5 ways to avoid Google Workspace storage issues


Learn how to assess usage, communicate changes, and address potential storage issues in Google Workspace–before there’s a problem.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

When you reach your Google Workspace storage limit, your ability to store more stuff stops–Google Drive won’t let you upload files. You can’t create and collaborate on new Docs, Sheets, or Slides. No more images are backed up to Google Photos and Gmail won’t let you send or receive items.

If you’re a Google Workspace administrator, you might take the following steps to identify potential storage problems, as well as communicate recent and upcoming Google storage policy changes to people in your organization. 

SEE: Google Sheets: Tips and tricks (TechRepublic download) 

1. Check storage status

First, sign in to the Admin console to review your organization’s current storage status. 

Check overall storage used by apps with the Admin console report. That report displays total storage used by Gmail, Drive, Photos, and Shared Drives. This lets you know whether storage in any of these four apps may merit closer review.

Next, check individual account storage. You may select the sprocket to the right side of the report to Manage Columns to display Gmail storage used, Drive storage used, Photos storage used, and/or Total storage used. This lets you understand which storage area to prioritize for each individual account.

2. Communicate changes

You’ll want to make sure that people in your organization know about changes to Google’s storage policies. For example, here’s sample text you might send to your team:

“Google has announced several changes that affect storage.

TRASH AUTO-DELETES

Items in Trash will be automatically deleted after 30 days from Drive, similar to how Gmail auto-deletes items in the Spam folder. For more details, see Google’s post about Drive trash deletion.

DOCUMENTS COUNT

On June 1, 2021, all new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files will count toward storage limits.

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS COUNT

Also starting June 1, 2021, all new photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos or Google Drive will count toward storage limits, regardless of image quality storage settings. For more details, see Google’s post about storage.

Our plan includes [***insert your organization’s storage limit here***] of storage for each person.

You may check how much storage you have used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos at https://drive.google.com/settings/storage.”

If you identified any general concerns in step one (e.g., significant usage of Drive storage), you might identify those potential issues in your communication, as well. Of course, if you do not anticipate any storage concerns, you might want to mention that at the start of your message, as well.

3. Alert accounts that approach storage limits

Separately, notify any people in your organization who are near storage limits. You might do this in two phases, to allow them time to address any issues.

First communication: 

“You’re close to the storage limit for your Google Workspace account. 

Go to https://drive.google.com/settings/storage for a summary of storage used across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. Please take a few moments to review this. 

You might search for large attachments in Gmail (e.g., for items 10MB or greater: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/size%3A10MB) or search for large items on Drive (https://drive.google.com/drive/quota).

If you’d like, I’d be happy to schedule a Google Meet session to help resolve this.”

Second communication, if addressed:

“Your account is now well under our Workspace storage limits. Thank you!”

If not, send a Google Calendar invitation with a Google Meet link: 

“Let’s meet to figure out the best way to address the storage issue with your account.”

4. Export and/or delete data you no longer need 

Note: It’s important to make sure to export data before you delete, unless you are certain it is no longer needed.

Go to Google Takeout (https://takeout.google.com) to export data from a Google Workspace account to preserve it for future reference, either on another storage service or on offline storage, such as an external drive. Check out How to use Takeout to download an archive of various Google account data for more details. Takeout lets you specify the apps and data you want to export. For example, you may select specific Drive folders, Photo albums, or Gmail categories to export. Do note: An administrator needs to enable Takeout for people in the organization.

Follow the links to find large attachments in Gmail and large files on Drive. To identify Gmail you no longer need, you may search and sort Gmail by sender, subject, date, as well as size, among other criteria. See my article, How to sort and delete sets of Gmail messages: 4 steps, which guides you through the process of searching, selecting, then moving items to the Gmail trash. 

Currently, there’s no simple way to sort video and images in Google Photos by size for Workspace accounts. Consumer accounts may use the Google One Storage Management tool to identify large photos, among other options. You might search for “Videos” or for specific video file formats (e.g., .MOV, .MP4), or search for specific locations, if you know you do not need images from a particular place. For now, though, people with Workspace accounts might want to: 

  1. Manually search for videos and images;
  2. Move no-longer needed items to a new album;
  3. Export the album with Takeout; and
  4. Delete items in that album.

5. Add storage

If you find you need storage beyond what your current Google Workspace plan allows, you might upgrade or add third-party storage–both options incur costs. Upgrade to a Workspace plan with more storage per user may be the simplest way to obtain more storage space: Business Starter offers 30 GB, Business Standard offers 2 TB, Business Plus offers 5 TB, and Enterprise plans offer even more. However, some people may prefer to subscribe to third-party storage, such as Box, that integrates reasonably well with Google Workspace apps. 

What’s your approach?

If you’re a Google Workspace administrator, how do you communicate Google’s storage policy changes to people in your organization? Do you find the changes helpful, tolerable, or unacceptable? What actions have you taken to assess and manage Workspace storage for your organization? Let me know how you feel about these changes, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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