Microsoft's OneDrive for Business: Will 'unlimited' storage promises disappear?

For now, Microsoft is mum about what's happening with OneDrive for Business on the storage front. Will the company renege on its unlimited storage promises there, too?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The official word is out: Microsoft is dropping its commitment to provide unlimited storage for its OneDrive consumer storage service for home and university users.


But what about users of its OneDrive for Business service?

Microsoft's November 2 blog post announcing the coming downgrades to OneDrive didn't mention anything about what's going to happen on the business side of the house.

OneDrive for Business is Microsoft's storage service for SharePoint and Office 365 business customers. Microsoft is in the midst of developing and rolling out a common OneDrive consumer-OneDrive for Business sync engine and client app.

Back in October 2014, Microsoft officials announced that the company would be offering unlimited OneDrive storage to its Office 365 consumer- and business-plan subscribers. From that post:

"Today, storage limits just became a thing of the past with Office 365. OneDrive and OneDrive for Business will now offer unlimited storage -- at no additional cost--to our Office 365 consumer and business customers."

In September 2015, I had a chance to ask Reuben Krippner, Director of Product Marketing for OneDrive for Business, when Microsoft planned to make good on its unlimited storage promises from the year before.Krippner's response:

"We are working towards it (unlimited storage). We want to make sure you can store all your business files in our cloud."

Krippner told me in September that Microsoft would be publishing a revised OneDrive roadmap before the end of November. I haven't heard any further details about when and/or whether that's still the current plan.I asked Microsoft earlier today for an update, but no response so far.

Right now, Microsoft's various Office 365 commercial plans all include 1 TB of storage per user as part of the deal. Because of the maximum allowable file size and maximum number of files limitations in OneDrive for Business, this OneDrive for Business limit has been theoretical more than actual for many (probably most) users.

The question many are asking today, the day after Microsoft's OneDrive consumer announcement, is why the company made the decisions it did around its storage service.

While Microsoft's blog post attributed the move to a "change in pursuit of productivity and collaboration" -- not kidding -- there's got to be a real reason. The company didn't just drop its plans to provide unlimited storage in favor of 1 TB of storage, but it also dropped the amount of free camera roll and entry-level free storage it will deliver, too.

Some are speculating Microsoft's moves signal the company's intentions to buy another cloud-storage vendor. Some think that vendor could be Dropbox, given Microsoft's recent partnership announcements with Dropbox around Office. I've heard nothing from any of my contacts that lead me to believe this is in the works, however.

Maybe Microsoft's management decided OneDrive wasn't generating the kind of subscription revenues they had hoped, so they are trying to push more users to subscribe to Office 365 (and get 1 TB as part of their subs instead of just 5 GB of free storage in the process).

Microsoft execs have made no bones about their hopes of the freemium model being the way the company expects to monetize Windows and other businesses, moving forward. If this is part of the reasoning, I can't help but think it's going to backfire and drive more users away from OneDrive (and maybe Office 365 and Windows, too), given other companies are offering equal/better cloud storage deals. There definitely is a contingent of users who subscribed to Office 365 consumer plans for the storage, not the downloadable Office apps.

There's no way that Microsoft's latest OneDrive decisions are driven by lack of cloud-storage capacity. This is the company that continues to tout how many datacenters it has worldwide and how vast its storage resources are.

Given the growing importance of cloud storage to phone, tablet, PCs, servers and other devices, Microsoft's OneDrive moves could affect not just Office 365 and Windows customers, but users of the company's other products and services, too. Here's hoping the Softies will say more soon about its real reasons for Microsoft's backtracking -- as well as its future plans, for OneDrive and OneDrive for Business.

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