Pay and Backup Your Photos | Google Photos and the future of unlimited cloud storage plans

In a blog post titled “Updating Google Photos’ storage policy to build for the future” dated November 11, 2020, Shimrit Ben-Yair – the Vice President of Google Photos – had revealed that Photos’ well-known unlimited free storage for “high quality” compressed photos and videos will end by the 1st of June, 2021.

Google has firmly established their presence in almost all relevant fields that involve the use of software – so much so that the term “google” is now synonymous with “online search”, and is now a term that every home around the world has familiarized itself with. And for such a popular company to take a notorious step with one of their homegrown services has spread like wildfire around the globe.

Google is very famous for their simple and minimal branding style, alongside their style of straightforward names for their services; these qualities of Google have been applauded for years. Be it Gmail, Calendar, or One (which is Google’s premiere storage service, and quite possibly an exception to their style), their products are minimal, quick and easy to understand, and – quite attractively – free. Unless it is a corporate environment that requires GSuite and Google’s various other enterprise services, Google’s products are widely available, free for personal use. And among such products lie two of the most popular services offered by Google – Drive, and Photos.

With every Google account created, the company offers free cloud storage – up to 15 GB – in one of its proprietary services, Google Drive. With secure backups that can be retrieved when logging in to the same account on a different device, this is one of the most unspoken attractive offers on the market that motivate users to utilize Gmail more than any other email service currently available in the market. Google also does not limit you to specific storage file formats that can be used to store data – galleries, playlists, and even entire libraries can be stored with no questions asked. So how does the company in question make money from cloud storage? Enter Google One, their premiere cloud storage service.

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At relatively moderate costs in the market, One is Google’s answer to the rise of cloud-based device storage and backups. At various levels of subscription plans, your data can be encrypted and securely stored and retrieved; all of it is linked to the Google account from which you have uploaded said files. On the other hand, unlike most of its services, One is an enterprise-focused service, meaning it is not free, but is highly secure and available for large groups of people easily. And to keep things easier for personal storage, Google introduced unlimited cloud backup storage in their relatively newer service, Photos.

Photos is a self-explanatory service – when enabled/uploaded, your gallery is uploaded online and linked with your Google account. This service works in sync with Drive, and also has 15 GB of free storage that can be utilized to retain the original resolution and quality of your images and videos. But, the limelight for this article is their (very) useful High Quality backup plan, which promises unlimited cloud storage for express compressed files – photos are reduced to sixteen megapixels, and videos are compressed into lower resolutions as well, in order to manage space more efficiently. This overtly lauded plan had kept Photos in the spotlight for the past five years over any other automatic gallery backup service, unlike Hangouts and G+ whose popularity faded away as time passed by.

So why is the latest update by the VP of Google Photos a matter of concern?

“This change does not take effect for another six months, so you do not need to do anything right now”, a subsection of the article (“There’s no action you need to take today”) states. “And once this change does take effect on June 1, 2021, over eighty percent of you should still be able to store roughly three more years’ worth of memories with your free 15 GB of storage.” While these claims are aimed towards calming down consumers from raging and changing services to something cheaper, the fact lies in the statement that this is Google’s subtle push towards promoting their enterprise cloud service, One, at a more personal level. In fact, this move is expected to happen quite soon, and we can hope to see much more affordable personal plans being offered by One in order to keep the transition smooth.

While almost all Android and Google users can expect to be affected by this change, there are still some silver linings left in this dark cloud; until this change takes place, cloud storage offered by Photos will still remain unlimited, and will be exempt from the 15 GB quota being offered to every Google account. And for the users of Google’s flagship smartphone Pixel, the silver lining shines stronger, as they are guaranteed to be unaffected by this change in any way. High Quality uploads from those devices will still be exempt from this change even after June 1, 2021.

With cloud-based storage playing a huge part in our everyday lives, even if we are unaware of it – this change is definitely going to have a negative impact on us as users of their product. But, given that their service is free, there is no space to complain or suggest a change. Given Google’s long-term plays and plans, maybe this change will turn out to be positive for next-generation consumers, and profitable for the company in the long run.

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