Microsoft Trims OneDrive Storage

onedrive-reductionOh Microsoft. You were doing so good lately. Saying all the right things to all the right people. Releasing new hardware that was well-received (despite some initial bumps with the Surface Book) both in terms of sales and reviews. Was it too much to hope that you would keep that momentum rolling without a major foot-in-mouth incident? I guess so.

As you know (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all day), last night the OneDrive team announced a number of changes to their consumer storage offering via the OneDrive blog (“OneDrive storage plans change in pursuit of productivity and collaboration”). Blaming a small number of users who “abused” the unlimited storage (by offering by storing PC backups, DVR recordings, and movie collections to the tune of 75TB in some cases), they announced the following changes:

  • Unlimited storage will no longer be offered to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University subscribers. Instead the top tier will return to 1 TB.
  • 100 GB and 200GB plans will no longer be offered to new subscribers. Current subscribers may keep their plan.
  • New 50 GB plan for $1.99/month will be offered in 2016.
  • Free storage will be reduced from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, both current and new. Coming in 2016.
  • 15 GB bonus for camera roll bonus will be discontinued. Coming in 2016.

Needless to say, this caused a bit of a commotion in the OneDrive community. People love it when you give them something (especially if it is free or unlimited), and they really hate it when you take it away. You can read all about it in these articles from the usual suspects:

I’m a OneDrive user myself, and when I first saw the news last night, my first thought was:

I’m not buying the excuse that the extreme users Microsoft cited are the reason for the retrenchment. If that’s all it was, there are ways that Microsoft could have addressed those concerns without impacting all of the other OneDrive users. . Why shrink the free tier of storage? Why replace 100 GB and 200 GB plans with a 50 GB plan? Why target phone users who setup their iOS and Android devices to automatically upload photos to OneDrive? Who knows? Microsoft has been pretty quiet since the announcement, so it’s anyone’s guess as to the real reasons behind these changes.  I’m hopeful more info trickles out over the next few days to give us some insight into Microsoft’s decision process.

I will point out this comment in the blog:

Instead of focusing on extreme backup scenarios, we want to remain focused on delivering high-value productivity and collaboration experiences that benefit the majority of OneDrive users.

Contrast that statement with what they said in their blog post from January 27, 2014, when they announced the OneDrive name:

Why OneDrive? We know that increasingly you will have many devices in your life, but you really want only one place for your most important stuff. One place for all of your photos and videos. One place for all of your documents. One place that is seamlessly connected across all the devices you use. You want OneDrive for everything in your life.

It seems Microsoft doesn’t want you to put everything in one place. The One in OneDrive apparently doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Taking them at face value it seems they want OneDrive to be a place where you collaborate and share documents. in other words use it for Office 365, but put those other files somewhere else, in someone else’s cloud. The question for some people is going to be, “in whose cloud?”

I’ve listed a few OneDrive alternatives below (in alphabetical order). This is not a definitive list by any means. I just ticked off the companies that come to mind for cloud storage for individuals. I’ve also left off strictly backup offerings like CrashPlan (which I use at home and recommend).

  • Amazon Cloud Drive offers Unlimited Photo which offers unlimited photo storage with 5 GB for files and video for $11.99/year or free if you’re an Amazon Prime member (membership is $99/year). They also have an Unlimited Everything plan for $59.99/year. Note that Amazon does not have their own sync client. For that you need to look to odrive.
  • Apple iCloud offers 5 GB for free, 1 TB for $9.99/month.
  • Box starts at 10 GB for free or 100 GB for $10/month. That $10 will get you 1 TB elsewhere, so I don’t see many people moving to Box.
  • Dropbox gives you 2 GB for free, 1 TB for $9.99/month.
  • Google Drive offers 15 GB for free, 1 TB for $9.99/month, 10 TB for $99.99/month, and higher capacities (and costs) are available.
  • iDrive offers 5 GB for free, 1 TB for $59.50/year (~$4.95/month), 10 TB for $499.50/year (~$41.63/month)
  • OpenDrive has 5 GB for free and an unlimited plan at $12.95/month.

OneDrive still compares pretty well with all of these 1 TB for only $6.99 per month since they throw in the Office suite. But not everyone wants Office (shocking, I know) and just wants to buy storage, and in quantities that might exceed 1 TB.

I’m not planning to switch. I’m an Office 365 subscriber so I had been at 1 TB for quite along time. The 10 TB interim quota we were all supposed to get on the way to “unlimited” storage never arrived for my account. I also have 100 GB from my Groove subscription as well a handful of loyalty or other additions. Even if those all went away and all I had was the Office 365 and Groove bonuses, that 1.1 TB is more than enough for me. For others though, I can see how that might be constraining, especially if you take a lot of photos and videos. I find it surprising that Microsoft isn’t offering any higher tiers for people who are willing to pay for them. I expect we’ll see something surface later to cover that need. I like being able to access all of my files across all of my devices, including my Xbox One for music and photos, and none of these other services offer that same coverage. I may kick the tires on the Amazon service though, just to see.

In the end, the issue here isn’t as much about the capacity changes themselves as it is about the message these moves send. I often wonder if Microsoft ever runs these sorts of public pronouncements by people outside of the Redmond bubble. It doesn’t seem like they do. Refer back to the TechNet subscription, MCM, and TechEd/Ignite announcements (to name a few) where they seem taken aback by the uproar they cause when they toss these out the door. And if they are getting that feedback but are simply ignoring that, that’s even worse. Hopefully they can recover from this one and learn a lesson for next time.