How much free cloud storage space do you really need? — SkyDrive’s 7 gig free plan examined

Do you have a free Dropbox or other cloud storage account? If so, how much of your free space do you actually use? According to the guys at Microsoft Skydrive, 99.94% of users who have had access to 25 gigs of free space only ACTUALLY use up to 7 gigs of it, and less than 1% of users (about 6 in 1000) went above this (see chart above).

Which is why the newly re-launched Skydrive, now with desktop sync a-la-Dropbox, comes in with a free storage plan of 7 gigs rather than the original 25 gigs of free space (legacy accounts will maintain the original 25 gigs).

Moreover, the new Skydrive does not come with a friend referral plan to enlarge your free storage.

Did the Skydrive team make a mistake? This post will argue for and against.

SkyDrive storage usage chart

But first, how much cloud space storage does one really need?

On this, the answer does seem to be 7 gigs or under. Why argue with the data? I have 3 Dropbox accounts with the max 16 free gigs each (strangely I have 19.75 on one of them). How much do I actually use? Less than 4 gigs, which includes a couple of large .ISO files that take up most of the space (see screenshot to the right).


Here’s why Skydrive’s 7 gig free storage is a mistake.

  1. It’s a NUMBER that most users understand and will use to compare with other cloud services: tell someone that they get 2 free anything rather than just 1, and they will prefer the larger number. It is FREE, after all, so the bigger the better. (And though 7 gig is on the larger side, many cloud storage services offer larger amounts). If I recall correctly, SkyDrive’s free 25 gigs is the reason I signed up with the service in the first place, way back when.
  2. Nobody likes to be punished: many users expect that Skydrive offers 25 gigs; to find out that it has been reduced may turn users off it altogether. At least those in the know. Although if you have a Hotmail or MSN login there may be a way to STILL get the 25 gigs, see this link and  this LifeHacker article.
  3. No referral option: means that users will not have a personal stake in . Believe me, once I’d worked all of my contacts (real and invented) to enlarge my Dropbox storage to the max 18 gig possible for free, Dropbox is never going to be uninstalled from my machine.

Here’s why Skydrive’s 7 gig free storage may not be a mistake after all.

  1. Microsoft will bundle Skydrive with Windows 8: which is to say, they don’t necessarily need people to sign up voluntarily, they don’t need you to invite your friends. It pays to have the most popular operating system in the universe, and Skydrive will also be integrated to other MS products, such as Office, OneNote, etc.
  2. 7 Gigs is huge: at the end of the day, it’s a lot larger than the starting point of most free cloud storage services, including Dropbox’s 2 gigs.
  3. Extra Skydrive storage is relatively cheap: add 20 GB for $10 a year.

What they should have done:

In my opinion, they should institute a referral system that would hike you up to, say, 30 gigs (importantly- higher than the original 25 gigs) at 1 GIG increments. After all, those who would do this are self selecting geeks that are extremely unlikely to pay for storage increases anyway, and it probably pays to have the geeks using your service.

Opinions? Reactions? Please share them in the comments section below.


 
 
 
Samer Kurdi

Samer Kurdi

Has been reviewing software since 2006 when he started Freewaregenius.com
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  • Viktor

    I believe their numbers might not be very reliable because the service was not as accessible as e.g. dropbox.
    I rarely used Skydrive before because the webupload was not as comfortable compared to other options. Now that it is I use 17Gigs of my 25.
    I think they should have offered a grace period and evaluate the usage over time after the client was published.

    (And I want the P2P option from Live Mesh. I sync 200Gig between three PCs and there is not even the option to get that much storage.)

  • http://carbonize.co.uk Carbonize

    The only people who can truly answer this are Dropbox and I highly doubt they will.

  • Oaks

    Before I was in a position to pay for any online services, I tested and trialed many of the free cloud storage accounts. Including; Dropbox, Skydrive, Spideroak, Livedrive, DivShare, Wuala, Minus and ADrive. For the most part these can be separated into two groups. Those with lower amounts of free storage, and with better functionality and practicality, plus incentivised storage rewards. Versus, those with large amounts free storage and IMO inferior functionality and little or no practicality.

    Concerning Skydrive, the 25GB account was next to useless given that I could not upload data by the folder (at the time). Having to upload files individually to the tune of 25GB is impractical in the medium to long-term for most people.

    At the risk of sounding cynical, these companies know their markets and the free offerings are little more than bait used to compel serious users to upgrade to paid-for products…

  • Will Rubin

    It will be interesting to see if the chart is just the result of some sort of Pareto distribution. Will Microsoft find a similar distribution at 7 GB. Do the other services find a similar distribution at 2 or 5 GB. In other words, maybe 7 GB isn’t such a magical number, just a result of statistics.

