back to article The end of free Google storage for education

In 2014, Google made a remarkable offer: anyone with a Google Apps for Education account in the US got unlimited storage for free. The logic was sound at the time. Three years earlier, the tech giant had launched the Chromebook – cheap, robust and secure, the web-browser-based kit was a natural fit for education. The cloud was …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Until when?

    "The idea was that if you catch users when they are young, they're yours for life."

    Or until you decide they're no longer profitable. In the technology world, trust is an odd concept.

    1. hitmouse

      Re: Until when?

      Adobe abandoned the student-to-grave strategy a long time ago.

      1. 42656e4d203239 Bronze badge

        Re: Until when?

        >>Adobe abandoned the student-to-grave strategy a long time ago.

        no, they didn't.

        They moved it from "anyone could claim to be a student" to government agreements rule... we are paying £5 per user per year (yup - not per month) for the whole Adobe CC suite. No restrictions.

        In this school that means 700 licenses are costing £3.5k which isn't bad, when you look at the retail price of the steaming pile (£49.95 per user per month).

        1. ZeroPete

          Re: Until when?

          When 3.5K for 700 licenses 'isn't bad', what - in your opinion - constitutes 'good'. Or 'excellent' ?

          Thanks for helping out,

          ZeroPete

          1. JWLong

            Re: Until when?

            When 3.5K for 700 licenses 'isn't bad', what - in your opinion - constitutes 'good'. Or 'excellent' ?

            Thanks for helping out,

            ......free.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Until when?

      Bigger issue with Educational establishments and Google is the wholesale handing over of their email systems to Google. Most ".edu" email addresses, at least in North America, are pointing to Google's email servers. American Universities outsourced their email to Google roughly a decade ago. Before that, if the Feds were investigating someone at a University they'd have to hand the subpoena to the University if they wanted access to that person's email. Now they hand it to Google, and if they want to claim it's National Security related, they give Google a NSL which prevents Google from informing the University. And the Feds are pretty much hoovering all gmail. That's how the Feds even know there's something to investigate, much less walk into court with reams of University emails that the University had no clue about, like in the Charles Lieber (found guilty) and Xiaoxing Xi (feds dropped charges) cases.

      Charles Lieber

      https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2021/12/22/lieber-verdict-day6/

      Xiaoxing Xi

      https://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/201510/charges-dropped.cfm

      1. PRR

        Re: Until when?

        > Most ".edu" email addresses, at least in North America, are pointing to Google

        Mostly true.

        I worked in a university from the dawn of email. When I retired, part of my entitlement was email for life.

        When Google EDU Suite hit, it was too good to refuse. BUT the University saw that G-spying threatened their academic independence. (They took it pretty seriously, I was never worried my government was peeking at email files.) BUT students did not require secure email. Neither did Retirees. (They forget we know where the bodies are buried...)

        To implement this, they set up a different subdomain. university.edu was still hosted in-house, but new peons.university.edu was Google-hosted. And I lost my cherished address from the dawn, got a new address which was a pain to type.

        Maybe somebody here will find it useful to know that there may be "2 classes" of EDU addresses.

  2. _LC_ Silver badge
    Holmes

    If you rely on ANYTHING by Google you are a fool

    By now you should have managed to figure out that if you rely on anything by Google, you are a fool. I'm sure that they can cancel the entire service yesterday, without their customers being able to do anything about it. There's likely something (illegal) about that in the fine print.

    If I were to post a list of all the services they killed over the years, you'd have to scroll.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: If you rely on ANYTHING by Google you are a fool

      Is that where the term "DoomScrolling" came from?

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: If you rely on ANYTHING by Google you are a fool

      There's nothing illegal about it.

      I'm sure Google included something in the EULA saying that the user accepted that the service was free and could be terminated at any time.

      End of problem, bye bye court cases, you can wail all you want.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: If you rely on ANYTHING by Google you are a fool

      killedbygoogle.com is indeed 12 pages of scrolling, even with things arranged in 2 columns.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Yes but

      In the education world money is always scarce, so it would have been really difficult for people to argue against switching to something that's "free".

      "Google is a big company, they aren't going out of business."

      "If they start charging we'll figure it out then."

      Especially after the pandemic when so many schools had to set things up for remote learning, even if they weren't in the cloud then they are now. So its the perfect time for Google to strike.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge
    Facepalm

    In the physical world, everyone knows where the free sample leads.

