How to Handle "Your Online or Cloud Storage Is Almost Full"
Has this happened to you? You receive an email or an on-screen warning that your online or “cloud” storage is almost full. What do you do about this?
The most important first question: Is this warning legitimate, or is it a fake or a scam?
Before you do anything else, look closely at the warning you received for the following information:
- What company sent it, or is that unclear?
- To which online service does it refer, or is that unclear?
- Does it refer to you by name, or does it call you “Customer” or “User”?
- How did it arrive -- Via email? Your web browser? Text message? Phone call or voicemail? Some other way?
- What does it suggest that you do -- Click a link? Call a phone number? Reply electronically? Pay for more storage? Something else?
- What does it say might happen if you do nothing? Does it simply say that you won’t be able to add more data, or does it threaten to close your account and delete all of your data if you don’t act immediately?
It can be tricky to tell whether such a message is legitimate or a fake. Unfortunately, real warnings like these typically cannot be turned off, and scammers and thieves can send fake messages like these pretending to be from any legitimate service.
Popular online storage services include iCloud (from Apple), Google Drive, OneDrive and SharePoint (from Microsoft), Dropbox, sync.com, and box.com, as well as online backup services like Carbonite, IDrive, Backblaze, and CrashPlan. Norton, McAfee, and others also offer online storage with their antivirus software subscriptions.
- Don’t get caught up in any (potentially false) sense of urgency, whether implied or explicit.
- Do not respond or reply or call them or contact them in any way.
- If you’re not sure how to figure out yourself whether it’s authentic or not, ask someone that you know and trust to look at it.
- If it’s an email, you could forward a copy to the person helping you.
- If it’s a notice in your web browser or some other pop-up on your screen, you could take a screenshot with your computer or your cellphone or some other camera, and then show that to the person helping you.
Legitimate “storage almost full” warnings: What triggers them?
So many computers, mobile devices and apps, websites, and services use online storage (often by default, i.e., without asking you), you may or may not be aware of all of the places that you’re already storing data online, or that you could begin using if you were interested.
Your online storage might be free (typically up to a certain amount of storage), or included in services for which you’re already paying, or you might already be paying for a monthly or annual subscription via a credit card.
It’s not unusual for an “almost full” warning to be triggered when your usage reaches a particular level, for example 80% of your capacity. In general I consider that to be a very early warning and not at all urgent, but it depends on your situation.
Whether you consciously chose to or not, imagine that your iPhone, iPad, or Android is configured to upload a copy of each photo that you take into your Apple iCloud or Google Photos online storage. Consider the following:
- You’ve taken such photos for years, but very infrequently. Today you took another one, and it increased your online storage just enough to trigger such a warning for the first time.
- Or, you take such photos very frequently, and the 40 or 50 new photos you took today triggered such a warning.
In each of these two very different situations, what you might choose to do in response to such an “almost full” warning, if anything, may also be very different.
Legitimate “storage almost full” warnings: Can they be turned off?
In my experience, there are only a few things that make these warnings stop:
- You remove enough data in your online storage to bring it below the threshold that triggers the warnings.
- You pay for additional storage.
- You close the account.
Note that the warnings you receive probably won’t list all of these approaches.
Where to start: Gather the basic information on your account
If you determine that this warning is authentic, i.e., you really do have such an account and its current storage really is above some reasonable threshold (or if you simply want to review your online storage regardless of any warning), do not pay for additional storage just yet. Instead, I suggest doing the following:
- Sign into the appropriate account using your username and password.
- How much online storage space does your current plan give you -- 2 gigabytes? 20 GB? 200 GB?
- How much of that space are you currently using?
- How much does your current plan cost -- Is it free? $10 per month? $10 per year?
- If you have a paid plan, does it auto-renew, i.e., does it charge your credit card as each new billing period begins?
The important questions to ask yourself next
Take a look at what you are storing in this online account, and why.
- Does it contain important materials (photos, videos, documents, etc.) that really need to be stored online?
- If so, is your need for this online storage also growing rapidly enough that you will soon need more storage than your current plan allows?
- Are there other types of data in this storage? For example, one iCloud account may contain photos, documents, device backups, and other data from multiple Macintoshes, iPhones and iPads, and from multiple apps on each of those devices.
- Or, does your account contain important data that could be downloaded to your Windows computer or Macintosh for safekeeping, and then deleted from your online storage? If so, then not only could you lower the amount of online storage you’re currently using, you might also be able to reduce the cost of your account by downgrading to a less expensive (or possibly free) plan.
- Or does it contain out-of-date, unimportant, or obsolete files that could just be deleted from your online account without downloading to your computer first? If so, that might also enable you to reduce what you’re spending on your account.
When does paying for more online storage make sense?
Here are two common situations where paying for additional cloud storage can be a good idea:
- After a careful review, including downloading to your computer and then removing any files from the cloud that don’t need to be stored there, you are sure that your need to store data in the cloud will continue to grow to the point where it makes sense to pay for additional online storage.
- Or, you’re too busy to do a careful review, your need for cloud storage is probably increasing, and the cost of additional space is inexpensive.
- If every photo you take with your iPhone gets uploaded to your Apple iCloud account,
- and that online storage is almost full to capacity (or you simply want the “almost full” warnings to stop),
- and you’re too busy to review (and clean out) your hundreds or thousands of online photos and videos,
- and the cost of additional iCloud storage doesn’t bother you,
- then paying for more a higher-level iCloud plan would make sense.
Where to go from here
As always, if this seems too complicated to manage on your own, I recommend that you talk to someone you know and trust to help you.
In the following searches, replace “X” with the name of your online storage service, e.g., iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.:
- google: X almost full
- google: X check storage
- google: X change plan
- google: X full turn off warning
- google: X auto-renew