The decision from Google to start counting the majority of your stored data towards your Google Drive storage limit has caused something of an outcry from users. But why the outcry?
Have we become too reliant on getting free services that we can’t see value in paid services or were we misled and now some people feel trapped or betrayed?
In the second week of November, Google announced that due to — huge numbers — 4 trillion photos stored with a further 28 billion each week being added globally, they had re-evaluated their free “high quality” storage option and as such:
Starting June 1, 2021, any new photos and videos you upload will count toward the free 15 GB of storage that comes with every Google Account or the additional storage you’ve purchased as a Google One member.
Your Google Account storage is shared across Drive, Gmail and Photos. This change also allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage.
A bit of further investigation showed that Google was set to count a lot more data toward the use of your free storage. In fact, everything stored from June 1, 2021, or any Google Drive based files that are altered from that date too would count to your free storage.
For many users, this leaves them in something of a quandary because they’ll use their free storage reasonably quickly: What to do now?
A key point to highlight is not to panic, this isn’t going to come into effect for some time yet. So if you do choose to move to another option than Google Drive storage, then you have time to think about it and plan your move.
Realistically the options are to either stay in the cloud with Google or one of the many other options, split your data between services and ‘surf’ the free storage offered for different purposes, or figure out a personal storage option that works for you.
Stay in the cloud – What options are there?
There are a lot of cloud storage options available, a complete exploration of their costs and benefits is more complex than the quick preview we are wanting to do today. So for the sake of today, we’re going to look at the smaller storage options from a few of the more mainstream options from big providers.
Keep in mind that cloud storage — one of the beautiful features for users — is almost infinitely scalable as you need it, which becomes important later when we talk about other options.
Google Drive with Google One added
If you’re reading this, you’re probably invested in the Google platform to some level. So sticking with Google is probably the easiest option to follow, add some Google One storage and the world is fine again for a while. The options start at 100GB of storage for $24.99 per year and scale to 200GB, 2TB, 10TB, 20TB and 30TB. The 200GB is pretty reasonably priced at $43.99 per year with 2TB $124.99 per year.
OneDrive storage is attached to an Office 365 subscription, allowing a family of up to 6 people to have up to 1TB of storage each for a grand total of $129.00 per year. Where this is frankly a stroke of an evil genius is that Office is nearly essential in the IT world. So you’ve got the storage if you use it or not, that then gives Microsoft a leverage point against the competition.
When you add in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher it’s a really good deal. The suite (except access and Publisher) are available across platforms, making it an exceptional value offering.
If you’re of an age, Dropbox may well be the first cloud storage provider you used with a free 2GB offering — plus rewards for referrals — then paid tiers from there. For personal users, the first paid tier starts at 2GB for $15.39 per month ($184.68 per year) if you pay annually.
If you’ve just had enough and don’t want to trust your personal data to the big data players, then you’ll be looking at setting up (if you haven’t already) your own personal storage options. Now, this can be anything from a simple external hard drive, right through to replicated NAS data across multiple sites and this is where the risk of personal storage comes into play.
To make sure your data is safe you need to work to the 3:2:1 system. Unfortunately, from personal experience in the IT space, there are many businesses and most personal users who don’t (or cannot afford to) take this approach. These risks include hard drive failure and issues that can result in total physical loss of your data including burglary and home fires.
- 3 copies of the data
- 2 different media – HDD, Tape, USB drive etc
- 1 copy off-site
The cost vs reward of a NAS
To try and put into perspective the options for users, we’ll break down a relatively cheap NAS option with mirrored 2TB drives and — previous reviews — a quick look at the accessibility of your data via NAS.
The cost looks pretty simple on the surface:
- A 2 Bay NAS like the Synology DS220J: $249.00
- 2 x WD 2TB RED storage drives: $105.00 each, total $210.00
- Total Hardware Cost: $459.00
So on the surface, compared to 2TB of Google One storage – the NAS equates to over 10 years worth of cloud storage payments. In which time there are not insignificant risks of hardware failure in your NAS setup, further increasing your outlay costs. But wait, there’s more…
To have the level of backup and redundancy that cloud storage offers, you need to have another offsite (or at least in a separate building) mirrored NAS, so your cost then immediately doubles to over $900, plus the complexity of having the two NAS’ mirroring to each other or perform overnight backups. In an “apples for apples” comparison, cloud storage stacks up very well in terms of value for money.
This is all before you consider the time and personal cost involved in migrating and the required, total change of workflow to back up your precious data.
Accessing your data on a NAS
Where a NAS may become a very useful addition to your daily tech setup is that they’re not just about data storage. The current generation of NAS can do so much more as Duncan outlined in his review of the Synology DS918+:
Files stored on the NAS can be easily accessible from any browser or via an Android app. Using an easy to use web sharing system you can easily set up access to basically anything with an internet connection and a web browser.
On Android, the Files app becomes just as integrated as say Google Drive, with files being browsable, sharable and savable just like local storage. I have to admit the app may not be as polished as some of the newer material design apps but it’s just as serviceable.
Using Files you can share files, either by sending the file itself or sending a web link to the files on your DiskStation. You can password protect this, and set expiry dates after which the links won’t work. You can also send files to the app and upload them to your NAS on the run.
File management is just the beginning of Synology’s cloud powers, using the Diskstation manager you can also set up an almost complete home cloud server including:
- Photo Backup and Sharing
- E-mail client
- Security camera management
- Video Streaming
- Audio Streaming
- Virtual Machines (including Docker)
- And many more.
You can see a list of most of the supported add-ons or packages as Synology calls them here.
Some closing thoughts…
If you’ve got a need for lots of data storage then a NAS makes sense and if you’ve got several people accessing said data, then having it stored locally also makes sense to a point. It’s when you start looking at a cost-benefit analysis, that the NAS may not be the best option for everyone.
Keeping your photos and data in the cloud is still a viable option for a lot of users. You just need to figure out how much storage you actually need.
At the end of the day, as consumers, we’ve had a pretty good run from Google allowing us free access to so many services. It’s easy to see why people are frustrated and upset, when you’ve got a toy and someone takes it away, it’s upsetting.
The cold hard facts are that Google is a hugely successful business and the provision of this storage, access and continued demand growth, means Drive storage is costing them a lot of money. What they’re asking for isn’t unreasonably in terms of cost, particularly when you consider the comparison to the options to set up your own storage options.
Whether or not you make the decision to set up a NAS for you and your family is a big decision to make. There are potentially significant hardware costs, setup time and workflow alterations to your daily use case. Once you move over to personal storage, you’ll find that little — if anything — by way of functionality is lost. Hopefully, us doing the exercise of costing and evaluating some of the available options helps some of our readers make a decision that will be right for them with the time needed to execute it.