Microsoft Tightens Belt At McGill: 20GB OneDrive And Outlook Caps For Students On 'Security' And 'Sustainability' Grounds

Zinger Key Points
  • McGill University students have been asked to restrict their OneDrive and Outlook storage usage to 20GB.
  • This comes after tweaks to Microsoft 365 Education suite, citing security risks and sustainability concerns.

Microsoft Corp. MSFT has reduced the storage space for OneDrive and Outlook email for students at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The changes, prompted by security risks and sustainability concerns, will be implemented starting May 31, 2024.

What Happened: According to an announcement on McGill University’s website, the Satya Nadella-led company is making amendments to its Microsoft 365 Education suite that will restrict storage space.

Starting May 31, 2024, students will be limited to 20GB of OneDrive storage space and 20GB of Outlook email storage.

If storage exceeds 20GB after May 31, students will not be able to store new files or send/receive emails until they have reduced their storage below the limit.

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The decision to reduce storage is attributed to security risks linked with large volumes of potentially forgotten confidential or sensitive information. The financial and environmental implications of maintaining unused files in student accounts were also considered in this decision.

Sustainability factors also drive Microsoft’s decision. Unused files stored on OneDrive cloud servers globally contribute to a substantial carbon footprint due to the electrical energy required to keep them accessible and secure.

“Consideration must also be given for the financial and environmental cost of maintaining the space allocated for unused files in student’s accounts,” the University said in its announcement.

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An article by MIT pointed out that cloud computing and storage now have a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry. A single data center can consume electricity equivalent to 50,000 homes.

However, according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research rules, students are required to retain their original data sets for a minimum of 5 years.

McGill University recommends students to look for alternative storage solutions in case they hit the 20GB limit, asking them to refer to guidelines in case students use a non-McGill-approved storage platform.

Why It Matters: Microsoft’s decision to reduce storage space comes after a similar plan to impose storage limits for photos in OneDrive accounts of regular users was canceled in October 2023, following backlash from customers.

The now-revoked policy would have counted photos in a user's saved photo albums and OneDrive Gallery against its cloud-based quota of five gigabytes.

The latest decision affecting McGill University students seems to be a continuation of Microsoft’s efforts to manage storage limits and reduce environmental impact.

Benzinga has written to Microsoft for a comment. We will update this story as and when we receive a response.

Update: The following is a statement from Microsoft:

To help schools with this transition, Microsoft is giving customers time to make the transition, free tools and guidance. Customers will have a minimum of one year from their notification, which was given on Aug. 1, 2023, beginning at a school's next contract renewal but no sooner than Aug. 1, 2024. The free tools help customers view and manage storage, including tools to visualize current storage allocation and usage across OneDrive, SharePoint and Exchange. Most schools (99.96%) are well below their storage allotment. With the new tools, all schools can now better manage their information and set thoughtful policies for governance.

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Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of Benzinga Neuro and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

Photo by Ed Hardie on Unsplash

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