September 11, 2018 — Acronis

Unlimited Cloud Storage — Not so “Unlimited” Anymore

Cyber Protect
for businesses (formerly Acronis Cyber Backup)

Looking for unlimited cloud storage? Look carefully. Most providers of data protection software do not offer “unlimited” anymore. But for those that do, be careful—unlimited cloud storage means different things according to different software providers.

Many Definitions of Unlimited Cloud Storage

unlimited cloud storage - does it even exist?

Here’s what most of us might reasonably think unlimited cloud storage means:

But some vendors define “unlimited cloud storage” in very different ways. For example, Cloudwards in its “Best Unlimited Online Storage Providers 2017” lists a number of vendors providing “unlimited cloud storage.” There seem to be a lot. However, that’s because they define “unlimited” in a way that is, well, limited:

To avoid confusion, some vendors and industry experts prefer to use the term, “Unlimited Online Backup Space.”  That term certainly eliminates the confusion between unlimited file size versus unlimited cloud storage. However, the word “unlimited” also requires further clarification. To some software providers, “unlimited” storage means that there is no restriction on the amount of data that you back up and store, but it can be limited in other ways:  

Once a certain storage level is reached, some vendors decrease the upload and download speeds.

So, you can store and recover any amount of data in the cloud, but you won’t be doing it fast. Furthermore, some solutions that offer unlimited online backup space exclude certain file types or files sizes that are not backed up at all. For example, Carbonite provides a list of file types they do not back up and by default and Carbonite does not back up files that are 4GB in size or larger. Instead, you must back these files manually. When it comes to a consumer data protection solution, the use of the word “unlimited” is really a misnomer as well. As a consumer, you do not have an unlimited amount of data on your computer or the hard drives you may be using (assuming the plan you select supports backing up external drives as well). The volume of data you have is limited to the size of your hard drive and external drives — unlike a business that involves multiple computers and external drives. So, when some vendors say they are offering consumers “unlimited cloud storage,” they are assuming they are only going to store consumer data limited to the hard drive of a single computer and perhaps a couple of external drives. The fact is, most consumers need less storage space than they think. If you are a user who develops most of your content using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, you probably need less than 100GB of storage. Even if you have a sizeable collection of music, your usage may still be less than 185GB. In fact, based on its experience, Acronis, a leading storage provider, claims that their users consume only 30 percent of their granted storage space. However, some consumers stockpile music, movies, photos, and games on their computers and additional external drives connected to those multiple computers. Are these covered by “unlimited” plans? Perhaps not. Some software providers that offer unlimited storage are prepared for these cases by including a “fair use limit” clause in their End User License Agreement (EULA) or terms of service that can read something like:

Why Are Software Providers Eliminating Free “Unlimited” Cloud Storage?

Quite simply, many software providers were losing money with free unlimited cloud storage and many who offered it in the past have stopped doing so. One of the latest examples is Amazon, which ended its unlimited storage plan earlier in 2017. Amazon’s unlimited plan was introduced back in 2015 to compete against Dropbox and Google Drive. Another recent example is CrashPlan for Home, which will be discontinued entirely on 22 October 2018. In 2014, Microsoft introduced unlimited OneDrive storage for Microsoft 365 subscribers, then reduced storage to a 1TB limit in November 2015. Mozy and SugarSync also offered unlimited plans, but both eventually dropped them as well. Today, there are only two to three backup software providers that still offer unlimited cloud storage, but the question remains, for how long? As noted on Hacker News, “…these sorts of offers are only really good for getting customers in the door — they’re not sustainable. It feels like ransomware. Pay more or we’ll delete your files.”

“Unlimited Storage” is Out — Features and Value are IN!

Once you select a backup software provider, it can take days or weeks to back up the data on your computer(s) to cloud storage, depending on how much data, photos, videos, and music you have and your bandwidth speed. With Carbonite, it can take three to four days, at least, to back up less than 100GB of data. For this reason, many consumers do not want to change vendors once they have gone to the trouble of backing up all their data to the cloud. That being the case, choose your backup software provider wisely and do not make your choice based solely on claims of “unlimited cloud storage.” As experts are predicting, the days of truly “unlimited” are coming to an end. And, if you compare prices, you will also discover that in many cases, you are paying more for unlimited storage, which begs the question: why pay more for something you do not need? Instead, compare product features and functions along with price to ensure that you are getting value for your money. Market-leading storage providers are announcing new features that offer much more value than unlimited storage, which most consumers do not need anyway. For example, some of the new features in Acronis True Image 2020 include the ability to:

  • Protect your stored data from ransomware attacks with heuristics and white and black lists
  • Automatically back up your mobile devices to your local computer or Network-Attached Storage (NAS) using a local Wi-Fi connection
  • Create boot media to recover your entire system to the same or new hardware
  • Capture electronic signatures to verify file authenticity
  • Create a unique “fingerprint” for your data to confirm a backup’s integrity

In the final analysis, we can safely state that “unlimited storage” to support your system backup is “going out of style,” so do your homework and research other, more important features before you buy!  

By Therese (Terry) McGee Principal McGee Marketing Consultants