Will we lose our treasured memories to cloud policies?

People who use the free Google Drive service for personal use to store, share and collaborate on documents, will be aware that the company has been slowly shifting consumers to pay for cloud storage.

Google Drive offers 15 Gbytes of storage for free. People can buy more storage via a Google One subscription, which starts at £1.59 per month for 100 Gbytes or £2.49 a month of 200 Gbytes of cloud based storage.

A few months ago Google changed its policy on deleting documents. In the past, documents, pictures, videos, PDFs or any other file type could be stored in the Deleted folder forever. Nothing ever got deleted. But now, every 30 days, the Deleted folder is flushed.

Google Photos is the home to more than 4 trillion photos and videos. According to Google, a remarkable 28 billion new photos and videos are uploaded every week. “In order to welcome even more of your memories and build Google Photos for the future, we are announcing a change to our storage policy,” it said. Storage of photos on Google Photos has, until now, been free. As such, storing images did not count towards the 15 Gbytes of free storage that Google offers users. Google has now said that from June 2021, hi-res photos will count towards this 15 Gbyte free storage threshold.

Smartphones increase cloud storage

Today’s high-end smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S20 offer a 108 megapixel sensor and 8k video. For device manufacturers, the race is won by who develops the phone with the highest spec. Today, this distills down to a measure of megapixels. The larger the megapixel count, the more processing power is required to convert the data from the phone’s camera sensor into an image file. Naturally, people will want to have images stored at the highest possible quality the smartphone’s image processing software has to offer, even if they will only ever view it as a thumbnail or maximised on a six inch screen.

But storage in the cloud is not an unlimited resource. If a new parent took a 5 Mbyte smartphone image every day of a child’s life, 15 Gbytes would be used up just after the child turns eight. Who knows where smartphone technology will be in eight years from now, and how the public cloud providers handle long term data retention? But one thing is certain, cloud storage is not going to be the best way to store historically valuable data, whether it is a treasured memory or documents that may need to be recalled many years from now.

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