What happens when free Google Photos storage is no longer free?

This week, Google announced that the ability to store free unlimited storage for high-quality photos would come to an end on June 1, 2021. Photos uploaded after the date...

This week, Google announced that the ability to store free unlimited storage for high-quality photos would come to an end on June 1, 2021. Photos uploaded after the date will be counted towards the 15GB Drive cap.

Like many, I’ve been a Google Photos user for years and was pretty saddened to hear this news. Currently, I have 94.75GB of photos stored with Google, mostly backups of my camera roll from the Android phones I’ve had over the years.

If your account is inactive or exceeds the 15GB limitation for two years, Google may delete the photos after warning. Users will either need to pay for a recurring fee or look for an alternative if they run out of space.

As such change of policy projected to affect more than 1 billion users worldwide, many may start to wonder what they are ought to do with their existing or any other photos that are taken going forward.

Several remedies are available in the market at the moment, such as shifting towards other cloud storage services that offer freemium models, or simply upgrading google storage plan.

Though most of the tier-1 public cloud storage vendors such as OneDrive, Amazon Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud offer certain amount of free storage space, none of them exceeds Google’s whopping 15GB storage space, which means ultimately, it all comes down to upgrading public cloud storage plan regardless of the platforms. 

For Google Drive, though it seems like there are several plans available for upgrade, but if we consider SSD based laptop like Macbook or smartphone’s base amount to be 256GB for most people nowadays, to store this amount of data on the cloud can cost you around A$99 per year.

On top of a growing list of subscription services like YouTube Premium, Netflix, Spotify, Adobe Creative Cloud, this could be one too many for people.

Alternative options

If managing photos on public cloud with recurring subscription fee is not preferred, another intuitive approach is to go back to storing photos on external hard drives. However, this approach never ceases to address the inconvenience of managing and centralizing photos and the risk of natural and physical damage.

Moreover, external hard drives are vulnerable to other common data loss risks such as viruses and human error. Besides, it is quite troublesome and hectic to migrate all photos from public cloud to multiple external hard drives.  

If both alternatives do not suffice to growing amount of pictures in the long run, an on-premise device or private cloud may be a solution. Network-Attached Storage (NAS), a device with terabytes of storage space connected to a more secured home or office network, offers users higher-level data ownership, data protection and recovery features, and comprehensive public cloud level accessibility. 

Let’s take a look at why the above mentioned give NAS an edge:

Data protection & recovery

Data loss often is due to human errors like accidental deletion, hardware failure, or ransomware attack. On top of it, countless celebrity photo leak or data loss incidents from different public cloud providers were reported over the years, making more people aware that the notion of public cloud services being completely safe and secure is just untrue.

NAS solution on the other hand is ideal because several NAS providers like Synology has a very complete backup applications ecosystem that helps users to deploy all around photo backup and data protection. By seamlessly integrating the backup solutions with a NAS device, users can achieve various photo protection strategies without being wary of photos being lost or damaged.

Low total cost of ownership

Let’s put things into perspective. If we use 2TB storage space as a benchmark, as mentioned earlier if a user is determined to pay for a 2TB Google Drive storage space for A$99 a year to save and maintain the integrity of his or her photo gallery, the total cost of ownership accumulated will grow to A$500 in 5 years, and significantly and ultimately be a heavy burden for many people going forward.

NAS on the other hand only requires initial hardware cost. A 2-bay NAS device plus two 2TB NAS drives will likely land at a significantly lower cost than using public cloud services in the long run. Not to mention that a NAS usually comes with 2 to 5 years of warranty. Thus, NAS is an obvious choice when it comes to economic value.

Comprehensive photo management appliance

Some NAS vendors even provide mobile apps and photo management appliance like Google Photos to not only help users to manage photo storage, share and access portfolios on the go, but also offer a modern browsing and uploading experiences for photos that users captured in daily life.

To turn it up a notch, a handful of NAS device even has built-in image recognition and deep learning algorithm that assists users to group photos according to similar topics and categories.

A scalable and efficient NAS storage device can be viewed as a once in for all photo management solution. Users no longer need to be wary of when the public cloud vendors are going to start charging for additional subscription fee so photos or data need to be migrate elsewhere, nor do users have to worry about photo management issues such as data loss, scattered photos, and the recurring fee that is more significant than it seems in the long run.

With all the benefits mentioned above, together with NAS vendors such as Synology have now designed their OS to be very intuitive and easy to use; just like operating a PC, it’s time to say goodbye to the free storage hoax and build your own cloud storage with a NAS!


Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021
3 Comments on this post.

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  • elvis
    13 November 2020 at 11:33 pm

    What happens when your NAS fails? A local storage option without a backup is a not a solution, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

    Leave a Reply
    • Jason Cartwright
      14 November 2020 at 5:28 am

      Most NAS solutions can be configured with redundancy, which means if a drive dies, you simply replace it, the data is then replicated across the new drive and you’re good to go.

      Leave a Reply
      • Biodiode
        23 November 2020 at 1:20 am

        What happens if you get a power surge that takes out your NAS due to a lightning strike or, heaven forbid, your house burns down. Everything is gone as RAID is not a backup. You still have to maintain an offsite backup for true security. You have to then consider the cost of replacing drives, the NAS when it reaches end of life and the electricity bill of an always on NAS. Not to forget if everything goes wrong YOU are the system admin to fix things.

        If this works for you then go for it and enjoy the self-hosting journey.

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