Unlimited Storage? Is it Really Unlimited?
When is Unlimited Storage Really Not?
It doesn't matter if you are talking about unlimited storage, unlimited minutes, or unlimited downloads, the same question always arises. “Does unlimited really mean unlimited?”
Once again the answer unfortunately comes with the caution: “buyer be sure to read the fine print of your terms of service“. What is the Terms of Service you ask?
The Terms of Service or TOS, is the service contract between you and the backup provider. With a TOS the merchant attempts to avoid the whole “he said, she said” issue. It also removes any confusion on what a customer service representative or sales rep may have told you. The TOS puts into print, exactly what you signed up for – pure and simple.
This is where we went to find out what various merchants say about their unlimited storage plans.
Here is what we found for a few of the online backup providers we review that offer unlimited storage options:
- Carbonite: Carbonite states that they may terminate your service if you either use their service for a purpose that's inappropriate for the plan you purchased or if your backup results in excessive bandwidth usage.
- IDrive: IDrive states that they automatically monitor plans in an attempt to detect unacceptable usage levels. If they detect excessive usage they may immediately disable the account involved. They specifically state that their service is not to be used for storing and disseminating large amounts of data to large amounts of recipients.
- IDrive Unlimited: (specifically) This plan is no longer available.
- JustCloud: Justcloud states that their services are designed for individual consumers and if they determine your actual usage is inappropriate for the type of plan you have, they will require you to upgrade to an appropriate plan or terminate your service. They do state that they will provide a prorated refund of any fees you paid on the unused subscription. Their definition of excessive usage is based on a user greatly exceeding(within one month), the average level of monthly usage of JustCloud's customer generally.
- CrashPlan: CrashPlan says there are no file size or bandwidth limitations, as there are with other plans. You can opt to send files to four different locations — the cloud, a local drive, a friend’s computer (which that friend makes room for) or another computer or folder.
- OpenDrive: While OpenDrive claims to offer unlimited storage, it isn’t clear if there is a limit to what you choose to store in a secure folder. Anything you store outside of a secure folder may be seen by employees, and therefore, potentially hackers. Their unlimited plan is “intended for personal use” and what OpenDrive considers to be excessive use of storage or bandwidth can be subject to modification by the service.
- SOS Online Backup: SOS Online Backup advertises unlimited storage with both of their plans and they provide an unlimited archive of files. If you delete files, they will keep them stored forever. They also say there no limit to file size or limit of types of files.
- BackBlaze: This service offers affordable unlimited storage for only $5/month for their personal plan. Their business plan also offers unlimited storage, but the cost is $50 per computer/year. This could be costly for larger companies. Once you cancel the service, they will delete backups and files “within a reasonable amount of time”, which is open for interpretation.
- Acronis: This company is aimed at those who wish to store images, mainly personal accounts. They offer unlimited storage and full system backups which include applications, not just data like other services. One computer cost $99/year and the price rises with more computers. Also, one downside noted with Acronis the fact that you have to pay to use support tickets for help with service issues. Acronis is also known for taking up a great deal of space on computers, which can pose glitches or trouble for those with older computer systems.
- Amazon Cloud Drive: Amazon Cloud Drive provides unlimited photo storage with 56G of file and video at a cost of $11.99/year. It is free for Amazon Prime members. The cost of storing unlimited videos, photos, files, and documents is $59.99/year. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that the trial plan for this service will automatically convert to the paid plan if you do not cancel and the service will automatically renew if you do not cancel.
- Alt Driver: Alt Driver has two plans which offer unlimited storage. The 1 computer basic plan is only $4.45/month while 3 computers are $9.95/month. Additional computers cost more but the plans do not specify exactly how much more.
- Cyphertite: Cyphertite advertises unlimited storage for $10/month without an increase per computer. However, there is limited bandwidth available so initial backup could take a great deal of time. Files are reduced to store quicker, but the time can be significant when compared to other unlimited storage services.
With regards to unlimited storage plans, we found that most merchants have some kind of clause eluding to “reasonable use” or “intended use” of their service. There are a couple of merchants that don't have any such wording in the TOS. For instance CrashPlan is one of those merchants that does not have any such wording.
Some other thoughts on how to handle large amounts of data.
Regardless of what type of plan you are looking at, unlimited storage or a fixed amount, if you decide that you want to store an extremely large amount of data to the cloud, then you may want to look at an initial backup via some other means than using precious internet bandwidth.
Many online backup providers will ship you a drive to do your initial backup to – CrashPlan and Mozy being two of them. They will then load this data to their servers for you – thus saving the time and hassle of trying to upload everything via the internet.
Final Thoughts on Unlimited Storage.
So back to the question of “Does Unlimited Storage Really Mean Unlimited?“. I guess it all depends on the merchant you are dealing with. It may also depend upon their interpretation of “reasonable or excessive usage”. But all in all, if you are a normal home user or small business you should be fine with an unlimited storage plan.
Be reasonable and ask yourself, “can I use multiple means of backup?” For example you can backup some files locally to an external drive (Mozy offers a local backup option, and so does CrashPlan) while you send only your most important or critical files to the cloud. Remember the more data you attempt to send to the cloud, the longer it's going to take to do that initial upload. Use our article How Long Will My Initial Backup Take? to help you determine how long this may be. You may want to strongly consider utilizing a process like CrashPlan and Mozy offer to do that initial backup.
What if I seem to hit a limit wall?
If you run into issues with reaching what appears to be some kind of “limit”, regardless of whether you have an unlimited storage plan or not, keep in mind that it may not be the backup provider imposing the limit. You could be hitting a bandwidth cap being imposed by your ISP provider, for example.
There may be multiple reasons for hitting some kind of limit that causes your backup to appear to stop for no known reason. Be patient, work with your provider(s), and explore multiple possibilities in the course of your trouble-shooting efforts.