As more companies release portable devices with limited storage capabilities, they naturally turn to providing free cloud storage to make up the difference. These same companies hope that the hundreds of GB provided free, and for a limited time, will entice users to choose their device despite having no more than 64GB of internal storage. Microsoft does it. Google Does it. Dropbox does as well.
What these companies do not do is warn their customers early on about the specifics of overage and the restrictions associated with the accounts at the end of the free term. The hope of these companies is that their service will have become so indispensable to users that switching to a paid service agreement will be automatic.
What happens to the data of customers unwilling to pay for their once-free service?
Google storage using the Google Drive system has become one of the major selling points of its new Chromebook products as well as a byproduct of their free Gmail service. The Chromebook promotion provides 100GB of free storage for two years and up to 1TB of storage over three years for purchasers of the high-end Chromebook Pixel.
When the free term service is up, Google states that the existing data located on Google Drive will not be deleted. Users should be able to access, download, and share their files. However, users will be unable to upload new files until space is cleared from existing storage or a new plan is purchased for storage used.
There is a major caveat to using Google Drive past the free period; Google will restrict the use of Gmail after a period of time and stop local Google Drive folders from syncing with Google Drive accounts.
As with Google Drive, Microsoft's SkyDrive will not delete your files at the expiration of the free storage term. Microsoft contends that you will still have access to download and share files, but will be unable to add new files to your storage until space is cleared.
The major issue with the expiration of the free storage is that once the time passes, your files will go into read-only mode when accessed through SkyDrive. For users of the Office suite of web apps, this may be a significant issue. One of the major selling points of the web based Office service is seamless syncing of files through SkyDrive and disruption of this ability could cause issues with work-related activities.
Microsoft has not indicated if warnings will be given as the free period moves closer to the expiration date. The only way to guarantee uninterrupted syncing through SkyDrive is the agree to a payment plan for the storage going forward.
Dropbox may not offer their services on specific hardware tied to its service like Google and Microsoft, but the service is offered as a free bonus to purchasers of HTC and Samsung devices. These offers can include up to 48GBs of storage and range in term lengths of up to a few years.
Dropbox, as with Google and Microsoft, will not delete your files once the free service term has concluded and, like the previous companies, will allow access to the files for downloading and sharing from supported devices. Uploads will be disabled and device synchronizing will stop all together.
Unlike Google and Microsoft, Dropbox is not tied to productivity services like mail or office applications and should not pose as big of a threat once the free period is over. If you like the service and would like it to continue, extending the plan is your only option.