Files, photos and videos will all begin counting towards Google Account owners’ 15GB free storage from June 2021.
Image: CNET

Google is making big changes to its cloud storage policy, announcing yesterday that free online storage for files, photos and videos will be capped at 15GB starting next summer.

From 1 June 2021, any new files created in Drive, as well as photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos, will count towards the 15GB of free storage included with every Google Account. Customers who go over that limit risk having excess content stored in Gmail, Drive and Photos deleted.

SEE: Cloud data storage policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Those who wish to extend their storage beyond 15GB can pick up a Google One account, which starts at $1.99 per month for 100GB storage. This seems to be the primary motivator behind the changes: according to Google, more than 4.3 million GB are added across Gmail, Drive and Photos every day, so it seems Google wants to monetize this huge reliance on its cloud services.

“To continue providing everyone with a great storage experience and to keep pace with the growing demand, we’re announcing important upcoming storage changes to your Google Account,” Google said in a blog post announcing the changes.

“These changes will apply to Photos and Drive and will enable us to continue investing in these products for the future. We’re also introducing new policies for consumer Google Accounts that are either inactive or over their storage limit across Gmail, Drive and Photos, to bring our policies more in line with industry standards.”

Google Photos has offered unlimited storage since 2015. Historically, users have been able to upload images in ‘high quality’ resolution to Google Photos without it counting towards the 15GB cap.

From the sounds of it, consumers have been making good on that offer. According to Google, today there are more than four trillion photos stored in its cloud-based photo gallery, with 28 billion photos and videos being uploaded to Google Photos each week.

“This change also allows us to keep pace with the growing demand for storage,” Google said in a separate post.

“We know this is a big shift and may come as a surprise, so we wanted to let you know well in advance and give you resources to make this easier.”

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic)

For now, no action has to be taken by users. Photos and videos that have already been uploaded to Google Photos in high quality – as well as any uploaded before 1 June next year – will be free and exempt from the storage limit and will not count toward the 15GB cap.

Similarly, existing Docs, Sheets and other Google files will not count toward storage, unless they’re modified on or after 1 June 2021.

By Google’s estimates, it will take 80 percent of users at least three years to hit the 15GB cap. The company says it will notify users as they approach their storage limit, and is also offering each user a personalized estimate of how quickly they are expected to reach 15GB cap, based on how frequently they back up their stuff to their Google Account.

Beyond this, users risk having photos, files and videos deleted if they exceed their limit or otherwise remain inactive for more than two years.

Owners of Google’s Pixel smartphones – from the latest Pixel 5 to the original 2016 model – don’t have to worry about the changes to Photos, as free, unlimited storage comes as part of the package.