Faculty, staff face read-only status in Google next month

Unless it can reduce its data storage in Google Drive and Google Photos by more than 60%, the Iowa State community is about a month away from lapsing to read-only status for files stored there. This means employees could download or read files, but they wouldn't be able to create or edit files.

Like other cloud storage providers, last year Google halted its policy of unlimited storage for higher education clients and put them on alert that quotas were coming. Google set Iowa State's storage limit at 100 terabytes (TB), or 100,000 gigabytes (GB), with enforcement set to begin in January. Here's the rub: University employees currently store nearly 275 TB in Google products: about 256 TB in Google Drive and more than 18 TB in Google Photos, said Jason Shuck, who manages the systems operations team in information technology services (ITS), which oversees data storage. And, despite a yearlong messaging campaign to appeal to the largest storage users on campus, employees have been slow to move or delete files.

Individual quota

As a strategy to meet the institution's quota, starting Jan. 3, ITS will enforce a 3 GB quota for all individual Google Drive accounts. Any accounts exceeding that will move to read-only status until they meet the quota. Shuck said on Jan. 3 a message across the top of their Drive site will alert employees who are near or over their personal storage limit. Prior to Jan. 3, employees can see their current use under "storage" in the left column of Drive.

Google will enforce the 100 TB university quota, and Shuck said that will happen sometime after Jan. 1. When it does, individual account compliance would become irrelevant because Google looks only at total institutional storage.

Google storage is the least used of three options available to ISU employees. Iowa State has contracts for storage with Microsoft (OneDrive is included in the Office 365 package) and Box.com (branded CyBox). Faced with the decision to purchase additional storage from Google, senior leaders decided against paying for a third storage option.

The business model for cloud storage has changed, and it's taking time for all customers to adjust to the new structure and expectations, Shuck noted.

"We don't have a choice. Google initiated these changes and we have to adapt," he added. The days of free, unlimited data storage are gone.

Options in the university solution

To help the university meet its quota, Shuck suggests these strategies for data stored in Google:

  • Delete files. This is an appropriate choice for personal use files, unused or obsolete files and duplicated material owned by someone else.
  • Move files. Iowa State has new, multiyear contracts for generous storage in OneDrive and CyBox, Shuck said. There's not a concern about capacity with either option. A knowledge base article, Export Your Google Drive Content, shows employees how to move files. For ITS assistance migrating files to OneDrive, complete the form, Request Managed Migration to OneDrive. ITS staff also can create a shared space in CyBox for departments or units; email storage@iastate.edu to request assistance.
  • Remember to delete files from Google that were successfully migrated to CyBox or OneDrive.
  • Android phone owners should not sign into Google with their Iowa State account (use a personal account) on their phones. Many aren't aware their phones automatically back up their photos to Google Photos, which contributes to the university's overall data storage. Plus, they may risk deletion of their photos with the storage cap.
  • Advisors to student organizations are reminded that those organizations should be storing files in CyBox or OneDrive. Google's policy for student club data puts that information at high risk for accidental deletion, Shuck said.

For more information or assistance, email storage@iastate.edu.