  • Gary

    Microsoft’s reasoning may be off. I have had skydrive for several years but never really used it because it was not as easy to access files like dropbox. Now that they finally came out with their sync program, I am starting to migrate some more stuff to it. 25G is not enough for me to say back up all my MP3s or JPEGs, but its(for now) more than enough to get other stuff in the cloud. I looked at google drive, but I prefer to not be logged into EVERY Google service just to use it.

  • Davin Peterson

    Most Office Documents (Word, Spreadsheet, Powerpoint) are not very big and neither are most images/photos and mp3 that are the most commonly saved type of file. It’s Video that takes up the most space. The My Documents folder of my Windows 7 PC is just under 5GB.

  • DComedian

    It never fails to amaze me that the vast majority of computer users don’t seem to realize how easy it is to use online storage to back up their most valuable files. Downloading the necessary application that you choose and installing it takes a matter of minutes. Uploading is invariably a slow process, but can easily be done at a time when the computer is not in use e.g. overnight.

    If you’ve got family or friends who aren’t currently backing their files up online, give them a helping hand. With easy synchronization and at least 5GB on SkyDrive or Google Drive (and a secure password!) it’s crazy not to.

    Personally, I have a lot more than 7GB of data I want to store online (my music files alone would take up about 40GB) so SkyDrive would be the preferred option for me…it’s just a pity that they don’t offer a synchronization tool for XP, which is going to give Google Drive a big head start for the tens of millions of users who are still using older computers.

    I use SkyDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox…SkyDrive for the bulk of my data which rarely changes, Google Drive for my pictures and key files which are more fluid, and Dropbox for sharing files with friends and family.

  • DComedian

    It never fails to amaze me that the vast majority of computer users don’t seem to realize how easy it is to use online storage to back up their most valuable files. Downloading the necessary application that you choose and installing it takes a matter of minutes. Uploading is invariably a slow process, but can easily be done at a time when the computer is not in use e.g. overnight.

    If you’ve got family or friends who aren’t currently backing their files up online, give them a helping hand. With easy synchronization and at least 5GB on SkyDrive or Google Drive (and a secure password!) it’s crazy not to.

    Personally, I have a lot more than 7GB of data I want to store online (my music files alone would take up about 40GB) so SkyDrive would be the preferred option for me…it’s just a pity that they don’t offer a synchronization tool for XP. This is a big mistake, in my opinion, as it is going to give Google Drive a BIG head start for the tens of millions of users who are still using older computers and will now choose Google as their first ever online storage tool.

    I use SkyDrive (more than one account), Google Drive and Dropbox…SkyDrive for the bulk of my data which rarely changes, Google Drive for my pictures and key files which are more fluid, and Dropbox for sharing files with friends and family.

  • zzc

    I agree with Viktor and Gary above. Microsoft makes a mistake in using the old usage pattern that 99.94% of users actually use less than 7GB. They gave people a badly designed product that sucked and concluded that people don’t need a lot of storage! This is evidently a false conclusion.

    I have had my two Skydrive accounts since Skydrive was first introduced but I hardly used it because the file operations (no multiple selections of files, etc.) in the very primitive web interface was a real pain to use. If they had a better design and had provided better tools, I would have filled up most of the 25GB very quickly.

  • Samer

    Thanks for the comments guys. I agree that the fact that SkyDrive didn’t have a desktop sync client may have resulted in a very skewed usage profile for the service.

    So, therefore, I am now thinking MS made a mistake by reducing it.

    In any case, if you are looking for Cloud Storage Services that offer a lot of storage space for free, check out our new article entitled “A comparison of FREE Cloud Storage Services” which lists all of the services worth knowing about.

  • http://paleografie.tk Cerberus

    If it turns out that people never come close to the maximum, this is a reason to INCREASE the maximum rather than decrease it: it is basically a very cheap marketing strategy, since people won’t use the extra space anyway! I am like that too: I will stick with my free Dropbox account of 23.8 GB for the high maximum, even though I use only 7 % (sic) of it. I sort of plan to add more stuff to it, but, you know, I never get around to doing it. I can assure you people are attracted to high maxima even if they never come close.

  • Kent Dyer

    I know that I am late to the party.. However, reading this prompted me to check my Skydrive acct. I am glad I did as they are changing the plans and for a limited time, you can ask to keep your 25GB.

    Thanks,

    Kent

  • http://www.lotsofhumor.com Felix

    Great article!! I got to keep the 25 GB storage!