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Carbonite Online Backup - Too Good to be True? Possibly.

Written by Marco Conti Tuesday, 11 August 2009 14:36

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NOTE: April, 11 2010 - I just wrote a new review on Carbonite based on my experience in the last 3 months. Please read that article as well.

I was listening to the Leo Laporte Podcast the other day and he mentioned how happy he was with the Carbonite Online Backup service. Since I have been looking for a good online backup service when I got back home I checked them out and I decided to purchase it right there and then.

After all "Unlimited Online Backup" it's too good of an offer for less than $50 a year (after discount).

Since I have been having issues with some Hard Drives failing on me, and I am planning a major clean installation of Vista 64 on my main computer, I couldn't wait to put my music, movies and documents on a secure online storage. I almost lost my data once already when a "MyBook" WD Hard Drive almost failed. I can't risk a data loss. For $50 a year I certainly cannot justify NOT doing it.

And that's when the comedy of errors started.

But before I start with long and boring account of the events (in case someone is interested or has the same issue), let me just say that ultimately, or at least so far, I have been unable to install Carbonite on my PC. Furthermore I have since found several posts and reviews that makes me think this guys are less than forthcoming in their advertising and that I am just going to ask for my money back. I really wish I could use their service, I really do, but consider this:

Unlimited is not unlimited. I found a blog post where apparently another user (a luckier one that was able to install the program) found out the hard way the meaning of unlimited. Here is an excerpt from Carbonite's own customer support:

Dear Carbonite User,
We regret to inform you that you are in violation of Carbonite’s Terms of Use –> www.carbonite.com/termsofuse Your pending backup size exceeds that of our average user by at least a factor of 10. Your account has been disabled temporarily. You must either reduced your pending backup size so that it falls below 100GB or cancel your account. If you have already purchased Carbonite you may request a full refund. Please let us know how you would like to proceed.

Sincerely,
Carbonite, Inc.

Interesting. Apparently, "Unlimited" these days is defined as 100GB or less. Naturally,since I am in the business I know very well that "unlimited" hosting, unlimited bandwidth and now Unlimited online Backup are but a pipe dream. Until someone starts selling "unlimited Hard Drives" and bandwidth becomes free there will always be a limit of some sort.

However, I have to question the judgment of a company making this "Unlimited" business their main marketing campaign and, in the era of Twitter and blogging, sending a notice like that without figuring that it's going to be republished over and over.

If you advertise "unlimited" you better stick by it and assume those few users willing to spend weeks backing up their 2TG hard drives as loss leaders. The vast majority I suppose will stay well below the 30GB mark anyway. Use their free space instead.

Adding insult to injury

Before I decided to terminate my account, but while I was already quite upset, I decided to add Carbonite to my list of affiliates. Since I usually write reviews of services I try, good or bad I try to get an affiliate deal with them. I am linking to them anyway and if someone wants to buy their service through an article they read on my web site, why not make a few $$ in the deal? No one gets hurt and it allows me to give a discount to friends and family (or clients) when I suggest to them to buy a product I reviewed.

Now, I admit I am not Cnet.com, but this web site gets a fair amount of traffic and my blogs do get some readers. Yet, the automated bot at Commission Junction decided that somehow I was not good enough for Carbonite. I got turned down!

I usually never get turned down and it makes me wonder if I have to offer unlimited blog writing for them to accept me as an affiliate. (of course, now that's a mute point)

In light of my following misadventures, you can see how I am now not a very big fan of this company. I will instead go buy a 2TB backup station and call it a day. In fact, I'll probably get a couple of Windows Live accounts which come with a very fat 25GB of Free online backup each (called Skydrive) and Windows Live Sync, a folder sharing program that works quite well and works using a p2p transfer system (meaning: no storage limits). Take that Carbonite!

Now that you have the back story and a very decent FREE Alternative to Carbonite (and this is no affiliate link), let's go on to my sad experience with this company:

Carbonite frozen installation window
Carbonite frozen installation window
1) First, I Tried installing Carbonite Online Backup on my Vista 64 (after checking the compatibility) and halfway through the installation window just plain stopped running. Could not close it, could not minimize it, it just simply sat there.
No problem, I terminated the process, restarted and tried again.  Except that upon restart Carbonite once again tried installing itself, with the same results. That's when I found that most of the program had already installed itself, complete with virtual drives, menu shortcuts and .EXE files in the programs directory.

