups are essentially the same as ACCESS permissions in the sense that they are intended to offset Home Directory PERMISSIONS for a file/folder within that Home Directory structure. However, GROUPS can be applied to multiple users.

So, now that you know how to move beyond basic permissions, you can decide for yourself. Do you want the cake or do you want to eat it? Contact us anytime if you have questions or need further explanation on the differences between access, permission, and groups.

SmartFile is a business file mangement platform that gives you more control, compliance and security.