Tech Talk: Space Wars - Cloud Storage Providers Seek to Connect with Free Online File Space

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday afternoon, June 22, 2:30 - 4pm,  Brian leads his final Computer Q&A at Third Place Commons before the series takes its summer break. Upper level, Lake Forest Park Town Center, intersection of Bothell Way and Ballinger Way. More information at BostonLegacyworks.com


Space Wars: Cloud Storage Providers Seek to Connect with Free Online File Space

Last weekend, I was playing with storage … online storage. Before you think this was some geekish form of entertainment, I was preparing for a class on Cloud Computing, preparing a folder on one of the many online storage services with which I have accounts. And this email arrived:


For those of you not viewing the image above, Dropbox congratulated me on being a “Dropbox Guru,” and awarded me 48 gigabytes (GB) of additional storage for the next year. Suddenly the 3 GB I have been carefully using ballooned up to “51.23” GB. And that wasn’t the end of it.

Within the same second of the first mail came a second mail using the same basic format but awarding me another 48 GB for two years!  In the matter of seconds, I had gone from 3 GB to 99.25 … and had no idea why.

I started with Dropbox a number of years ago. They were my first cloud storage provider, and one of the easiest to understand and use, especially for a beginning cloud user. The only downside for me with Dropbox was the small amount of free space they offered. I can’t complain really … it is free storage, after all!

Based on some research, it looks like the testing of Dropbox’s sharing features caused me to complete the set of criteria that defines “guru” status … and automatically moved into a promotional offer extended by a mobile device maker. Dropbox has promotional offers in place for certain HTC phones as well as Samsung phones and tablets


Lucky me! 

Actually luck had nothing to do with it. It was a combination of actions and circumstances that triggered the awarding of more free storage space. That is something you can make happen in a very deliberate way … and not just with Dropbox.

Some Cloud storage providers are offering all sorts of incentives for you to use their services. The thinking is that if you have a lot of space offered to you, you’ll use it.

When that free, time-limited space goes away, they are betting you will pay to continue to keep your stuff there rather than move elsewhere. Like that storage locker or bedroom full of memorabilia and family heirlooms, you’ll keep it there rather than make the hard choices of what to give up.

Friend and Features Use = Free Space

Perhaps the solution to your dumping is to find more free space elsewhere. Before my Dropbox windfall, I did upgrade my available free space by one GB through getting some other friends set up with the Dropbox service (500 MB per friend). That offer was isn’t time-limited like the 48 GB offers, though.

Microsoft’s OneDrive also matches the Dropbox’s friend referral at 500 MB/person. However, OneDrive’s limit is set at 10 friends (a total of 5 GB) versus Dropboxe’s 32 friends (16 GB total).
If you set your mobile devices’ camera roll to OneDrive, that’s good for another 3 GB on the drive. The best deal, though, is using Bing Reward Points. I was even able to add 100 GB for a year by racking up search reward points using Bing.


Where Microsoft really starts throwing around its limited-time offers of disk space if is you buy their other services. Besides the free 7 GB that comes with Microsoft Office 2013 and Windows 8/8.1, Office 365 adds an additional 20 GB per user. With the Office 365 Home version, you can have 5 users with 100 GB total as part of the version’s annual subscription.

15 GB…and Then You Pay

The wet blanket award goes to Google Drive. Though the initial free storage on Drive is promising at 15 GB, that space is divided between their Gmail email storage (including attachments), Google+ Photos, and Drive itself.


While there are no space giveaways like there are with Dropbox and Onedrive, Google has some detailed rules about what type of files count against the 15 GB limit. For example, any file created with their online tools like Docs, Sheets, and Slides does not count towards the storage limit.

In Google+ Photo, any pictures are 2048 x 2048 pixels or smaller, they don’t figure into the storage limit. Videos 15 minutes or less are also not counted. While it is possible to structure your storage to take advantage of this, it is easier just to pay Google’s monthly fees to store what you want … and that may be their point.

Less Space…Even If You Pay

Apple’s ICloud is notable, like Drive, for its lack of free space options, aside from the initial 5 GB. But while Google backs up its approach with paid plans going up to 30 terabytes (TB), iCloud caps its paid storage at 50 GB, a surprising limitation given the number of iPods, iPhone, iPads, and Macs that might wish to use the space.


That was a strategy that worked with Apple’s iTunes Match service when Strategy Analytics showed they had 27% of the cloud-based media service market a couple of years ago. That was before most of these current “space wars” began.

This has led some industry watchers to state that Apple “missed the boat” on competing with Microsoft, Google, Dropbox and relative newcomer, Amazon Cloud Drive.

Free Space for the Future

The future? It’s hard to see how these online storage services will fare.

I remember an article from MakeUseOf in 2010, “4 Best Sites To Get 10GB Free Online Backup & Storage.”  Since then, Window Live Skydrive went through two name changes and a total revamp to become OneDrive. Hymyo was sold to Trend Micro and became the paid service “Safe Sync.” Binfire converted from storage to be a coloration and project management service.

Only iDrive has survived in a form similar to what is described in the article with some small enhancements. They still offer 5 GB of free storage with additional free storage if you refer others, like or follow their social media, or install their desktop or mobile device software.


All we know for sure is that the Space Wars will continue … and we continue to benefit. Just remember to keep track of your space and don’t count on any free space that is time-limited.

Do you have a follow up on this topic or technical question on that needs to be answered or explored? Please share it with me at brian@bostonlegacyworks.com. Your question may show up here on Tech Talk.


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