I tried installing again but I got the same results.

2) At this point I decided to contact support. I used their online ticket system and I waited. And waited. And waited. 2 days later I was getting a bit anxious so I decided to send them another email. This time I was far less polite than my first email.
To be fair, this second time around I realized that my initial email probably never got to them in the first place. See, after writing the email and submitting it, you are taken to a confirmation page while the site processes a Knowledge Base search at the same time. Here you are supposed to click on "Continue Submitting" to actually send the email. "Continue Submitting", incidentally is a light grey button with pale blue text and it sits right next to another button named "Issue is resolved".  Way too easy to miss that when you are in a hurry and upset because you have wasted an afternoon trying to install a backup program.

Anyhow, finally I am submitting my (nasty) request for support, but when I get to the next page there is an icon for online support. So I decide to inquire online.

I write out my issue and I get a nice fellow that immediately implies that since I am on a mac ....
Except, I am not on a Mac, and I had already stated my issue was on Vista Premium 64. I am writing from a Mac so in case I need to restart my PC I can keep the support guy online. Strike one for assumptions. And they do support Macs, anyway. I just love it when support asks you questions like that. You just know they are trying to find "something" where they can say "but of course sir, you can't run our fine piece of software on a machine with XYX corp program on it. It must be their fault!"

After setting that straight, I explain my trouble with installation and amazingly he has a good fix. He cannot send it to me via IM because it's too long (according to him) so we have to disconnect.
I get the fix via email and it's barely 10 lines long. It reads:

To repair the HOSTS file within Windows Vista:

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. In the Open field, type cmd and then right-click the icon at the top of the list (entitled "cmd.exe") and select Run as Administrator. This will open a command-prompt window. You may have to press Continue or Allow on a pop-up if prompted.
  3. Within the command-prompt window, type Notepad C:\Windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts and then press Enter.
  4. Delete all text in the HOSTS file.
  5. On the first line of the HOSTS file, type: 127.0.0.1 localhost (At this point the HOSTS file should only contain this single line of text.)
  6. Select File; Save.
  7. Close Notepad.
  8. Restart your computer.

I think he could have sent it via IM and waited for me to go through it, but anyway, I follow the instructions and restart my Vista box.

3) Behold! I finally get by the blank installation window and things seem to be going famously.

Until they don't. This time is an alert box saying:

The connection with the carbonite server is down, the cause could be

  1. firewall or security software preventing Carbonite from connecting to the server
  2. you computer is not connected
  3. the server is temporarily unavailable.

Wouldn't you know it!

So I go online again and this time a very long and painful session follows. The support guy repeatedly implies it is something I am doing wrong. Repeatedly I tell him my firewall is deactivated, my antivirus turned off, and so on. The usual story.

Here is a brief example:

   
Agent : "May I know which Internet browser you are using ?"
Me: "Firefox right now But I have every browser under the sun. I am a web developer"
Agent : "I suggets [sic] you to try downloading Carbonite using Internet explorer"
Me: "I did that", I am using Firefox right now, but I downloaded it with IE8"

He basically picked apart every piece of software I have, until he hit on Acronis Disk Director (which has a backup feature). Now I am sure he felt he hit pay-dirt, except that a quick Google search brought up plenty of people using carbonite and Acronis together and very happy about it too.

Finally, he asked me "Do you know about safe Mode?" And that's where we left it off. I am in safe mode now, writing this on my mac. Safe mode takes so long that I was able to write this entire article while my PC was booting up in safe mode. That's why any company forcing me to install their piece of crap software in Safe Mode does not deserve my business, or the one of the readers of this article.

Follow my lead and create a few Windows Live accounts for your online backup and check this software called Gladinet that's supposed to allow you to backup your files online, via ftp and it connects with Skydrive. I cannot fully recommend it yet because I am just now using it on my laptop, but as soon as I check it out in full I'll write a review about it and let you know how it works. So far, it seems pretty well done.

But it is a definite thumbs down for Carbonite, I am afraid to say and I really wanted it to work.

