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Up In The Cloud: Unlimited Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited
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Up In The Cloud: Unlimited Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited - Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Unlimited Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited

Executive Leadership Articles

Up In The Cloud: Unlimited Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited

We recently looked at cases where cloud storage services have failed in the past year, a couple of which weren’t exactly failures so much as redefinitions and restructuring of paid services. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s the way services work. A service is offered, a price is set, and adjustments are made. From a consumer’s perspective, it feels like the old bait-and-switch, luring customers in with low prices on one service and then making that service unavailable, offering a far less appealing, far more expensive service in its place. The hassle of relocating large amounts of data sometimes makes the higher prices more convenient, adding to the feeling of being had.

As a Fast Company article pointed out last year, the recurring problem of failed “unlimited” cloud services hints at a problem with product itself. All-you-can-eat restaurants might take losses on a few power diners, but they make it up with lighter eaters, or people who fill up on tasty, alluring, less-expensive dishes. The difference here is that power diners eventually have to go home. Greedy users of unlimited cloud services aren’t so limited. They don’t have to start over with a new payment and a clean plate, so they keep dumping enormous amounts of data (a reported 75 TB by some users of Microsoft’s OneDrive service), none of which they ever have to delete. Could it be that there’s simply no such thing as an unlimited plan that can sustain itself with an appealing price point?

Some cloud services with unlimited plans seem (so far) to be demonstrating that it can be done, ‘though with somewhat higher pricing, they seem to be limiting themselves to smaller markets that can keep them profitable. The unlimited feature is still there, but the price to get in the door keeps anyone from getting a real bargain on all that storage.

Other services are a little more careful throwing that word “unlimited” around. When photo-sharing service Flickr announced expanded storage quotas for its free accounts a few years ago, it promised a full terabyte of storage, which for most users is practically an unlimited amount while still setting a reasonable limit on power users. After some playing around with its offering for its “pro” accounts, it seems to have settled on a price ($50 per year or $6 per month) for unlimited storage. In a way, Flickr has also self-selected for its intended market: people who take so many photos that $50 per year seems reasonable. Amazon has been offering its Prime members unlimited storage as well—for photos. With both services, restricting storage to specific file types is another way to put limits on unlimited storage.

The Fast Company article points to another angle on the issue: users’ approaches toward digital storage. Given cheap, unlimited space, there is seldom a motivation for using that space wisely, and once files are moved to a space of unlimited size, sorting through it and keeping it organized are a daunting task not worth the required time and energy. A few services have played with features that identify redundant files, especially useful for photos and video, asking users if they want to keep all duplicate copies, but so far this functionality hasn’t been very user-friendly. A next step in our leaping to the cloud would be the development of quick, easy tools for organizing and tagging our content, allowing us to manage it where it lives in the cloud, with as little pain as possible.

Meanwhile, cloud services continue to lure us with promises of unlimited storage, and we keep diving in where the prices are most appealing. Amazon launched an unlimited cloud storage service for any file types last year, at $60 per year. It makes sense: Amazon’s storage services are the backbone of many other premium cloud services. And Amazon’s solid footing in several markets hint at staying power startups can’t claim. Still, the same could have been said for Microsoft and its OneDrive, and when Microsoft made its dramatic changes this year, users were sent scurrying for other options. Until things settle down in this space, it’s clear that our choices, when it comes to unlimited storage, are to forget about getting it at a bargain or to keep trying the latest offerings at low prices, understanding that in time, we may have to pack everything up and search again.


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Up In The Cloud: Unlimited Doesn’t Always Mean Unlimited - Executive Leadership Articles

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