What is Google Cloud Storage?

Google cloud services
Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Google is one of the biggest cloud storage providers in the world. With more than 2.5 billion active Android devices, the advertising and search giant has to allocate potentially up to 20 Exabytes (assuming a ratio of two devices per user account); that almost 20 billion GB of data as each Gmail account is tied to a 15GB free cloud storage tier.

That’s a lot of hard disk drives and a lot of servers (probably more than a million) spread over the world. The real number is likely to be far less than that because, well, not all people use that much storage and the emergence of Facebook means that billions store their pictures elsewhere. 

 Meet Google One 

When it comes to consumer cloud storage, Google has three main data pools for end-users: Google Drive, Gmail and Google Photos; they all share the same free storage quota as part of Google One, Google’s new membership scheme which gives you access to experts, expanded storage and more. 

Paid for options are available should you want to put more data online. 100GB storage will cost you $15.99 per year with the most expensive tier, 30TB coming in at a whopping $2,880 a year. In addition, photos and videos stored using the "High Quality" size (photos - up to 16-megapixel, videos - up to full HD) do not take any space at all from your storage quota.

Now unless you have a super fast Gigabit broadband, your upload speeds are likely to be slow. Uploading at 2Mbps means that you will upload up to 22GB a day; that’s in theory. Assuming you have a dedicated internet line, it will take you nearly four years to fill your 30TB storage. The obvious backup strategy to maximize storage efficiency that you should be able to use. 

 The “other” Google Cloud Storage 

Outside of its consumer market, Google also operate one of the largest public clouds in the world (alongside Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle). Google Object Cloud Storage (similar to AWS S3) is one of its core components and offers unified object storage to developers and enterprises.

As part of Google Cloud Platform, it offers to businesses, three storage tiers (standard, nearline and coldline), with pricing depending on the frequency of access (more than once a month, less than once a month, less than once a year). That sort of storage is not easily available to end users but is cheaper especially if you don’t need a lot of data. 

20GB storage will cost you a mere $4.80 per year, going down to $1.20 per year for coldline storage for and you get $300 credit for free for the first 12 months when you try Google Cloud Platform. You can potentially store several TB of data for free for a year but all this will have to be moved out within 30 days of your trial period ending. 

You do get charged extra though for accessing and moving data and for performing actions within the cloud storage environment. It is worth noting that G Suite, Google’s bundle of business applications, gives you unlimited cloud storage for $12 per month across six users, so that’s a maximum of $864 over a year. That is significantly less than the near $3K charged for 30TB.

If you have a lot of data to backup (tape, USB flash drive or hard disk drives) in Google’s cloud then you can even get a third party to do it for you. Currently Google has vetted only Iron Mountain and Zadara Storage to do it. 

You will have to pay them to move the data physically from your peripherals to Google’s data centres. It will be expensive especially if you are not based in the US but at least you won’t need to wait for years. As always, make sure you have double or triple backup before sending or shipping something as sensitive as terabytes or even petabytes worth of data. 

Also check out What is cloud storage?

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.