GMail was introduced with the premise that you will never have to delete mail, but now Google has started peddling its "extended storage" plans to heavy users like this scribbler, in other words "e-mail hoarders". But I don't blame Google as, for some of us, our GMail inboxes are big giant "archives in the sky". OK, "cloud" as Voles put it.
My Inbox is a repository for news stories on the several subjects that I track, and which I "e-mail to myself as an attachment. Often when I need a story on subject "x" as a reference, a search on my Inbox by subject often brings better results than a Google web search, and I don't have to worry if the story has been pulled from the web or if archive.org still has it in its cache.
Full Inbox? Google now has the cure
I'm sure others have their own creative uses for GMail as online filing cabinet, and most probably just let it fill with mailing list messages -oh, that would be me, again. Mailing lists are sometimes like small clubs, and it's nice to not only remember what someone said three years ago, and handy to be able to cut and paste someone's original words when he/she contradicts him/herself. See, winning arguments on-line is a full time geek occupation, although there are always shortcuts. But I digress.
Educational site 42explore says collecting anything is not necessarily negative: "Those who view collecting as trivial or a waste of time, miss the connections that it has to life skills and occupations. Scientists also collect things; they gather information, data, and samples. Museums and libraries are collections. Many people make their livlihoods by collecting and disposing (of) items. In fact, all of us go through our lives collecting and discarding things around us."
Well, discard no more. Just as my GMail Inbox was at 99 per cent with the dreaded, "your account is almost full" message - later reduced to 96 per cent after a purge- Google surprised me. And I guess everyone else with a banner on top reading: "You are almost out of space for your GMail account. You can view our tips on reducing your email storage or purchase additional storage". And there is also a link at the page footer: "Need more space? Upgrade your storage", clearly hinting at the firm's eagerness for users to contract the service. Back in January 2006 I said, "Now that I think about it, I'd sleep better at night if I could pay a small yearly fee to Google", well they took their time, but now I can pay them for the privilege of not deleting stuff.
What's the plan, doc?
Google is initially offering four storage plans, starting with six gigabytes for $20/year, and culminating with a whopping 250GB - this is similar to a lot of people's hard drives - at $500 per year. On the middle ground, there's 25GB for $75 and 100GB for $250. The space is shared by your GMail account and " Picasa Web". As more and more people put their high-res digital photos online, and as megapixels go up and people become used to leaving everything in "the cloud", I'm sure this will be a healthy source of Google revenue.
In that sense, Google is competing now with hosting companies. But if you intend to use Google's space only for Picasaweb pictures, I humbly suggest you do the maths, as I think hosting companies still have an edge. The hosting provider I use for one of my domains has, for instance, a 110 GB plan - yes that's gigabytes of storage, and 5TB of data transfer per month - for $5 per month (that translates to $60/year for 110GB vs Google's 100GB for $250, in other words $0,54/GB vs Google's $2,50/GB).
Your own hosting account also lets you upload and put online thousands of pictures if you want, plus having other uses and flexibility that Google cannot match, like associating domain names, hosting your own forums -all a bit more work, of course, but the only option for control freaks. A regular hosting account is attractive specially with easy to use tools like jAlbum which make creating online photo galleries a point-and-click endeavour, just as easy as Picasa Web.
Yet, with my GMail account at 96per cent I decided the $20/year offer was too good to let it pass. Entering the order is easy and is handled by the Google Checkout service. All major international credit cards - the "big four" - are accepted, and a few clicks after entering my CC number, my order was confirmed and I had a "receipt" in my GMail inbox. I anxiously hit refresh waiting for the new increased storage space but... nothing, zero, nada.
I then re-loaded the ordering page and noticed the page footer: "Please allow up to 24 hours for your new storage amount to appear in all services". So they take their time. One would think that the upgrade might be automatic and immediate, well, it isn't. I will update this story with a footer by the time the new storage space kicks in so you know how long it takes for orders to be processed.
Google's elves will get to it...
In the last three years, I have saved - or hoarded - 46349 messages, and counting, using 2.7GB of storage. With this new $20 plan I have signed up for - but which has yet to kick-in - I suppose I will gain another two years of peace of mind, and then I will have to increase the yearly fee to $75, and then if I get photo-crazy using Picasaweb, probably would need the $250/year plan, which comes close to the $20 - $25/month of an online service / internet service provider of the '90s. Now multiply this for almost the entire Google user base, and you have the "next AOL" in the making, but this time on a global scale. Not bad, huh?. ?
If you want to keep stuff in your GMail inbox, you're no longer "forced" to delete e-mails if you want to keep your inbox operative.
Account upgrade is not inmediate as is the case in hosting providers where you can sign up on-line and start using the account immediately.
Also, the wording could be improved. My understanding is that I'm purchasing a 6GB space in addition to the "free" space I'm currently using, although by re-reading the initial plan selection, it seems to indicate that it is total capacity, thus making the "upgrade" actually a 3.2GB+ one.
Cost per GB of storage is more expensive than some existing and agressive hosting plan promotions, so do the math if you are looking for space to host your pictures.
Your credit card data remains in Google Checkout, which I consider a security risk. It'd be nice if Google included an option titled "use this card for this transaction only, do not story payment method in Google Checkout"
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GMail: online backup, pop3, money-making machine
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