Unlimited Cloud Storage – Is it scam?

By John Reynolds
March 20, 2014

 

I could basically set an alarm clock to the appearing of new cloud storage services which offer unlimited cloud storage space for your files. You can’t imagine how many friends ask me as an expert in this field what I think about that and if those are legitimate offers. In this article I’d like to explore services that do offer unlimited cloud storage and which ones are recommendable and which ones to avoid.

What does “unlimited” mean?

You might think that’s a ridiculous question, because unlimited means unlimited after all. WRONG! It really doesn’t mean without any limits for a variety of providers, yet they market their product that way. I think this is close to fraudulent behavior. You really need to look closely into their TOS to identify what their unlimited offering really means and if any limits may apply to you.

Restrictions to the so called unlimited plans

If you think about it – no-one can actually guarantee you unlimited cloud storage space and even if you wouldn’t be able to use all because you don’t have that much data. Yet knowing that your can really transfer anything into the cloud without having to worry about excessive costs like other pay per gigabyte models (for example Amazon S3) is a blessing that I don’t want to miss.

Not everything is unlimited

Storage

Many services claim unlimited storage yet, if you’re looking closely they almost always “reserve the right to terminate your contract due to overuse”. So what is overuse? For them it might be storing 1TB, for me this might start to make sense at 10TB. Who knows? Don’t fall for this trap. Make sure you exactly know what your limits are.

Bandwidth

Another common restriction is bandwidth. You might get unlimited storage but that’s not worth a dime if you can’t transfer you data backup and forth as you’d like.  Or some services limit your bandwidth in a way that your uploads are painstakingly slow. Carbonite does a fantastic job at this (careful – sarcasm) – after transferring the first 25GB the first bandwidth throttle kicks in then after having uploaded 200GB it gets so slow that you might take a year to upload 1TB of data.

File Size

Oh, yes, dear file size limit. Some services hate when you try to transfer your gorgeous 1080p movie files of a couple of gigabytes on their servers. So they tend to limit the file sizes, some globally, sometimes just for movies or other media files. Imagine you’re a photographer and your 20GB Photoshop file doesn’t get backed up? So make sure you pick an unlimited cloud storage service if you know you have some heavy files to transfer.


So, are there services with true unlimited plans?

The simple answer is no. Services like JustCloud, Backblaze and Crashplan come really, really close though. I have stored more than 2TB with JustCloud (find out why JustCloud is my favorite cloud storage service) and have not yet run into trouble, yet there are people reporting that JustCloud wants them to update to a business plan if they have more than 1TB of data.

Backblaze, for example, doesn’t let you backup your network attached storage device without additional cost and Crashplan apparently has some “bandwidth problems” if you have lots of data. Mhhh… So, if you happen to have a lot of data 2TB or more then I highly suggest looking at business plans or other options to avoid trouble. If you cannot or do not want to afford business backup then go for JustCloud.

Here is a screenshot of my JustCloud control panel:

JustCloud Dashboard

So for me JustCloud offers unlimited cloud storage although technically it does not. I do not have to worry about how much files I store online or if my bandwidth will be limited after a couple of gigabyte like Carbonite does. What I don’t like about JustCloud is that my file size is limited. I can only upload files that are smaller than 5GB. As of today I do not need that option but what if in future I start producing videos or my RAW photo files are getting larger because my camera sensor increases?


What About Other Services?

Luckily, you’re not limited to only one cloud storage service these days. Well, for some people this can result in information overload but it’s really not that difficult – at least if you’re using our cloud storage finder or comparison chart. However, I still want to introduce you to other cloud storage options that offer an unlimited plan:


Livedrive – Cloud Storage and Backup

Livedrive Cloud Storage – with file sync!

Livedrive is one of the few cloud storage services that’s on the market for quite some time. So they count with a vast user (and probably fan) base. I’ve been a Livedrive subscriber for a couple of years now (more or less happily) because they offer unlimited online backup and near unlimited cloud storage (between 2 and 5 terabyte which equals 2000 – 5000 GB!). Here’s a quick pricing overview:

The Briefcase

So, if we’re talking about Livedrive cloud storage then we have to talk about the Briefcase plan. The Backup plan just includes pure online backup without the gems of a modern cloud storage service – however, the backup plan would be a lot cheaper. The Briefcase lets you:

  • sync your files, just like you might know it from Dropbox but cheaper and more efficiently.
  • access your files from your mobile device (this is incredibly useful if you forget a file at home and need it for a business meeting
  • share files with your friends and family (I can’t tell you how grateful my grandmother is to receive our vacation photos right in her inbox)

Overall the Briefcase is the ideal solution for most people. If you’d like to take it up a notch you can always go for the Pro Suite which comes with 5TB cloud sync and unlimited backup of up to five computers so your entire family is pretty much covered (unless of course, you are a mormon).

Bitcasa – Unlimited Cloud Storage

Actually, I can’t here the name Bitcasa anymore. There has been going on a lot buzz lately because of their terrible decision to switch their pricing policy. A year ago unlimited cloud storage and sync only cost 10 bucks per month and now pricing has skyrocketed to 99$ per month. WOW. Of course, people are pissed. That’s why it’s difficult for me to recommend Bitcasa because you never know what’s going to happen next.

I may be one of the more lucky guys who signed up within the hour of the service launching – so I still have one of the cheaper beta accounts. But of course, those are not available anymore.

Bitcasa Web Portal

Should you choose an unlimited cloud storage service or not?

There are still services like Mozy or others that still offer limited storage plans. I think this service model is a thing of the past. Our need for more data is only going to increase, only think about how many photos you took this year. So I cannot see how those service can still be attractive for the end user.

Now, this is just my two cents here. Of course, there might be people who are perfectly fine with a 50GB plan. The only problem is you don’t even pay less. So technically, there is no difference and that’s why I’d rather choose the unlimited route if I have a choice.

In the end you have to make up your mind about how you will use cloud storage and how much data you have. Then you can consult our cloud storage comparison chartto decide which service suits your needs best.