in Reviews, X-Geek

Amazon kills unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive option

Recently I had a scare when our home storage server went on the fritz. Years of photographs, videos, and files were suddenly in jeopardy as they appeared to vanish. Being a resourceful geek, once I caught my breath I was able to revive everything. Still, it was enough of a scare that I accelerated my quest for a good, offsite place to back up our files.

Part of this quest was getting gigabit fiber Internet at home, which I recently did when I could no longer wait for Google Fiber and signed up with AT&T Fiber. Untangling this brave new world has kept me busy recently, not leaving much time for blogging. I will have lots to say about this in the near future but suffice to say that having a fat pipe at home makes it easier to do any kind of backup to the cloud.

Enter Amazon Cloud Drive. When it was first announced in 2015, Amazon Cloud Drive (ACD) promised unlimited storage of all types of files (photos and others) for a mere $59.99 per year. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it was. This morning without any warning, Amazon killed Cloud Drive’s unlimited plan, updating its FAQ page with this blurb:

New Amazon Cloud Drive FAQ

1) What is changing?
Amazon is now providing options for customers to choose the storage plan that is right for them. Amazon will no longer offer an unlimited storage plan. Instead, we’ll offer storage plans of 100 GB for $11.99 and 1 TB for $59.99, up to 30 TB for an additional $59.99 per TB. Any customer that signs up for storage with Amazon automatically gets 5 GB for free, and Prime members receive free unlimited photo storage. You can see storage plan rates and find additional information here.

2) When will the change happen?
On June 8, 2017. Current customers will keep their existing unlimited storage plan through its expiration date. At the end of their existing subscription, customers with auto-renew turned on and 1TB or less of data stored will be renewed into the 1 TB plan for $59.99 per year. Customers with auto-renew off, or who have more than 1 TB of data stored, will need to visit their account’s Manage Storage page to opt in to one of the new plans. Prime members will continue to get unlimited photo storage, so photo storage won’t be counted against Prime members’ storage limits.

Poof! There goes my plan for cloud backup.

So what happened? Pure speculation on my part, since Amazon hasn’t really said much publicly about this significant change, but it was one infrastructure service Amazon wasn’t metering. Amazon Web Services (AWS) will let you spin up nearly unlimited virtual computers, for instance, as long as you’re willing to pay pennies for each and every CPU operation, every IO operation, and every megabyte of storage. Cloud Drive, almost certainly build on top of this AWS infrastructure, was an affordable way around these per-operation charges. Third-party applications (acd_cli, rclone, ARQBackup, etc.) with far more functionality than Amazon’s own, pathetic Cloud Drive client, made Cloud Drive much easier to use, some turning Cloud Drive into a virtual hard drive that made backups as easy as dragging-and-dropping. Automated backup tools could dump massive amounts of data into Cloud Drive with nearly the same reliability as Amazon’s AWS services. None of these were helping Jeff Bezos fuel his rockets.

So just when I finally have a speedy Internet connection with which to do cloud backups, Amazon pulls the plug on my cloud backup option. This has only me look more longingly at Google Fiber and Google’s own brand of cloud services known as Google Compute Engine. I’ve long thought that Google’s storage offerings could be the “killer app” that drives Google Fiber adoption and this could be Google’s opportunity. Unlike Google, Amazon doesn’t offer consumer Internet service. Google offers both Internet and cloud services. Google’s offering customers a blazing-fast link to cheap online storage and other cloud resources could really chip away at Amazon’s dominance in cloud services.

For now, I will draw down my Amazon Cloud Drive files and migrate them to Google Drive or some other service. I don’t necessarily need unlimited storage but I do need a long-term online storage option that’s not going to radically change after just two years.