Google's Super-Sized Storage: Not Such A Great Deal

The Web is abuzz with reports that Google is practically giving away loads of online storage. But the hype is far more exciting than the reality.
The Web is abuzz with reports that Google is practically giving away loads of online storage. But the hype is far more exciting than the reality.If you use Gmail, you may already wonder how in the world anyone could blow through 7GB (and counting!) of space. Apparently it isn't as hard as it sounds.

From the official Gmail blog, we have this: When Gmail launched five years ago, it came with a gigabyte of storage space. A gigabyte doesn't seem like very much any more, and now every Gmail account comes with more than seven gigs of space (and growing). Still, some people manage to use up all of this (that's a lot of email...), so for over two years we've offered the option to purchase even more storage. This extra storage acts as an overflow that you only start using when you reach the limit of your free storage, and is shared for use between Gmail and Picasa Web Albums. Picasa has always come with a gigabyte of free storage to share photos, but people need even more storage as they start taking more pictures and moving full resolution backups of their photo collection into the cloud.

While storage costs have been dropping naturally, we've also been working hard to improve our infrastructure to reduce costs even further. Today, we're dramatically lowering our prices to make extra storage more affordable. You can now buy 20 GB for only $5 a year, twice as much storage for a quarter of the old price, and enough space for more than 10,000 full resolution pictures taken with a five megapixel camera. And if you need more than 20 GB, you can purchase up to 16 terabytes!

And how much will 16TB of space on Google's servers cost? A cool $4,096 per year. You can get full pricing information and purchase additional storage here.

This might sound like a good deal for small businesses looking for a cheap, cloud-based backup solution. Other online backup services, however, such as Mozy and Backblaze, already offer unlimited storage for very low monthly fees. Those offers come with some strings attached -- they typically allow a user to back up data from a single computer, not an entire network -- but they demonstrate just how cheap online storage is getting.

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But here's the real Catch-22: You're officially allowed to use this storage only in conjunction with your Gmail or Picassa account. I can almost understand why a Picassa user might want this much storage -- almost. My own photo archive tips the scales at well over 100GB, but it consists almost entirely of RAW files captured from a high-end DSLR camera. A multi-GB collection of JPEG images definitely seems like a stretch.

As for Gmail: Get a grip. If your company really needs to archive that much old email, bite the bullet and get a real mail server. Your IT staff (and your attorneys) will thank you.

There are unofficial ways to stretch Google's storage to hold other types of content. The Gspace Firefox extension, for example, uses some clever scripting hacks to turn a Gmail account into a true online drive. It's fun to play with, but I find it way too buggy and unreliable for serious business use. (It also requires a user to disable their secure HTTP connection with Gmail, which is a serious security no-no.)

Finally, let's not forget that Gmail isn't exactly breaking any uptime records these days.

If you're looking for a business-class cloud storage provider, SearchStorage has a list of five questions to ask before you buy. It's a solid list, and every question on it should give you another reason to avoid taking up Google on its mega-storage offer.

Some deals really are too good to be true. If you run a small business, this is one of them.

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer