Data storage solution: Google Photos to be turned off June 1

As part of the strategy to reduce the university's overall data storage in Google, Iowa State has chosen to turn off the Google Photos service in the university account June 1 to prevent individuals from quickly or unknowingly exceeding their storage quota. Faculty and staff should empty the Google Photos folder associated with their university account by then.

Photos count toward the total data storage in each individual account, which are capped at 3 gigabytes (GB), as of Jan. 3. Currently, Google Photos accounts for 16 terabytes (TB) in the university's overall 140 TB of stored data. Google set Iowa State's storage limit at 100 TB, with the penalty of defaulting the university account to read-only mode for exceeding the limit.

A limited number of employees need to store work-related photos in a university Google Photos account, and an exemption request form to keep Google Photos is available for them, said Jason Shuck, who manages the systems operations team in information technology services (ITS), which oversees data storage. Multiple employees can be included in a single request. Even for those approved to continue using Google Photos, the 3 GB individual cap remains in place.

Personal photos shouldn't be stored in a university account, he noted, though employees with Android phones may not be aware their phones automatically back up their photos and videos to Google Photos when they sign into their university Google account on their personal devices. With phone cameras capable of higher and higher resolutions and regular backup occurring, it doesn't take long to hit the 3 GB ceiling, Shuck noted.

"We're shutting off one avenue -- which lets native apps integrate as they're designed to do -- to help users control their Google storage," he said. "Otherwise, with the new cameras, this could get away from us quickly."

Another way Android users can protect their Google storage limit is to disable the photos/video backup function in Google. The best deterrent is to not log in to your ISU Google account on a personal device, Shuck said.

Why June 1?

Shuck said Google treats photos as personal property, so system administrators don't have access to other individuals' photos. Shuck's team can't delete or retrieve photos. ISU employees and students need to delete files from their own accounts, to benefit both the university and themselves. When Iowa State turns off Google Photos in most university accounts June 1, photos and videos left in accounts will stay forever -- and count against the individual 3 GB storage quota and the institutional 100 TB quota for as long as the account exists.

"We want to give people time to get their images and videos out, so we thought end of the semester is a fair amount of time," Shuck said. A knowledge base article in the IT portal provides instructions for deleting image files.

Once the app is turned off, the images stored there are inaccessible, Shuck said. There is no "view only" option in Google Photos.

Learn more

These knowledge base articles in the IT portal may be useful: