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Carbonite: I’ll check back in a couple of years

by Nick Gall  |  June 18, 2009  |  8 Comments

I finally decided to systematically back up my home computer – the one I have for family/personal use. I’ve been using one sort of PC or another since the Compaq Portable in the mid-1980s. In all that time, I’ve only done sporadic backups of various directories when paranoia kicked in. Despite this utter lack of care, I’ve pretty much never lost an important file due to a failure or accident. I have had two hard drives fail on me, but in both cases a data recovery service was able to recover all the files.

But I figure that after 20 years, I may be pushing my luck a wee bit too far. So I decided to check out Carbonite, based on David Pogue’s review of the leading web (oops, now cloud) based backup services: Carbonite and Mozy.

I’m currently in the middle of a 15-day free trial of Carbonite and I’m loving it: simple to install, completely unobtrusive, continuously operating. There’s only one problem, but it’s a show-stopper for me: Carbonite will not backup external drives! In my case that means it won’t back up the USB drive that I use to store all my photographs and videos and music.

I was (and I still am) incredulous. I didn’t recall a single review mentioning this crippling feature. I was so incredulous that I searched the web to confirm it. My first confirmation was from this 2007 blog post comment (Carbonite: FAIL, Mozy: ON NOTICE) by the (then?) CEO of Carbonite:

David Friend wrote:

James: Hi, I’m the CEO of Carbonite and I noticed your comments about Carbonite on your blog. Backing up external hard drives is a feature that is available in our PLUS product which will be available shortly. Carbonite didn’t fail to back up your hard drive – we state clearly on the web site that the BASIC version does not back up external hard drives. Doing so would alter the economics of our business model and would require that we charge everyone a much higher price, or abandon our UNLIMITED backup policy which most of our customers really like.

Dave Friend, CEO
Carbonite, Inc. Carbonite Online Backup

Posted on 23-Oct-07 at 9:03 am | Permalink

When I read this I thought to myself, “Great! Let’s check out Carbonite Plus to see how much it costs. It’s been almost two years since this post, so I’m sure it’s available now.” So I go to the Carbonite site and search for “carbonite plus”. Unfortunately, this is what I found:

1074 : [General] External, Network, and USB Drives

Article Viewed 3

Reviewed 6/11/2009

The current version of Carbonite backs up only the files that reside on permanent hard drives on your PC.

Check back soon for a Carbonite service plan that will allow you to back up your external drives.

So I guess I’ll check back around mid-2011. In the meantime, I’m off to check out Mozy…

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Category: misc  

Nicholas Gall
VP Distinguished Analyst
14 years at Gartner
35 years IT industry

Nick Gall is a vice president in Gartner Research. As a founding member of Gartner’s Enterprise Planning and Architecture Strategies, Mr. Gall advises clients on enterprise strategies for interoperability, innovation and execution. Mr. Gall is a leading authority on middleware… Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Carbonite: I’ll check back in a couple of years

  1. There’s another huge problem with online backup – the amount of time it takes to upload a significant amount of data. An alternative is social or p2p backup – you store your files with a friend or family member instead of a datacenter. I work for Cucku and our product lets you backup from/to external drives among many other capabilities you don’t get with online backup.

  2. Sorry you had to find out the hard way that USB drives are not supported. Mozy supports them, but only in their Pro version. If you’re looking to backup network drives, IDrive may be the best way to go.

    You can compare online backup services at our website.

  3. I tried carbonite and had the absolute worst experience. yes, they say initial upload takes a long time, however they could not provide any answers as to why their server disconnected my during backups that ran overnight. I finally ended up giving up and backing up to external.
    If you check their reviews, there are far too many people claiming their backups were corrupted or non existent when they tried to retrieve them from carbonite. The other problem is that carbonite doesnt keep your directory structure and renames all your files so if you have hundreds or thousands of files good luck sorting through them all when and if you ever need them!

  4. J. Bales says:

    I tried a trial of Carbonite only to find out they don’t do externals. I’m a photographer, and HAVE to use an external drive for my photographs.
    I just learned Carbonite doesn’t do external drives, so Carbonite is useless.

    I have used Mozy in the past, and they were great until it came time to restore.
    The restore process is a joke! The \virtual hard drive\ did not work. Their techs couldn’t tell me why and had me use their online backup (that was their \solution\….just make it inconvenient for me instead of solving the problem). UGH! It d/l stuff into chunks of unorganized chaos.
    Half of the stuff that I’d told it to back up NEVER backed up, even though it said it did.

    So now I’m looking for another option besides Mozy and Carbonite.

    You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult thing for someone in the business of providing remote backups to people with a lot of data.

  5. Ron Eberhart says:

    Here is what I sent Carbonite two weeks ago, and what I recieved back form them. I ahve not heard anything from them since even after I contacted the Presedent himself. In my opinion the customer support here is non-existant and I dont thik David (CEO) gives a shit!!! I know I will be moving on and WILL NOT RECOMMEND this service to anyone.

    I have been reluctant to contact you because I know you are a busy man and I wanted to try to get help thru your normal channels before escalating this to you. I have tried and tried now to get things resolved, but I have just been amazed that no one will seem to address these issues with me. I will give you the case number (############) so you can pull your tickets there to see the history, but then give you my questions so it may be more clear.

