It's been part of the ecosystem for years- free storage for students. But what happens when the student morphs into a graduate? That's the "gotcha" moment!
Is It Really Unlimited?
Life is really convenient as a high school and college student to not have to worry about data overages as they navigate through their educational career. One side effect of studies, and life for that matter, is the huge amount of data that the average student compiles during their lifetime. As phone sensors improve, and as the type of data we have grows, so does our storage space. Students are now taking more video and photos, they are creating more multimedia presentations, and they are storing more files as digital requirements for students shift from paper products to bits and bytes.
Google reported on this themselves, saying, "as we’ve grown to serve more schools and universities each year, storage consumption has also rapidly accelerated. Storage is not being consumed equitably across—nor within—institutions, and school leaders often don’t have the tools they need to manage this.”
It's easy to think that a communications student working on a video piece, or a CS major working on a budding gaming project with lots of multimedia files may consume a lot more data statistically than, for example, an English major, who may have a large amount of text based files.
Google, in other words, is limiting the amount of cloud space in part to the high amount of costs associated with giving away free data on the front end. Not only that, but they are making university and college IT departments play the policing role in this instance. In July 2022, Google announced that they would be limiting educational institutions to "up to" 100 TB of cloud space, depending on their enrollment. This seems adequate in most cases, but if you look closer, it's really not. What these universities have had to do is issue warnings to students who use up too much space, having them offload files onto their own hard drives. The result is that there are data storage issues that are handed to students when they don't need it, when they are concentrating on studying and tests. Not only does the new policy affect individual students, but it can affect a whole organization- if 100TB is reached, teachers and administrators will not be able to add new data to the cloud via their .edu accounts.
Is It Really Free?
After graduation sets up a whole new avenue of problems for students, who are struggling to get into new roles of life with attaining jobs, learning how to do those jobs, and general life changes. As soon as a student graduates from an institution, they are limited to 15 GB of free space. If the graduate is storing more than this, they are immediately hit with a subscription for more space or their account gets locked down from adding more data. So essentially, it's best to offload that data somewhere else. In other words, Google will lock in a student into using their service. It's a long-play strategy that often wins out in the end with a lifelong subscription fee.
Is It Really Safe?
Finally, what about the privacy of keeping all of your files on one service who generates most of their profits through data collection? Don't think that your data is ever private just because your account has a username and password. On the back end, Google is scraping information about you and your habits to sell to you. This happens with the essays you write, the music you listen to, and even the EXIF data from the photos you store. Just this past week, Google was hit with another lawsuit that they are stealing data to train its AI model. The same can be said of Apple, Amazon, and other cloud-based services. Ever have a conversation about a product and then it shows up in your Facebook feed to buy? This is the power of data aggregation, and consumers are the people who reluctantly pay for it. Students aren't protected from data mining, they are taken advantage of unknowingly, like the rest of society.
Is It Really Necessary?
So what is something a student can do to avoid the scenarios listed above? The best thing a student can do is understand how the Google business model of giving away free space is actually... a business model. Google, Apple, Amazon, etc, all know that free will eventually turn into upsells and lock you in to a particular subscription that will not end.
Once a student understands that storing data is the business model, they recognize that there is CHOICE in where they store their data. You have a choice to buy something to store your data on with a one-time fee, rather than a lifetime of subscription fees. You have a choice to store your data somewhere private. You have a choice to store your data where you can access it from anywhere, yet keep it safeguarded. You have a choice to buy something that does all that... and more!
This is why we offer the Amber line of products: the Amber X and the Amber Pro. Both models will let you backup your data, from anywhere you have an internet connection. That's right- it's like a hard drive on steroids- you don't have to take it with you everywhere, worried about cables and dropping the actual hard drive. Both Ambers also work with most any device: Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Both Ambers offer storage expansion beyond the already large amount of space with simply plugging in additional hard drives. Both Amber devices allow you to share files and folders with family and friends easily. Finally, all Amber devices are completely private from prying eyes on the internet. No more data scraping, no more fears of having your data used against you.
So the best option for a student? Grab an Amber X or an Amber Pro. Set it up at home or in the dorm and leave it there, while you access your files from anywhere. There's a ton of other cool features on it too- like using it to run movies and TV shows as a Plex server, or having it do automation in your room. The Pro model even lets you run your own web services- the best way to start that new business you've been dreaming up of in college! Grab a new Amber now!