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Will Cloud Storage Ever Be Free? By @RickNotDelgado | @CloudExpo

Demand for cloud storage has increased every year as more & more data is being stored in data centers around the world

The cloud is proving to be a useful tool for businesses both large and small. What started out as an innovative idea has quickly transformed into a vital component of many business practices. Demand for cloud storage has only increased with each passing year as more and more data is being stored in data centers around the world. While only 7% of data was stored in the cloud in 2013, that number is expected to increase to 36% by 2016. With growing demand comes fierce competition among the many cloud vendors out there, and as is the case with most business competition, that has led to falling prices and a better product. As prices continue to fall, some are even wondering if one day cloud storage will even be offered for free. It's an intriguing possibility but one that is accompanied by a number of complications.

It should be noted that while cloud storage is not yet free, it's still incredibly cheap compared to the rates from years ago. Much of it does, however, depend on the type of cloud storage being utilized. In the case of storing data that is rarely used or accessed, some vendors charge only a few cents per gigabyte. A quick check of some of the latest rates reflects this trend. Both Google Drive and Dropbox offer a whole terabyte for just $10 per month, with other options hovering around that total. Even these numbers keep getting slashed as competition among Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others forces them to outmatch and give counteroffers to attract more businesses and customers to their services. For example, as Amazon launched its new Fire phone, it offered free unlimited cloud storage for photos users took with the new device. While the free storage isn't necessarily meant for business data, it's easy to see how companies may one day offer more free storage on a wider basis.

There are other ways cloud storage is being offered for free. Almost every cloud provider out there gives away some cloud storage at no charge. Dropbox offers 2GB of storage for free (though more can be gained through referrals and other actions), Amazon and iCloud offer 5GB, and Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive give even more. While this may seem like quite the generous offer, it's important to understand that the amount of storage space given away for free isn't that much if used by a business. The free space is actually more of a marketing tool designed to give people what amounts to a free trial. If a business likes the experience of using the free storage space, they might upgrade to the monthly premium version.

So some storage space is offered for free while overall prices continue to come down. Does that mean cloud storage will be free one day? Not necessarily. Prices may decline but the cost to install and run the infrastructure required for cloud storage will never go away. In other words, operating the cloud always comes at a cost, even if the costs decrease. The cloud computing model can best be summed up by describing it as containing a high initial cost (the installation of servers and other infrastructure) followed by the low cost of providing the service to consumers. This is also known as a zero marginal cost model, wherein adding new customers to the service can be done at no extra cost. This means costs overall can be low but for companies that provide cloud storage, the product and service will likely never be offered for free.

There are, however, other possible ramifications of cheaper cloud storage and new payment models to consider. Some experts believe cloud storage costs will change into one resembling how people pay for cell phone service, mainly that consumers would get unlimited storage for one flat subscription fee paid every month. Others suggest the storage itself may come at no cost to the consumer, but users would have to pay for other helpful services and software offered by the cloud provider. Whatever the future holds, competition will likely force vendors to continue offering more product for less, which can only be good news for consumers looking to make the most of the cloud. If you would like to learn more about cloud storage and what it can do for your business, click here.

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“I’ve been blessed to have a successful career and have recently taken a step back to pursue my passion of writing. I’ve started doing freelance writing and I love to write about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet.” – Rick DelGado (@ricknotdelgado)