Thursday, October 24, 2013

[Rant] Status of Carbonite backup after 10 months

In last December, I paid for a 1 year subscription of Carbonite. If you guys don't know, Carbonite is a cloud backup service that gives you "unlimited" cloud backup storage for a monthly price of about $5. There are two conditions though. First one is that you can only backup the data on your internal hard drives. The second is more restrictive. Once your backed up amount of data exceeds 200GB, your upload speed drops from 2Mbps to like 100kbps. Basically it is not unlimited backup. You are limited by time.

There are few other issues as well. You have to get a subscription for a whole year at once. There is no way you can pay monthly. So even if you feel that it is not going to work well for you, you cannot cancel it at halfway mark and get the remainder of your money back.
Then, even if you have super fast internet at home, the restore speeds are going to be very slow. What good is a backup if you cannot restore it? I saw somewhere that the restore speeds are like 14GB per day. That's quite low. What if you somehow managed to upload like half a terabyte of data? It'll take more than a month to get the whole thing back.
There is one thing that's not clear though. Carbonite only keeps a file backed up for 30 days. That means, if you have deleted the file from your hard drives, Carbonite will do the same but after a month. It is to stop people from abusing the system. Carbonite is a backup solution, not a storage solution. What I mean by that is you should have pair of files: the original and the backup. If there is no original (say you deleted it), the backup become the original. Say you have a 100GB hard disk. This will stop you from using Carbonite to expand it to 200GB by deleting files that are on the drive and adding new files. We all have files on the hard drive that probably might never be needed again. You could simply store them in Carbonite and not locally. No, you cannot do that. But of course they have to give us time to restore the file in the case of a crash. That time is one month. But say that you lose everything. Now you have to get everything from the backup. Once you've started the restore process, even if the 30 day period is exceeded (which is very likely to happen) the files should not be deleted. Does that happen in that fashion? If it does not, Carbonite is useless.
But if restore time is the issue, there is a way to get your backup quickly. You can tell them to courier a hard drive with the backup on it to you. But for that service, you have to pay extra. You have to get the Home Premier subscription which costs $149 per year. That's pretty steep but they have to bear the cost of the hard drives as well. So it is not unfair. I don't know how often you can ask them to send you back a copy though. Can you keep the hard drives as well?
After 10 months of backing up (not 24/7 of course) my backup status is like this. The backup is growing very slowly. But the amount of data that needs to be backed up has grown a lot in the last couple of months. Most of them are photos from trips. (But I’d rather keep what I am uploading “just to myself”, hence I’m “censoring the filename”.)
To be honest, I'm not so happy about the limitations of Carbonite. With hard drive sizes growing, if you are limited to just 200GB or so data, that doesn't make sense. I think I am not going to continue the subscription next year. I'm definitely not going to upgrade to the Home Premier tier so that I can get the backup couriered. Besides, even right now I have a local backup. Once my first year runs out, I'm going to think of another plan. Maybe a NAS. Who knows? But I don't want to get something bulky.

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