Also, stay away from "Unlimited" offers until they learn to stand by their advertising.

Be well
/cc/ Marco


UPDATE

And the answer is... Yes. It's definitely too good to be true.

Even after running my PC in Safe Mode, the installation of Carbonite hit a snag (it basically does not install in Safe mode, even with networking on - it makes you wonder if the support folks ever even tried it).

Finally, I had to give up.
However, there is a silver lining: I mentioned above a program called "Gladinet". I decided to really give a whirl and I have to say I am impressed.

How would you like to have your Web Server (FTP), your Gmail, Gcalendar, Picasa, Box.net and other miscellaneous "Cloud" apps available on your desktop mounted as a regular drive? And all for about $40?

gladinet logo Check the Gladinet logo at left. I snapped it with SnagIt9, and then I saved it directly onto my "images" folder on my website going through the "Z" drive that the Gladinet program places in your "My Computer". Snip, save, upload all in one shot as easy as saving an image locally. And the best thing is that the program can be installed on unlimited (personal) computers. That means having your files anywhere you have an internet connection. Together with Skydrive, Box.net and Gmail storage (It even supports Amazon S3) this is the killer app I was looking for.

Look for a full fledged review of Gladinet coming soon in the Reviews blog. In the meantime, if you want to save $10 on your Gladinet purchase, send me an email. I have 10 coupons. Just send the email and if I still have any coupons left I'll email it to you. Make sure to use it though because already a few are spoken for.

Well, so much for Carbonite. I wish I could have at least used it. We'll see how easy now is to get my money back. Stay tuned.

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 1 2 3 > 
Carbonite works great for me
I've installed Carbonite on dozens of PC's without a hitch. My current backup at home is up to 560GB and steadily growing. Carbonite has never had a problem with the size of my backup. The only thing I can think of is that your problems were early on and maybe they changed their policy. Canceling someone with a large backup seems too obvious. Maybe that was when they switched to a policy of throttling back the upload (backup) speed if your backup gets over a certain size. Now THAT is a bummer, but not enough to rant about.
Steve , May 03, 2014
Online Backup
I find that Mozy is much faster than that. When I set up a new client with a backup account they’re usually all caught up to current within a week or two. Luckily with sites like www.onlinebackupmag.com, you can find a number of updates on this issue, which can help you a lot.
HeatherR , February 14, 2014
cloud
BackupMag online portal is incredible in terms of unveiling a wide range of technological stuff, which are simply hard to find over the other sites. I refer this site regularly and have bookmarked to visit it on a regular basis to enhance my knowledge and skills.
ema jackson , October 27, 2013
Unlimited Online Backup
Really Awesome it’s unlimited free storage 
Unlimited Online Backup
Livedrive , April 08, 2013
...
I AGREE WITH YOU! And I can't thank you enough. Your article was calm, sane and exactly what I needed.
I was excited about Carbonite, too. I paid and then CARBONITEMARE started. Download, download, download, chat, chat, chat, emails, you name it. It would not install on my MAC, period. Everyone had a different answer - all wrong. I spent three, solid, wasted days on this. I was so frustrated, I didn't know what to do!
Your article confirmed everything I was worried about very fairly.
And if other people like it, good for them.
Am still trying to get a refund, but I think I am close (haha)
Stick a fork in me, I'm DONE, Carbonitemare.
Susan Scribner , April 22, 2012
What to expect with carbonite
A Quick Note from Experience: if you have more than 35GB of data to backup do a google search on backup throttling carbonite and read the terms on backup / upload speed. I have 135GB and the first 20gb was nice and fast so I went ahead and purchased a full license, only to find when I crept over the 30gb some good 2 weeks later did it then slow dowm to around 100kbps yes your reading that right, its around 3-4GB a day.
Now they say on the terms over 35-200gb "upload speeds can reach up to 512 kbps" and in reality its really throttled back to the 200GB mark as they confirmed 3-4GB per day. I have had the tech support people also check remotely my machine about 4-5 times now and the answer is always we will escalate this to the "Next Level" of support. Well its now been just under 6 weeks and my machine has been on 24x7 with reboots at time to reach 112gb, so another 3 weeks till I get the 135gb online, but that does not include any of my personal videos, that will take another estimated 2 month online backup with machine on..?? so trying to work out is 3 months of powering my Q6600 machine worth all the trouble ? (I backup to remote NAS , but its located on the same site)

It is good for say your mum or dad, long as they place the files in the folder you selected for backup , but for anyone serious with lots of DATA, I would say be prepared to keep machine on for whats looks like weeks or months at a time.... Here is a snippet of files - dates - GB ....(I have been tracking this from JAN when 1st installed till today the 19th Feb 2012...

