Google+ was launched in June 2011. It was Google’s response to the rapid growth of Facebook and other social networks. Just two weeks after its launch, 10 million users had joined. By October 2013, 540 million users accessed one or more Google+ features. People created text, images, uploaded images and media, and interacted on the network. All of these data were stored on Google’s servers.
On October 8, 2018, Google announced that Google+ would be terminated in August 2019. Subsequently, the shut-down date was moved up to April 2019. This was due in part to a massive data breach discovered in the spring of 2018 which disclosed the personal data of 52.5 million users. This was covered up by Google “due to fears of increased regulatory scrutiny”. According to the October 2018 announcement, 90% of user sessions on Google+ lasted less than five seconds.
Here is the announcement of the shutdown sent to Google’s G Suite customers (which include mail for ratburger.org). This will not affect ratburger.org’s mail, as we are a paying enterprise customer, not a user of the “consumer” product which is being terminated.
All data uploaded by users of Google+ will be deleted starting as early as April 2, 2019. Users who do not export their data prior this deletion will permanently lose anything they’ve uploaded there.
There is no “cloud”. When you hear “cloud”, think “somebody else’s computer”. When “somebody else” decides storing your data is no longer worth doing, it’s gone. It’s only your data if it’s in your own personal physical possession, ideally with multiple backup copies on archival media with long-term retention.