Carbonite Update

I’ve been using Carbonite Home Backup for active offsite backup since I recommended it over five years ago. My current backup consists of almost 300,000 files and 300GB of data.

I schedule full system backups to my NAS, but I count on Carbonite for both extreme disaster recovery and for intraday backup and changes. Although I’ve only used it a few times, the fact that Carbonite takes snapshots of files and maintains them for up to 30 days is helpful to recover accidental changes or deletions.

Recently I’ve discovered some shortcomings. Carbonite’s exceptional Tier 2 technicians (based at a call center in Maine) told me they have forwarded my suggested fixes for these to engineering as feature requests, but no changes have been promised.

The first batch of problems occurred when my primary disk failed last month. I restored from a local backup, and then wanted to use Carbonite to recover the most recent files and changes that were missing from that local backup. After some turmoil we determined:

  1. Carbonite doesn’t deal gracefully with being restored as part of a system image. It has to be reinstalled in order to recognize that its local cache doesn’t reflect the offsite backup.
  2. Carbonite doesn’t efficiently perform automatic recovery. Instead of first checking to see what files are already restored and up to date it queues the entire backup for recovery and then iterates through every file, taking 1-2 seconds per file just just to recognize it’s already there and up to date. Consequently, even though I was only missing a few hundred files it took 3 days for Carbonite to finish its automated recovery.
  3. Carbonite doesn’t distinguish between deleted and current files. So my automated restoration included every backed-up file I had deleted in the last 30 days, which I then had to hunt down and re-delete!
  4. Carbonite doesn’t provide enough tools for a user to work around these problems. If, for example, you could search or sort your backup based on file times and other standard metadata you could manually restore what you want. Presently you can only run restoration based on file locations.

Another shortcoming was revealed after I migrated my system to a SSD, which caused all my user data to change from local drive “C” to “D.” There is no way to tell Carbonite that my 300GB backup has simply changed drive letter. As far as it’s concerned, I deleted 300GB from C and have 300GB in new data to backup from D. Which is irritating, because for the less expensive plans Carbonite throttles the data upload speed based on how much is in your backup:

  • Up to 35GB it backs up at 2Mbps
  • Up to 200GB it backs up at 512kbps
  • Beyond 200GB is backs up at 100kbps

So if I don’t want to immediately purge my backup and start from scratch it will actually take 9 months to bring my backup up to date. If I do purge my existing backup it will still take 4 months to return to my backup to its current state!

1 thought on “Carbonite Update

  1. federalist

    Apparently CrashPlan+ is the best option on the market now, since they do not throttle backup speeds like Carbonite does, and they don’t purge deleted/missing files after 30 days. I’ll be trying them when my Carbonite subscription ends.


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