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Written by Marco Conti Tuesday, 11 August 2009 14:36
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,
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:
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:
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
- firewall or security software preventing Carbonite from connecting to the server
- you computer is not connected
- 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.
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?
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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