Time Date Files GB
19:00 13/02/2012 55238 95.8
21:39 14/02/2012 56938 98.6
09:25 16/02/2012 59028102
19:00 16/02/2012 59598104
09:00 17/02/2012 60394 106
00:57 27/02/2011 71144 141 = 3.5GB per day..........

RIGHT SHIFT BUTTON - RIGHT CLICK on CARBONITE ICON

Apart from the various MetaDataCheckSum errors (still no response to what these are from support) I also see another msg now "Account is currently under storage quota." ? so what does this change and to what affect.

R

smilies/cry.gif
UKMAN , February 26, 2012
CARBONITE IS A SCAM- TOOK MY MONEY AND CANCELLED ME FOR HAVING 130 GIGS!!
UNLIMITED MY *SS. What a scam. They took my money for a few months, had me spend tons of time getting all set with them, and then cancelled me because I had a measily 130 gigs!! Hard drives are sold in the terabyte today, and I can't back up a 130 gigs? 100% FALSE ADVERTISING. I thought they changed their policy, but those scam artists are still advertising unlimited storage today! What a joke. I smell class action lawsuit.
Aaron , September 22, 2011
Carbonite Fails to Backup Ordinary Files
Carbonite doesn’t work. It fails to backup normal Office files downloaded from Outlook 2007 claiming they are “temporary files”. They are not. They refuse to respond to my many requests for resolution to this issue. “Never Worry About Your Backup Again” is an outright lie. You will lose files. It’s too bad about their attitude, too. If they were willing to own it, I’d let them work it out, but they just don’t seem to care.
Ole Danielson , February 05, 2011
Carbonite is not what it says it is. Very misleading advertising.
I installed Carbonite and later had a hard drive start to fail. Got a new hard drive and waited two days for it to back up my files. WRONG!! It did not back up any of my business documents and only one of my contacts folders [25% of my contacts]. I thought I messed up and spent another two days rebacking up my files. What a waste of time. Didn't work. Canceled my 3 year subscription after 6 months and tried to get at least some refund. Nope, wouldn't do it. Carbonite says on their website that it automatically backs up "ALL" your files and you don't have to do anything. Not in my case. I am telling everyone I can to not use Carbonite. What a ripoff.smilies/angry.gif
Steve , September 09, 2010
Dmailer and Carbonite
Dunno about Carbonite i used it and it didn't appeared as much as i expected . And the backup/restore process was a little to high.
I am using now for like an a year a software called Dmailer http://www.dmailer.com/dmailer-backup.html , their software is free and their online storage is also free only up to 3gb , of course if you need larger packs they have all you need at good prices.

<---------------------------->
Admin Edit (sorry easier than trying to respond)
<---------------------------->
I have checked into Dmailer and indeed it looks promising. One thing it has over Carbonite is that their unlimited plan works for Mac and PC. Carbonite remains very restrictive in your restore options. If you backup your PC you can only restore on a PC and likewise on the Mac. Also, I found out the hard way that restoring even just a GB is a painfully slow process. But then again I have nothing I can compare it to given the size of the data I had to restore.

My Carbonite is about to expire and I may very well try another service to get a better idea of what's out there.

The 2GB free don't really attract me that much, I am waiting for the day my local 7/11 is going to offer 2GB of free storage. And if you consider that Windows Live has been offering 25 GB free for about a year, 2GB pales in comparison (there are caveats, of course).

I backup close to 400GB. SO I will consider a service that is cost effective for that type of storage only. Most aren't yet. Even Amazon S3 would cost me a fortune compared to Carbonite.

Anyway, thank you for bringing this company to my attention. I'll keep an eye on them.
JohnnyBoyClub , June 25, 2010
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