As of August 21, WhatsApp backups to Google Drive will no longer count against a user's overall allotted storage space, according to WhatsApp. Backup and restoration features have been in place for several years now but prior to this those had been counted against a Drive user's overall storage. That's meant to help users in the event that they lose their mobile device or switch phones and can effectively act as both a backup and transfer mechanism for chats and associated media. Google Drive offers several tiers of storage at various prices for photos, documents, and other files but the free version included with all Google accounts is set at 15GB. Other caveats of the WhatsApp feature will remain in place, however. Users will still need an active Google account on the device WhatsApp is installed on and the latest version of Google Play Services. Their device will also need enough free storage to store the backup as it's being created for uploading.
WhatsApp also points out that backups that have not been updated in over a year will be removed from Google Drive storage. Users are being advised to manually perform a backup of any data they don't want to lose prior to August 21, in case any hiccups with the newly updated feature cause problems. That can be accomplished by navigating to the Android app's settings, followed by selecting the 'Chats' and 'Chat backup' options. The next screen should display various custom automated backup settings, including options for choosing which type of network to perform the backup over. Users will need to ensure they are logged in with their Google credentials and press the 'Back Up' button to manually perform the task outside of the automated backup period.
While later backups are generally fairly quick, WhatsApp says it can take quite some time to finish if this is the first time a backup has been performed. The exact length of time is going to depend on how many messages are included and the collective size of any media files included. Subsequent backups will likely be performed more quickly since they'll effectively be updating the prior backup. With that said, WhatsApp's own end-to-end encryption is not available on backups during the process and won't be present on backed up files. Users will be dependent on Google for file protections while the backup is being stored.