When 2014 began, cloud storage capacity was limited and could be costly. In April of this year, Microsoft expanded the default 20 GB of storage in its OneDrive service to 1 TB for Office 365 subscribers. At that time, I said that it was — for all intents and purposes — unlimited. Well, a mere four months later, Microsoft is dropping the 1 TB pretense and will now provide actual unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 customers.
When I wrote about the previous increase in OneDrive capacity, I predicted, "In the very near future, the capacity will cease to be a differentiating factor in choosing a cloud storage provider, and unlimited storage will simply be the de facto standard." I knew that the move to unlimited storage was somewhat inevitable, but I thought that the "very near future" would be sometime in 2015.
In a post earlier this week on The OneDrive Blog, Microsoft announced, "Moving forward, all Office 365 customers will get unlimited OneDrive storage at no additional cost." The post explains that the roll out will happen over the coming months, but Microsoft urges customers to go ahead and start filling up that 1 TB with all of your data in anticipation of the fact that the 1 TB ceiling will soon be a thing of the past.
When capacity itself — or the cost for cloud storage capacity — ceases to be a factor, services like OneDrive need to find other unique elements that set them apart from competing cloud storage offerings. Microsoft seems to be banking on the tight integration with the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office as a defining feature of OneDrive.
Microsoft praised unlimited storage as a milestone but stressed that the true value of cloud storage is a function of how seamlessly it integrates with the tools customers use to communicate and collaborate. "That is why unlimited storage is just one small part of our broader promise to deliver a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share, and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organizations."
I agree with Microsoft that the real value of OneDrive — or any cloud storage service — is more a function of how invisible it is than how much space is available. Saving files to the cloud, or accessing files stored in the cloud, needs to be as simple and intuitive as opening a file from the local hard drive. When you store data in the cloud, you also want to be able to access it from virtually anywhere, on any available platform, and be able to share the data with others.
OneDrive accomplishes all of these things, and Microsoft continues to enhance and streamline the service. If OneDrive just seamlessly works with Windows, Microsoft Office, and the mobile devices that customers use, that's where the real value is, and that's why customers will choose to store data in OneDrive as opposed to one of the rival cloud storage platforms.
Unlimited OneDrive storage will be rolled out to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers first. Microsoft stated that unlimited storage will also be added to the Office 365 roadmap soon and projected that it will begin updating Office 365 business accounts in 2015.
Do you think unlimited OneDrive storage is big news or bid deal? Explain your answer in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.