    Google and the like are modern drug dealers. You get hooked on the "free" tier and then you must pay double when you are dependent. Old scheme, new jacket. The amazing part, each time, is that people fall for the same scheme again and again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Google is like a pot dealer

      compared to Facebook etc who are into hard drugs. FB etc are designed to be highly addictive.

      Google is just everywhere all the time lurking in the shadows and available at will to give you a temporary high.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Google is like a pot dealer

        I'd suggest that google is more like a fungus. It is an infestation of many places, distributing more spores and toxins as we go along. You are cleaning up one space and a draft lets it enter the backdoor for the next infestation. And we all get high on the mushrooms presented...

        1. I should coco

          Re: Google is like a pot dealer

          by did someone mention facebook I mean META?...*cough*

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Megaphone

      The thing is that Google will quite happily drop paying customers as well.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge
        Flame

        So does the pusher when he has a new, better and more profitable drug to sell.

    3. juice Silver badge

      Ish...

      > Google and the like are modern drug dealers. You get hooked on the "free" tier and then you must pay double when you are dependent

      For the most part, Google (and others like Facebook) have been employing a business model where they give free services to end-users, and then sell two things:

      a) Access to the end-user

      b) Access to the end-user's data

      I.e. the end-user is the product; the services offered by Google are just a way to attract said users and generate a saleable product.

      And as such, they've generally had a vested interest in making their products as "sticky" as possible. And they're always on a quest to find new ways to attract end-users who can be sold to their customers.

      So. They launch a service, and if it fails to generate enough saleable product, they shut it down.

      As such, I'm not sure I'd compare them to drug dealers. More like a massive fishing boat, setting huge nets to trawl for fish, which can then be canned and sold to their actual customers...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So? That trick is ooooold..

    Remember Microsoft educational discounts?

    When we saw this show up we warned the academics that it was a trap, but nooo, we got "Bill Gates realised the value of education" and other self deluding guff thrown at us, and sure enough, once they decided they had enough of a lock in, prices went back up, cue academic howling.

    Here is a simple rule of thumb: if a very profitable US company is giving away something for free, start counting your chickens.

    1. Psmo
      Facepalm

      Re: So? That trick is ooooold..

      And count your fingers...

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Mission accomplished

    Smaller competition failed to flourish against "FREE EVERYTHING!". Now it's time to pay up.

    There is a case to be made for paying an honest price to a smaller supplier whose continued existence depends on delivering good service.

  6. Lotaresco

    It's a well-trodden path

    I've lost count of the number of times that a supplier has claimed to offer "free" and/or "unlimited" services, only to pull those services when people started to use them. The first time it was Demon who offer "unlimited" internet then quickly removed it when they realised some users were leaving their systems connected 24/7 and downloading media content rather than just checking in every so often for email and possible Usenet as they expected. Several cloud storage companies have come and gone offering unlimited transfers and/or unlimited storage. Providers of services on the Internet, or more probably their marketing teams are fully skilled in the two aspects of marketing, both flim and flam.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It's a well-trodden path

      I think there's some sort of thing in the psychology of "free" that affects people. Offer "unlimited" and people will flock to you, and some will abuse it while still being technically inside the rules and lead to it becoming uneconomic as more "leeches" arrive. But if the competition offers an economically viable "limited" service, it fails because "limited". eg most people will choose "unlimited" free storage rather than 100GB free storage even though the vast majority of individuals will never need 100GB of space.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: It's a well-trodden path

        I don't think that's the case. Free works just as well as unlimited. If you offer free 100GB storage, a lot of users will take it and use it completely within the bounds you set. That will end the same way.

        Take a more obvious example. I had a free Dropbox account a while ago. It gave me 2 GB of free storage. Not a lot. Certainly not very expensive to provide. Yet still, Dropbox eventually decided that it wasn't worth providing that level of service to someone who wasn't going to upgrade for more storage. That's not technically true; I still could access that account, but they limited the number of devices that can sync it in order to encourage me to upgrade to a paid plan. Companies don't like providing people free stuff, but for some reason, they continually offer free things until they figure that out again. As a customer, I expect that they're going to think better of it eventually, and I'll use the free stuff only if I have a plan for what I'll do if I lose it.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    Sooo Glaaaad!

