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June 24, 2014

Microsoft Drives Interest in Office 365 with Free Cloud Storage

Microsoft (News - Alert) Office, and by extension Office 365, is well-known as a tool to create documents and spread information among individuals with comparative ease. Documents, spreadsheets and the like all get in on the action, but one bad thing about documents is that storage is required to help keep all of these documents easily accessible and therefore useful, particularly in the long term. But for those who get in on Office 365 subscription plans, Microsoft is ready to take care of that need too, and in a very big way.

Microsoft recently announced that subscribers to Office 365 Personal and Home would be able to get in on the same deal that OneDrive for Business customers were getting access to: one full terabyte of cloud storage. Microsoft also rolled out new prices and caps for the service as well, detailing that Office 365 Home users would pay $9.99 a month for access but get a terabyte per person for up to five people. Office 365 Personal users, meanwhile, would just get the one terabyte, but would pay just $6.99 a month. Office 365 University users, meanwhile, get the same terabyte, but pay $79.99 for a full four year period. Current customers need make no adjustments, as the adjustments will all be done on Microsoft's end. Those who don't already have accounts, meanwhile, will get access by next month.

There's also benefit here for OneDrive users who don't find an Office 365 subscription necessary, as Microsoft upped the free storage to 15 gigabytes rather than seven. Those looking to step up to 100 gigabytes can have it for just $1.99—that's down from a reported $7.49—a month, and 200 gigabytes goes for just $3.99, down from $11.49.

Some have wondered if this measure was taken in response to the recent release of Amazon Fire, the new smartphone from Amazon. With the Fire, users get access to free, unlimited storage for all photos, but word from Microsoft says that the Amazon announcement has nothing to do with Microsoft's cloud storage plans. However, it's also worth noting that Microsoft has plenty of competitors in the cloud storage space, including Google (News - Alert), among others.

Naturally, with the sheer number of competitors in the field—both in terms of document generation tools and cloud storage media—Microsoft has to work hard to stay competitive. There's just too much going on out there to not be, really. After all, Microsoft has to take on some breeds of office tool that are available at no charge to the personal user, and that's what really stings. Microsoft has to offer up a product that's not only better, but sufficiently better that it's worth paying for. After all, most any user with a credit card could get OpenOffice and then buy a terabyte of hard drive storage for less than a year's subscription fee of Office 365 Personal. Not everyone can do that, of course—not everyone would want to do that—but the plain truth is, Microsoft has a lot of competitors in this field. Amazon Fire and its free photo storage, Google Drive and Google Docs, and a host of others are likely all going after Microsoft's market on this one, so offering the freebies will certainly help in the long term.

Only time will tell, of course, just how well it helps, but Microsoft may have just what it needs to come out on the other side of this in a winning position.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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