OneDrive Imposes Old Limits for the Right Reasons

Eric Riz

by Eric Riz on 11/3/2015

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Date Revised:

Applies to:
cloud storage, Office 365, OneDrive

Microsoft introduced SkyDrive to the market back in August 2007, a service that they quickly expanded to a wider audience shortly thereafter. Microsoft rebranded SkyDrive as OneDrive on its way to a meteoric rise in the Microsoft ecosystem as the cornerstone of their Office 365 strategy and product.

In 2007, few organizations considered or contemplated true online storage. At that time, businesses looked for ways to collaborate and share files. Information workers used email to distribute and backup information. Today we live in a very different world where users demand immediate access to information from all devices, and businesses must make careful strategic decisions around storage and content. Business documents get put in the cloud and users share links to content they emailed as attachments just a few years ago.

On October 27, 2014, Microsoft announced its plan to offer unlimited OneDrive storage to clients with Office 365 subscriptions. At the time, though only a year ago, Microsoft took this competitive position against companies in the industry who offered competing services in the cloud price wars including Dropbox, Google and iCloud. Frankly, the move also likely turned people on to Office 365, because with unlimited storage and frankly an awesome suite of productivity tools, why wouldn’t you choose Office 365 over its competitors? Almost a year later, on November 3, 2015, Microsoft announced that it will reinstate the storage cap on Office 365 Home, Personal and University subscribers, but their reasoning reads (to me) like a smart business decision.

What changed?

In a post on the OneDrive blog released November 2, 2015, by OneDrive chief Chris Jones, Microsoft explained their position, which frankly makes perfect sense. Akin to the houseguest who moves in and never leaves, Jones highlighted some “greedy storage users” who ruined the opportunity for everyone. Evidently, some users took the opportunity for unlimited storage to upload their entire media collection, exceeding 75TB, or 14,000 times the average of 5.3GB per user—that’s a lot of movies. As Microsoft Senior Product Marketing Manager Jeremy Thake stated on Twitter, “75TBs…that’s a lot of commitment to get that sync’d to the cloud.”

Microsoft will instead offer the original 1TB for new users, effective immediately. Users whose OneDrive usage currently exceeds 1TB will have 12 months to remove their content or find a OneDrive package that suits their needs. To that end, Microsoft will make the following changes to OneDrive offerings and pricing beginning early in 2016:

  • 100GB and 200GB paid plans will be replaced by a 50GB plan
  • Free storage will decrease from 15GB to 5GB, which includes camera roll storage bonuses


Users and organizations who utilize OneDrive today for their storage needs in excess of 1TB, or have planned for growth in excess of the 1TB limitation, will need to create a strategy that works for them. Microsoft has created paid options that can grow to suit your needs, and with the average laptop hard drive offering a 500GB capacity today, it seems perfectly reasonable that organizations can achieve storage success since OneDrive will still offer double that size. I commend Microsoft for realizing that some customers abused their generosity. For business customers, this is a chance to evaluate some of the lax standards we all have in place when it comes to backups and storage. I certainly know people who thought, “Hey, unlimited storage means I don’t really have to do proper backups and storage, right? It’s all just in the cloud.”

In my experience, notions to do backups and plan proper storage may drift around a user’s subconscious, but an organization should do proper backups and have storage procedures that they control. A business should be concerned with the potential risks associated with their data loss, and shouldn’t leave that to a free service in the cloud that could frankly just stop the service when it suits them. Ideally, each device that leaves the office every day will come back in perfect shape the following day, but we know this is not always the case. Organizations implement backup policies and automatic synchronization in an effort to minimize risk. A business should have policies that state that documents or records of a certain age or size should be stored elsewhere, and not on OneDrive. That may ease data sizing pressures if you encounter them. For example, if you have 950GB of data that you created prior to 2010 and you never access it, moving the content to a different storage solution not only makes practical sense, but it can save you from having to move to a paid OneDrive subscription.

Strategically and realistically, organizations will likely not have to modify their backup strategies greatly in order to accommodate this change. A review of the new content guidelines and storage packages will likely generate some conversations internally about the necessity to backup certain information, though with a price tag of $1.99 per 50GB, a cost-effective solution is certainly plausible.

I assume this limit on OneDrive will change again in the future. I expect Microsoft will make the next OneDrive limit higher when an average customer has average storage limits that require more cloud storage space. Microsoft will change the limits and the price they charge when it makes business sense to do so. They won’t lose many customers by imposing the old cap. 

Topic: OneDrive

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  • Bummer
  • First, the announcement in the blog was posted by the OneDrive team, and not by any named individual, which was interesting enough on its own. Secondly, Microsoft made a promise and they completely backed out on it, without grandfathering existing users, which is the norm in the industry. Claiming that users backed up over 75 TB is also very suspicious as no user was ever given more than 10 TB since the unlimited storage was still in the process of rolling out and basically it was stopped at 10 TB. And finally the blog post was about the consumer version, without any specific reference to the business accounts.
  • Bogus reasoning. Why ding everyone for the acts of a few people. Address the issue with the few abusers instead of taking back a great, and competitive, feature.

    It's like the cell phone carriers where unlimited doesn't really mean unlimited.

    Bad move in my view.
  • When you roll out "unlimited" storage, your business plan can't just be amended by saying "sike".
  • Exactly what did Microsoft think was going to happen? Did they think that no one would take then at their word?
  • test
  • Unlimited means unlimited...plain and simple
  • Well, we are talking consumer storage here, not commercial customers, using Office365 Ex Plans or OneDrive for business. In the consumer space, this is a wrong decision.
  • Oh come on!