    I'm out of GaFe as it was called, google apps for education... I feel sorry for my ex-colleagues that might find themselves scrambling should things get even worse at Gdisaster.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Sooo Glaaaad!

      According to the article, your ex-colleagues are now 2/3rds of the way through an 18 month notice period. If they end up "scrambling", they did it wrong.

  8. Snake Silver badge

    Contradiction

    "Three years earlier, the tech giant had launched the Chromebook – cheap, robust and secure"

    ...

    "In the physical world, everyone knows where the free sample leads. In the online world, we're seeing the collapse of the hidden, unregulated market in personal data as the damage it does is exposed."

    It was never "secure" if the unregulated data market caused damage. It was never "secure", you only moved some of the target surface from user to 'cloud', but as the NSA wrote in NT4 times there is no such thing as a "secure" internet-connected computer. It's an illusion granted by odds and time (read: they haven't found you in the billions of connections, and haven't targeted you yet).

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Contradiction

      Depends on what security you mean.

      Certainly not the usual Windows malware/ransomware. But no privacy with Google!

      Oh wait, MS are now in the privacy-raping business as well, just not quite so far up...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I only came for the byline!

    ... but stayed for "The first point is that Google has pulled more plugs than Dignitas."

    ouch!

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: I only came for the byline!

      "The first point is that Google has pulled more plugs than Dignitas."

      It was beautifully savage.

    2. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
      Coat

      Re: I only came for the byline!

      as an article on educational use, it could have been written by a Don. (icon)

  10. DS999 Silver badge

    Drug dealers

    The first hit is free, once you're hooked you gotta pay!

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. The Empress

    NYC spends $60,000 per student per year

    They have the money. But it goes to paying for each school to have 200 administrators at $200k/year each

  13. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Meh

    Google is wealthy enough to stay around...

    But no cloud, free or not, is ever guaranteed to be there in the morning.

    1. Crypto Monad

      Re: Google is wealthy enough to stay around...

      The not-free cloud is more likely to be around in the morning.

      I think the major clouds have reasonable pricing: they're making enough profit to be sustainable, but there's enough competition than none of them can charge excessively. If they did, cloud-to-cloud migrations are possible, albeit time-consuming and expensive.

      The smaller players which undercut them - e.g. Wasabi - hopefully still have enough margin, scale and/or investor capital to last. If not, then enjoy the cheap ride while you can.

      The wise have a multi-cloud strategy, so they can play off the suppliers when it comes to contract renewal time.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Unlimited"

    We had a vendor offer us "unlimited" cloud storage for their product. When I showed them how much storage we'd need, the price went up as we needed a new level of "unlimited"

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: "Unlimited"

      Do you work at CERN?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Unlimited"

        Unrelated to the Coward above: Have you seen the size of the files DNA sequencers spit out?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was all paid for by advertising fees (the majority of Google's revenue), and it effectively it blocked the market for smaller fee-charging providers (as noted by Dan55 above).

  16. MooJohn

    Storage is cheap - with a catch

    Google went out of its way to make sure getting a Chromebook to talk to a local file server is nearly impossible. They even had an official addon for it -- until they removed it.

    The "just move your files in house" option doesn't really exist at this point. Most of their ecosystem is simple to use. I operate at a 600:1 device-to-staff (me) ratio with no problem. We're small enough that the new limitations aren't an issue but everyone should have the ability to map to local storage.

  17. garwhale

    Well, people got up to 8 years of free, unlimited storage. Hear about any utilities or services with simillar offers? No, I don't think so.

  18. Wily Veteran
    Pirate

    Canary in the coal mine?

    The "free" aspect isn't really the issue. Isn't this just a preview of what is to come in "the cloud?" Once Amazon/Microsoft/Google/Oracle et. al. have hoovered up all the business data (and applications) into their clouds and made it very hard or impossible to migrate to some other provider, they can then start raising prices and raising prices and raising prices so businesses/people (perhaps even governments) have to pay exorbitant prices just to access their own stuff. Whether the "service" was "free" in the beginning really isn't relevant.

    If you don't control your data/applications on your own equipment you don't own your data/applications and better expect you'll get reamed at some point in the future. The cloud is just ransomware with a friendly face.

  19. stiine Silver badge
    Pint

    "The first point is that Google has pulled more plugs than Dignitas."

    Best line i've read this month.

    Unless, of course, you're referring to the e-sports team.

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