Data Centers

Failing with online backup

Seeking to back up 350 GB in safe, reliable, off-site storage, Michael Krigsman tried Carbonite and Mozy. He explains how both products failed miserably to achieve his goals.

This is a guest post from Michael Krigsman of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Michael on his ZDNet blog IT Project Failures, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Seeking to back up 350GB in safe, reliable, off-site storage, I tried Carbonite and Mozy, two of the most respected names in the online backup market. Both products failed miserably to achieve my goals, each one in a perversely different way.

Carbonite offers a simple, set-and-forget solution that should make life easy. In my case, something bad happened along the way because I can no longer restore files reliably. This screen capture shows what happens when I try to restore files using the company's remote access feature:

As you can see, Carbonite can't find my selected file. Would this message inspire confidence that your backup is safe?

Carbonite tech support was quite helpful trying to diagnose and solve the problem. However, my luck ran out after support submitted the issue to the developers for further research and fixing. At that stage, support essentially said the developers will handle my issue when they want, with no time horizon and not even a pat on the back.

Based on that interaction, I decided to try Mozy instead.

Mozy takes a somewhat more configurable approach to its backup software, which I like. I transferred the first 200GB of data to Mozy with no problems and reasonably fast upload speeds of 1.5Mbps. Recently, however, my upload speed decreased to a level where large backups are no longer practical. This dialog box shows my current upload rate, which is slower than a dialup modem:

Mozy support is singularly unhelpful, sending canned solutions and ignoring the actual problem descriptions in my emails.

My new backup solution. Since the need for offsite backup remains, I plan to install a remote hard drive at a friend's house and use a backup program to transfer my data for safekeeping.

Given the economics of software as a service (SaaS) vendors, poor support is hardly a surprise. These vendors survive by keeping costs low, so they can offer inexpensive prices to consumers. Both Carbonite and Mozy charge about five bucks a month, which doesn't leave much room for in-depth customer assistance.

My lousy backup experience illustrates both positive and negative aspects of cheap cloud computing. When the cloud works, everything is great; but woe unto him (or her) that hits a speed bump.

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