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3 essential things you need to know about Google Workspace storage

While Essentials Starter plans offer 15GB per user, most organizations will want to select a Workspace plan that offers pooled storage of 2TB per user—or more.

Google 10 2021 Workspace
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If you’re considering a move to Google Workspace, storage can be a critical concern. Unlike a conventional server or network storage device, where storage is set by the size of drives you select, Workspace storage works a bit differently. Storage limits are linked to the plan you select.

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Remember, though, that Workspace storage isn’t exactly equivalent to local storage on a server. Google’s system stores data redundantly and securely in many locations. Its systems also guard against malware and ransomware. You would need to acquire, configure, manage and monitor servers and software in several sites to even start to create something similar. In many ways, Google Workspace storage is much better than one or more on-site servers you manage in-house. Most organizations will be unlikely to match the reliability, security and speed of Google’s storage systems.

The following paragraphs cover the various storage limits in Google Workspace and may help you select the plan most appropriate for your organization’s storage needs.

1. Your Google Workspace plan sets your storage limit

Storage limits are set by your organization’s Google Workspace plan. The table below lists the limits as of late March 2022.

Storage limit Google Workspace plan
15GB per account Essentials Starter
30GB per user Business Starter, Workspace for Nonprofits
1TB per user pooled storage Enterprise Essentials (as well as Enterprise Standard and Enterprise Plus plans with fewer than five users)
2TB per user pooled storage Business Standard
5TB per user pooled storage Business Plus
100TB pooled storage Education Fundamentals, Education Standard
100TB pooled storage +
20GB per license pooled storage
Education Plus
100TB pooled storage +
100GB per license pooled storage
Teaching and Learning Upgrade
Unlimited Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus

If you’re considering plans, the first thing you need to know is that not every organization is eligible for every plan. Only qualified educational organizations are eligible for plans with Education or Teaching in the title. Additionally, qualified nonprofit organizations may be eligible not only for Workspace for Nonprofits, but also for discounted Business Standard, Business Plus and Enterprise plans.

From a storage perspective, most organizations should explore plans with pooled storage. Specifically, I suggest most organizations consider either Business Standard (2TB per user) or Business Plus (5TB per user). For example, an organization that uses Business Standard with 10 active accounts would have a total storage limit of 20TB (i.e., 2TB per account x 10 accounts). Pooled storage means that any account may use storage in excess of 2TB, as long as the total storage used across all organizational accounts did not exceed the pooled limit.

Three plans—Essentials Starter (15GB), Business Starter (30GB) and Workspace for Nonprofits (30GB)—have quite limited storage. Since Google calculates storage across Drive, Gmail and Photos, in my experience most organizations need more storage than these plans offer.

Unlimited storage is available on Enterprise plans, such as Enterprise Standard or Enterprise Plus, as long as your organization has a minimum of five accounts. The limit drops to 1TB each if your Enterprise plan has four or fewer accounts. If you need huge amounts of storage, sign up for an Enterprise plan and maintain at least five active accounts.

2. Items on shared drives count toward your pooled storage limit

Shared drives are available on plans with pooled storage, and files on shared drives count toward your organization’s pooled storage limit. A shared drive allows a set of people to access and collaborate on a set of files and folders, where those items are “owned” by the shared drive, rather than being “owned” by any individual member of the shared drive. Shared drives may have a maximum of 400,000 items.

3. Individual files and folders have size limits, too

No files may be larger than 5TB. In the vast majority of cases, files will not be anywhere close to this limit. Additionally, an individual may not upload more than 750GB of files per day. If you transfer a file larger than this, or one that places you over the limit, it should finish, but you’ll need to wait for another day to transfer additional data.

Individual documents have size limits as well. A document may contain up to 1.02 million characters, or, if converted from another format (e.g., .docx) up to 50MB. A spreadsheet may have as many as 10 million cells. A converted presentation file (e.g., .pptx) may be no more than 100MB.

Video file playback resolution is limited. You may upload video of any resolution, but playback is limited to 1920×1080. In other words, if you upload and store a 4K resolution video file, it will play back at HD resolution. If you download the file, you may still work with it in the standard 4K format, as no data is lost when stored, but playback from Google Drive is limited to HD. For most organizations, this is not a significant issue, but it may be if people really desire higher-than-HD playback.

What’s your experience with Google storage limits?

While the above addresses Workspace storage (managed by a Google Workspace administrator), you also may want more storage for your personal Google Account, since a free Google Account has a limit of 15GB of storage. Where available, you may upgrade storage to a Google One plan that increases the storage limit to 100GB, 200GB or 2TB.

Also note that the internet connection speed affects the speed of file transfers between a device and Google Drive. Most standard office files and images won’t present a problem, but large video files can take time to transfer. Google’s systems may take a bit of time to process a video file, even after an upload completes.

Tell me your experience

Did Workspace storage limits influence the Google Workspace plan you selected? Have you opted to upgrade to a plan in order to gain access to more storage? Have any of the Shared Drive or individual file size limits ever presented a challenge for your needs? Let me know what your experience with Workspace storage has been, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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