In a new post over on the OneDrive blog, Microsoft has revealed that a small number of users have been abusing the cloud storage service since the Redmond company began rolling out unlimited storage for Office 365 subscribers late last year.

Some of this abuse resulted in these users storing in excess of 75 TB, yes terabytes, of data in their accounts that included complete music, DVD, DVR recordings and backups for multiple PCs.

According to Microsoft, this small number of users were taking up over 14,000 times the average storage that was used by others users on the service. If you do the math that means the average user on OneDrive is storing approximately 5.4 GB of files on the service.

It was just over a year ago when Microsoft's Julia White, who at the time was the Office 365 General Manager, announced that all Office 365 subscribers would ultimately get unlimited storage at no additional cost.

Of course, an offer like this was very well received and they began the roll out immediately however, sometime earlier this year the process of upgrading Office 365 Home, Personal and University accounts ground to a halt without any explanation.

As of tonight it appears that with this update from the OneDrive team, we know exactly why those upgrades to unlimited storage stopped being applied to accounts on the cloud storage service.

The unlimited storage for Office 365 customers is not the only area that is going to change either.

According to the the OneDrive team the following storage options will be modified:

  • 100 GB and 200 GB subscription plans are being discontinued and will be replaced with a 50 GB option for $1.99 per month. This will happen in early 2016.
  • The 15 GB of free OneDrive storage, which everyone with a Microsoft Account receives, will be reduced to just 5 GB for all current and new users. Those changes also roll out in early 2016.
  • The 15 GB Camera Roll bonus has been offered for sometime with Windows Phone devices and was even a marketing ploy when iPhone users did not have enough space to upgrade their phones to the latest iOS version. At the time, Apple recommended that users delete photos in order to free up space so Microsoft offered the free 15 GB Camera Roll to them instead.  This free 15 GB of space for photo storage will be discontinued in early 2016.
  • Office 365 subscribers will still receive 1TB of storage with their subscription instead of the previously offered unlimited option.

Microsoft states they want to make this transition as easy as possible for customers and will implement it as follows:

  • Any Office 365 customer using in excess of 1 TB of storage will be notified directly and be allowed to keep the extra storage for at least 12 months.
  • Office 365 customers who feel the 1 TB storage offer with their subscription no longer fits their needs will be offered a pro-rated refund for the balance of their subscription.
  • If you are using more than the 5 GB of free storage you will retain access to all of your files for 12 months after these new changes go into effect. Those users will also be offered a free one year subscription to Office 365 Personal (credit card required to sign up) to increase that storage to 1TB for the following 12 months. In order to retain that level of storage the same users will need to renew their Office 365 Personal subscription at a cost of $69.99 when the free subscription expires.
  • Current subscribers of the 100 GB and 200 GB storage plans are unaffected and will be allowed to maintain these subscriptions.

In all of these situations if your storage allowance is lowered you should not lose access to your files on the service however, you will be unable to store any new data on OneDrive until you remove enough files to drop below your new storage allowance. This is how OneDrive has always worked in the past and handled overages in a storage account.

Responsible users of OneDrive are going to be upset at this news and rightly so. A promise was made to deliver unlimited storage if those users subscribed to Microsoft Office 365 offering and that is now being pulled out from under those same loyal customers. The offers of pro-rated refunds are fine but this is more than just offering refunds.

It is never a good thing to punish the majority of users for the actions of a few inconsiderate ones and the backlash from this unexpected announcement is going to put a dent in any good will Microsoft has recently been earning with its dedicated customers.

What do you think about these sudden storage changes?