    1. Slow backup – I have been a customer for nearly 2 years now and at one point I had all my files backed up. I then upgraded to a new 1TB disk and in the process of this upgrade Carbonite thought I had a new system or something and started ALL over again backing up my files. So I figured maybe I did something wrong and would just live with it as it was making good time backing up the files. But then it hit a wall and was only backing up 1-2gig a WEEK and that was unacceptable.

    2. Can’t contact – So with the slow issue I tried to file a ticket using the tool and I waited for a week after hearing nothing and tried again. At that point it told me the last message had not been sent and to try again which I did, and another week or maybe month went by before I tried again. Well I figured it was not going to send it so I went to the web and contacted someone. They looked and said that everything was fine and nothing could be done to speed things up. But nothing was done to correct anything!! No fix to the issue of contact. Well fine I went on my way, but it was still crawling so I contacted again and someone did something because it went sailing along for a couple of weeks till it again died in the water. I again contacted the web interface and was told that all is normal it was just over 200gb so it would be slow now. GREAT!! Do you know how long it will take to backup a 1TB disk at 2gb a WEEK? I did get a response from Maxwell however and I was very please that he at least explained the details of your policy to make things slow. Mind you I at one time had this all backed up, but now I am only about 490gb backed up. Please remember that number of 490gb for a minute. Also remember that I only use my system about 2-3 hours max a day the the rest of the time 24×7 it is on and I have an excellent cable connection with very good bandwidth.

    3. Lost data – So now it is the end of September and it has been many months since this all started. I went on vacation with that 490gb of data safely tucked away on your servers, and low and behold when I came back from vacation I had a whopping 170gb of files. I did nothing to the system since I was not here, but where did they go? Following up on the ticket once again I asked where my files went? They told me to send the log files so I tried the tool and told them I did not think it would work. It did not after I tried 2-3 time to send them that way. I contacted them again to say I was not able to send them that way and if they would tell me where they were I would just attach them to an email and send so they sent me instructions on how to do that. After a couple of tries I finally got them sent but heard nothing for several days. So I again sent a message to ask if they had received them and had a chance to examine them to answer my questions. The response I received today was unbelievable!! Nothing is wrong!! Everything is fine!! And did not address a single issue.

    So as you can see no one has addressed my questions much for more than to say, all is well and things are just slow. Can you answer my questions?
    Where are my files? Will it always be this slow? If so then I surely will need to find another backup service since It will be impossible for you to keep up. My biggest question though is, how do you expect customers to react to customer service like this? I am at the end of my rope. I like your software, and system idea, but it needs to work!! And when it does not, then I need support and not just glossed over. I have sent several customers your way, but I am reluctant to send any more since I do not recommend poor products. That reflects badly not only on you guys, but ME in particular. Kim Komando swears by you guys, but I am sure thinking about taking my story to her too for her opinion. Can you tell I am pissed?

    As I say, all I really want is to be helped. I hope that you will take this seriously and get me that help. Let me know what you need from me.


    Hello Ron and thank you for your e-mail.

    David Friend, our CEO, has asked me to assist you.

    Thank you for your note and for explaining your situation. I see that your account is listed under xxxxx I will have one of our Senior Support technicians contact you to determine why the files are no longer in your backup.



    Carbonite Customer Support

  6. Laurent Luce says:

    If you are looking for an alternative to Mozy, Carbonite, we just launched our data protection service online at Not only does it provide a great backup service, but it also allows you to wipe or encrypt data in case your device gets lost or stolen. Finally, you can monitor your device by using features such as screenshots, webcam image capture and device location tracking. All these services are available in 1 package with a neat web interface. We have a free plan for 1 year. Try it out and let us know what you think.

    Laurent Luce
    Director of Software
    Tomnica, Inc.

  7. Rick V says:

    I use Mozy on my laptop with an external hard drive. The latter is connected most of the time, but once or twice a week I untether from the external hard drive and use it elsewhere.

    Once Mozy backs up without that external hard drive attached, the next time you attach the external, it will go through each and every file on that external drive and compare them to the Mozy server copy. It does not appear to simply check the backup attributes. I have some 60GB on the external, and it takes DAYS to go through this process. It seems as though it is simply backing up those files again–for all the time it takes–but many many many confusing and contradictory emails from Mozy folks have led me to believe it is simply going through some sort of laborious comparison process.

    Of course, this takes a lot of resources, and is unnecessarily time consuming.

    So, I came here through a search to see if Carbonite would solve my problem. Guess not.

    But Mozy’s solution stinks.

  8. skip snow says:

    Funny thing is that it is just a matter of configuration, in the internals of the system.

    The problem is many fold however in deciding what to back up from an external drive.

    If you are sharing that drive, when you do a restore on behalf of a user, do you clobber what another user thinks the truth looks like?

    How do you determine which files to attribute to which source computer?

    Most of our competitors punt not because it is technically challenging to do this, but because it is hard to first give the proper array of policy choices to the end user, who might be confused about what the best policy would be, and second, to determine what the default behavior should be, if the user simply wants to have their back up company solve the problem generically.

    I agree that as the world gets more networked this is an important problem to solve. But what should the back up and restore policies be for a devise that sometimes is present and sometimes is not, and a devise that is shared by not only many users but many computers?

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