Information Management, Cloud Storage, Bigger and Bigger Clouds: Microsoft Doubles Its Mailbox Storage
Although there are demonstrable limits to being too rich or too thin, no one has ever proven that you can have too much storage. Microsoft is the latest to agree, with its announcement that it is doubling the size of its cloud mailboxes.

Capacities will increase from 25 GB to 50 GB for inboxes in Exchange Online and Office 365, at no extra charge. The fatter mailboxes are being rolled out worldwide from now until November.

SkyDrive Pro, Google

Shared mailboxes and Office 365 Kiosk mailboxes are also doubling, to 10 GB and 2 GB respectively. The move follows Microsoft's increase earlier this week in SkyDrive Pro storage for Office 365 and SharePoint users. Those sizes increased to 25 GB for new and existing customers, more than tripling the previous 7 GB limit. SkyDrive Pro is actually not SkyDrive, but is business file storage for Sharepoint Online or SharePoint 2013 users.

In May, Google announced its free storage for users of Drive, Gmail and Google+ was being increased to 15 GB of unified storage. The upgrade limit of 25 GB was also removed, with upgrade plans for consumers starting at US$ 4.99 for 100 GB. Enterprise users of Google Apps were increased to 30 GB unified capacity for Drive or Gmail.

This boost is only the latest in the leapfrogging my-storage-is-bigger-than-yours contest going on now among cloud providers, to the obvious wonderment and benefit of customers. Earlier this month, for instance, online storage and collaboration provider Box announced it was offering 10GB for free to all users, up from 5 GB, and was introducing a Starter plan for small businesses with 100GB.

Where will this end? With 3 terabyte hard drives going for US$ 120 on Amazon, this isn’t a race that is being driven so much by cost-per-WhattaByte. In fact, given the current trendlines, it wouldn’t be surprising if cereal makers someday soon start including free terabyte drives as prizes with your corn flakes.

The End Game Is …

There’s also not much evidence that, say, email users need anything approaching 50 GB for their inboxes, such as Microsoft is now offering. Some emailers, of course, use their email accounts as storage and filing systems, but still -- 50 GBs of email and attachments? As writer Chris Knight notes: “Despite my best efforts and some nine years of use, my Gmail account only takes up 2.5GB of my Google storage.”

The trend is toward unified storage from a provider, because it’s all storage to them and to you. So, it’s not so much about individual service competition, either.

Instead, this storage war is about trying not to lose users, and to attract new users who are using storage-shopping as a benchmark, while the cluster of services adds features and integration with other services.

Box, for instance, keeps adding storage, but it is also adding features like they were going out of style. The company just signed ex-Microsoft Office exec Steven Sinofsky as an adviser -- a sign that they could be moving toward providing productivity apps to go with all those documents you’re storing.

Microsoft, Google, Box and others don’t want to lose their place, while they assemble the features that a cloud environment really wants to have. Except that picture of cloud heaven is still being formed so, in the meantime, let’s make the cloud bigger.