Jan 31 2023

How Higher Ed Institutions Are Responding to Google Storage Limits

Some universities are imposing stricter limits for students and staff, while others consider alternative solutions.

Higher education IT departments have been confronting cloud storage dilemmas since Google established limits on the service last year. Google, which has long offered some of its services free to universities, is now capping the amount of free cloud storage available to institutions at 100 terabytes across Drive, Gmail, Photos and other apps that are part of the Google Workspace for Education suite.

That number may seem high, but it’s insufficient for universities, particularly research universities, that can have tens of thousands of users storing data. Take the University of Hawai‘i, which is currently storing almost 2 petabytes (2,000 TB) of data, according to Garret Yoshimi, the university’s IT vice president and CIO. And per a December statement from Iowa State University, that university is on pace to lapse to read-only status unless it can reduce its data storage in Drive and Photos by more than 60 percent.

To fall within the new limit, universities will need to curb cloud storage, upgrade to a paid edition of Workspace for Education, or both. The 100TB of storage is the total amount available to an entire organization pooled across all users, but it is notable that archived storage in Google Vault isn’t counted.

The limits were supposed to go into effect in July of last year, but a number of universities have been given extensions, and any institution that purchased the Google Workspace for Education Plus package has also been granted a later deadline.

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How Universities Are Responding to Google’s Storage Limits

Since the announcement, universities have had to find ways to comply with these limits and consider alternative cloud or on-premises storage options. Many institutions are implementing stricter storage guidelines for individual users and trimming the fat where they can, including by establishing or tightening rules for retiring inactive user accounts.

To meet its overall quota, Iowa State began enforcing a 3-gigabyte quota for all individual Drive accounts. Any accounts exceeding that will move to read-only status until they meet the quota. A message across the top of the Drive site alerts Iowa State employees who are near or over their personal storage limits.

Lewis & Clark college has taken a similar approach, capping faculty, staff, students, departmental accounts and departmental shared drives at certain gigabyte limits to stay within storage quotas. To arrive at a cap for each group, the university analyzed the data consumed by each group and distributed the available 100TB accordingly.

DISCOVER: Why your college needs a Google Workspace for Education audit.

The University of Michigan also announced storage limits for users. Active users will receive 250GB or storage, while alumni and retirees will have just 15GB to use. The decision reportedly has led to some frustration among current students and alumni.

Meanwhile, despite its need for much more than 100TB, the University of Hawai‘i is set to stick with Google, given the major lift (and cost) that would be required to move storage on-premises or to a different cloud provider. The university announced in the fall that all faculty and staff will be provided with Google Workspace for Education Plus licenses, which includes an additional 20GB for each licensed user on top of the 100TB of pooled cloud storage.

Maximizing Google Storage Space and Finding Alternatives

CDW Education Amplified Services can help universities make the most out of Google Workspace for Education even with the storage limits. Gopher for Drive helps organizations understand storage consumption on their domains, developing reports on overall and individual storage usage and offering shared file details.

Google’s limits may also have universities considering other storage options, and storage platforms with consumption-based models may be more suitable for some. In such a model, universities pay for a base level of storage capacity, then pay for what is used beyond that level. The advantage is that you have more flexibility to scale storage as needed and control exactly how much you pay. Storage as a Service models have a similar pay-per-use structure where you pay only for what you use, and the vendor takes care of the lifecycle management.

UP NEXT: Five security myths about Google Workspace for Education.

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