The about-face is controversial.
But the company’s unlimited storage promise was leaving some users feeling deceived, even before Tuesday’s announcement.
The official, public change in policy was announced in a blog post only a few hours after Business Insider and several other reporters had contacted Microsoft and asked what was going on with it.
We were contacted by a customer who said he spent the last two weeks trying to get Microsoft to honour its promise of unlimited storage, only to be told that Microsoft wasn’t going to do so.
He wasn’t the only customer complaining. In June, several people posted to the forum about it. They were told to call a Microsoft account number, and when they did that, they were told to contact the online support forum.
“Eventually after an hour in chat they point you to here,” wrote one frustrated customer, screen name mbshrekito back in in June.
A ‘hidden cap’ on ‘unlimited’ storage
June, 2014, Microsoft upgraded Office 365, the cloud version of Microsoft office, to 1 terabyte of storage space.
That’s a lot of storage, (1000 gigabytes) more than most people will use in five years.
In October, 2014, Microsoft one-upped itself again, promising that all Office 365 customers would get “unlimited storage at no additional cost.”
But customer support reps on Microsoft’s help forums soon started explaining to people that there were actually limits after all.
They started telling people who asked that storage was capped at 10 terabytes.
Here’s just one example of an answer where a rep says, “If you subscribe to any version of Office 365, you will get unlimited storage ( fair usage 10 TB).”
Michael Halberstadt, a photographer, opted to ditch Google Apps for Office 365 Home subscription specifically because of the unlimited storage offer. He even went out and bought a Windows phone and started using it for work.
Like others, when he neared 1 terabyte he contacted Microsoft about getting more storage per the unlimited promise.
Service reps were telling people that when they reached their 1 terabyte limit, their account would simply be upgraded to 10 terabytes, and if they didn’t see that increase, they were to call the account reps.
Since Microsoft hadn’t formally announced a change in policy, things got really weird when Halberstadt contacted the account reps trying to find out why his storage limit wasn’t upgraded.
In one conversation, Microsoft both confirmed that storage was unlimited while also saying it was capped.
Halberstadt persisted until an account rep finally told him that Microsoft would not be honouring a 10 terabyte limit at all, let alone unlimited storage.
If he wanted more than the included 1 terabyte, he would have to pay for it. This, even though Microsoft was still advertising unlimited storage on its OneDrive blog, via its original post from October, 2014. (That post was removed as of today.)
Microsoft loses a loyal customer
Halberstadt now says he’s fed up (and he’s not alone).
Thanks to this free storage offer, he had bought a Windows phone and was using it for work, backing up things like his business mileage “by taking a photo of my odometer and later pulling up the photo in OneDrive.”
He was also in the process of moving all of his music to OneDrive to use the new Groove player, too.
While he isn’t going to immediately cancel his paid-for year of Office 365, he isn’t going to buy more storage from Microsoft.
“I have been trying to figure out what to do for about two weeks when I found the hidden cap,” Halberstadt, told us. “Cloud computing is based on trust. … I just can’t trust them anymore.”
Instead, he’s turned to Amazon and its promise of unlimited storage for $US60 a year. And he’s going back to his Android phone.
Microsoft blamed customer abuse
In the blog post explaining the change of heart, Microsoft blamed its customers, saying:
“Since we started to roll out unlimited cloud storage to Office 365 consumer subscribers, a small number of users backed up numerous PCs and stored entire movie collections and DVR recordings. In some instances, this exceeded 75 TB per user or 14,000 times the average.”
But that explanation raises its own set of questions. As the above screen shots indicate, at least as far back as May, Microsoft was telling people that “unlimited” storage was really capped at 10T.
How many people could have reached 75 terabytes in the first few months of offer? By its own admission, not a lot.
And also it seems odd that Microsoft didn’t factor in the cost of a small number of “abusers” when it decided to offer unlimited storage plan in the first place.
One thought we had: Maybe Microsoft no longer feels the need to offer the carrot of unlimited storage, now that it has 18.2 million people using consumer versions of Office 365 and there’s less angst over competition with Google Apps.
When we asked Microsoft why it wasn’t honouring its unlimited storage promise, we were pointed to the blog post that announced its change of heart.
In addition to killing unlimited storage, Microsoft decreased OneDrive storage limits on its free accounts, killed the 15 gigabyte of free storage for using OneDrive with your camera roll, and is also killing 100G and 200G paid plans. Microsoft will offer only a 50G plan, albeit for a dirt cheap price of $US2 a month.
Microsoft is giving everyone a year to figure out a different storage options. If they are over their limits and don’t like the change in policy, Microsoft says you can cancel your account and “a pro-rated refund will be given.”
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