Google Combining Free File Storage for Drive, Gmail, Photos

Google will now allow users to access their Drive, Gmail and photo files in a shared storage bin, rather than in separate storage areas.

Google is now allowing users of their Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photo accounts to put all their files in a unified place, rather than having to maintain separate storage areas depending on what kinds of files were being stored.

That means that instead of having separate 10GB and 5GB storage areas for their files, users will now be able to keep their data in one 15GB storage bin, simplifying file archiving and storage. The 15GB accounts will continue to be free. Storage can be expanded if desired, with 100GB accounts available for $4.99 a month and 200GB accounts for $9.99 a month.

Google unveiled the plans in a May 13 post on the Google Drive Blog.

"With this new combined storage space, you won't have to worry about how much you're storing and where," wrote Clay Bavor, director of product management for Drive, in the post. "For example, maybe you're a heavy Gmail user but light on photos, or perhaps you were bumping up against your Drive storage limit but were only using 2 GB in Gmail. Now it doesn't matter, because you can use your storage the way you want."

The combined storage is being made possible, according to Bavor, because as more Google products have been refined to work together, it made less sense to keep their storage repositories separate. "So instead of having 10 GB for Gmail and another 5 GB for Drive and Google+ Photos, you'll now get 15 GB of unified storage for free to use as you like between Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos," he said.

The Google Drive storage page is also being updated over the next several weeks so that account holders can better understand and see how they are using their Google storage, wrote Bavor. "Simply hover over the pie chart to see a breakdown of your storage use across Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos," he said.

The combined storage is also being provided to Google Apps users, who will be able to access up to 30GB of shared storage under their user agreements, Bavor wrote in a related May 13 post on the Google Enterprise Blog.

Google Apps users will get 30GB of unified storage to use as they like between Drive and Gmail over the next several weeks through their accounts, wrote Bavor. "Just as before, files created in Docs, Sheets and Slides don't count against your storage quota," he wrote. "Storage will also be shared with photos you upload to Google+ larger than 2048px."

Under the new combined storage rules, Gmail inboxes for Google Apps customers will no longer be limited to 25GB, he wrote. "Any additional storage you purchase can be shared and used by Gmail," Bavor said. "Or alternatively, if you're only using a few gigabytes of email storage, but have a lot of large documents and files stored in Google Drive, you can now use your storage primarily for Drive."

That means more flexibility for users and their stored data, he wrote.

Earlier in May, Google updated Drive by giving it a new chat capability, according to an earlier eWEEK story. Users of Google Drive's Docs and Slides capabilities can now have a chat session that is similar to the ones they can use in Gmail. The feature is available to users of Google Apps for Business, Education and Government.

Last November, Google unveiled other changes that made sharing photos, documents, PDFs and presentations stored on Google Drive much easier, especially through Google+ accounts.

Google Drive was launched in April 2012 after six years of planning and talks about its intentions to introduce a cloud storage service. Last September, Google updated its Drive services for Android and iOS users to make it easier for them to modify documents on the go, see changes by others and view presentations.