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What to do when your free cloud storage fills up

Jared Newman | Oct. 1, 2013
Giving away scads of free cloud storage is all the rage these days, but when you've hit your limit, your options are few.

With the launch of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, Microsoft is joining the promotional cloud-storage craze, giving buyers 200GB of free storage for two years.

Like other tech companies that have offered similar promotions, Microsoft hopes you'll use cloud storage to ease the burden your device's somewhat skimpy flash storage drive. In a blog post, the company boasts that 200GB is "enough space to take a photo, every hour, from the moment someone is born, to the day they graduate from college."

Microsoft and other companies (like Google and Dropbox) don't like to talk about what you'll do after the promotion runs out. If you switch to a paid storage plan at that point, they'll rejoice—but the recurring cost of such plans can be high, and if you're not prepared to pay, you and your uploaded content could be in an awkward situation when the free ride is over.

So before you start uploading your entire digital life into sky storage, let's take a closer look at how SkyDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox deal with your files after their promotional plans expire. The cloud can turn mighty dark indeed when your time is up.

Microsoft says it won't delete your files when the two-year SkyDrive promotion ends. You can continue to download and share those files, but you won't be able to add any new files to your collection unless you clear space for them.

Here's the bigger caveat: When you go over the limit, your files will revert to read-only mode when you access them through SkyDrive. That means you won't be able to edit your documents in Office Web Apps, or to sync your documents to SkyDrive when editing them in Office. This limitation could cause trouble if document syncing across devices is a major part of your workflow, and a Microsoft spokesperson wouldn't say whether users will receive any advance warning when their free storage is about to go away.

Should you be unwilling or unable to relocate your files from SkyDrive after the promotional period ends, you'll have to pay $100 per year to maintain the 200GB of storage. SkyDrive's cheapest plan, providing 27GB of total storage, costs $10 per year.

Google Drive
Over the past year or so, Google has used the attraction of free Google Drive storage as a hook for its Chromebooks. Most Chromebooks come with 100GB of free storage for two years, and the luxury Chromebook Pixel includes 1TB of storage for three years—on top of the 15GB that all users get for free. In addition, Google recently gave away 10GB of storage for two years to anyone who linked Quickoffice to Google Drive.


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