Is Carbonite's Lawsuit Over Lost Data A Bad Idea?

from the reminding-people-that-you-lost-their-data dept

Carbonite, one of a few players in the competitive online backup space, has now sued a vendor it used for hardware whose failure in 2007 led some of Carbonite’s customers to lose their data. While you can understand why Carbonite is trying to sue this vendor, you have to wonder if it actually makes business sense. As some in the article note, it’s not clear there’s a real legal remedy here, and Carbonite may be doing this as a PR move, to make people realize that it wasn’t responsible for the lost data. However, as someone who was recently on the market for such a solution, I’d say this lawsuit actually makes me think less of Carbonite. First, it reminds everyone that the company lost people’s data. Second, it suggests that the company is unwilling to take responsibility for the loss. The people signing up to use Carbonite are trusting Carbonite to set things up in a way that their data won’t get lost. They’re not trusting Carbonite’s suppliers. It’s Carbonite that failed those customers, and simply trying to offload the blame does little to convince anyone that the company is setting things up in a way that will prevent this sort of thing from happening again, no matter who the tech supplier might be.

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Comments on “Is Carbonite's Lawsuit Over Lost Data A Bad Idea?”

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Weird Harold's former #5 fan says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's simple

I haven’t looked today, but I think HD storage is at a low right now …

When I was at Fry’s a couple weeks ago, they had 1TB Seagate drives on sale for $99. I was sooooo tempted.

Plug in a 500G USB and back it up dude – they’re cheap

Yeah, but the idea behind Carbonite and other services like it is the offsite backup aspect. The 500GB USB drive containing your only backup isn’t going to survive a house fire, for example.

Gatewood Green (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 It's simple


What, in a shed in the back yard? I doubt somebody buying a 500GB external drive to do their own personal backups even has an offsite location where they can set it up.

There is nothing to set up. Use two 500GB USB drives in rotation, one is always in a bank safety deposit box. Off site location issue solved. Fairly inexpensive; cost of two drives plus rental of the box.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's simple

The point of a remote backup service like carbonite or Jungle Disk/S3 is to have a copy of your files off site for when your house catches fire or floods or you do something really stupid or …. They are in the same ball park price wise as a hard drive and shouldn’t be a primary back up but a secondary or tertiary backup.

Willton says:

Really? You don't see the claim?

So if you have a business and your supplier sells you a product with a latent defect that you don’t discover until much later, and this defect affects your business negatively, you don’t see where the supplier could be liable? Have you never heard of a breach of warranty?

Yes, the customers are trusting Carbonite and not Carbonite’s suppliers, but realize that Carbonite is trusting its suppliers to provide a product that allows Carbonite to provide its service to its customers. If the suppliers fail in that regard, don’t you think that the suppliers should shoulder some of the blame?

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Really? You don't see the claim?

So if you have a business and your supplier sells you a product with a latent defect that you don’t discover until much later, and this defect affects your business negatively, you don’t see where the supplier could be liable?

Yup. I also see that I don’t want to do business with Carbonite. They are apparently as trusting as newborn kittens. Which is cute, but not the kind of folk I want to entrust my data to.

Lori Salow Marshall (user link) says:

Re: Really? You don't see the claim?

Any technology business must plan for the worst despite warranties or guarantees of any product. Designing an environment where your core business offering can fail as a result of a single hardware fault is taking a risk – warranty or not. If your core competency is to remove that risk for your clients, you should mitigate all risks. Damages as the result of this lawsuit will not help Carbonite’s customers, but rather reimburse them their own time and expense. Where are the customers in this whole equation?

Freedom says:

Enterprise Backup Solutions...

As someone that has been burnt many times by Enterprise level (and SMB level) products which I’m sure Carbonite was/is using, I can sort of understand their position.

With that said, the enterprise grade/level products being used are still relatively young and these products haven’t been fully hardened/vetted in the real world. To expect perfection at this stage is asking too much.

I love when someone expects all this extremely complex technology that is literally fresh out of the lab to work 100%. Apparently, no one else lives in a world where their workstation, programs, phones, DVRs, etc. never crash. For anyone that think Enterprise devices should somehow be better doesn’t realize that Enterprise products are just low-volume, high-priced consumer products that only Enterprise can afford.

While I don’t know the particulars of what failed, anyone in IT that has had the pleasure of a hardware RAID system failing because they used a drive that was approved by had a different firmware revision, used a drive that was larger and unsupported, used a drive that was supported by the RAID Card, but not the back plane, and so on realize that storage is still complex even at a much lower level. Add-on all the crap that has to happen at the enterprise level along with low production/vetted custom silicon and it is frankly surprising that any of this stuff works.


Jonathan says:

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Anyone who depends on a sole repository for their data is already in trouble.

No one source of backup is safe. They should have been keeping it on at least two separate sources for true safety. If the data is worth backing up, it’s worth backing up in a manner that will protect it from virtually any failure.

Newbelius says:

Redundancy is key, so why did Carbonite throw away the key?

From the article:

Carbonite alleges that the Promise VTrak Raid equipment in several instances failed to recognize defects in the hard drives and transfer the data to another hard drive before the data was lost

Hardware is prone to failure. It happens. That’s why drives, for example have a rated MTBF (mean time between failures). When you raid drives, the MTBF goes down, in other words, if you have one drive with an mtbf of 100,000hr, two drives mirrored would give you an mtbf of 50,000hr, but unless both drives fail simultaneously, you will be able to recover your data. Ten drives would give you an mtbf of 10,000hr using this example. The more drives you have, the more frequently failures will occur.

Further, the RAID system itself can fail. If the controller subsystem goes, it can, in the worst case, kill the data on the drives. This is, obviously, bad unless you have a backup of the data.

Carbonite’s assertion sounds as if they completely relied upon a single system for data storage. This is bad because they are prone to complete data loss if that system fails. From the little we are given in the article, this sounds like what happened.

If this is supposed to be a company that specializes in backups, why don’t they backup their data? Their entire business model is to provide backup services. The very first thing should be to ensure the integrity of the data. Step one, write to two separate subsystems. Step two, compare the two separate subsystems. If step two fails, go back to step one. They should always have had a redundant subsystem that would allow them to recover from failure of the primary system. Oh, and to be safe, the redundant system should probably be offsite.

Just my two cents. I’ve been managing IT departments for over a decade and was a technician specializing in data storage prior to that and this just sounds wrong.

btb says:

Carbonite was doing things on the cheap.

Promise makes SOHO level stuff. Real enterprise class RAID controllers are made by companys like Adaptec or Intel…not Promise (and even they fail at times). Real enterprise level backup solutions entail significant redundancy, not a single homeowner style RAID array. You get what you pay for.

TPB'er says:

Re: Carbonite was doing things on the cheap.

Yeah Promise is great for the cheap solution but there is a reason you get that cheap plastic case for 1500-2000. I have used these for imaging rips and when one acts up one of us gets to take it home because they are no longer trusted. You can build quite an impressive raid box for under 5K, not even a quarter of a real fiber-channel system plus the cost of the high end drives.

Promise is one step above consumer level.

Jango Barks says:

You Get What You Pay For

There are legit online backup services for business data out there. But they are not cheap. If your data is only worth $50 a year, you can’t complain when a low-end, rickety provider loses it.

Bad news, we lost our data….good news, it only cost us $50 to lose it!!!

I would also suggest you avoid discount, day-old sushi too.


Andy says:

online backup doesn't work

I’ve tried several online backup programs, and they always fail to work. You schedule a backup of 2TB over a 14.4kpbs modem, and 5 minutes later it tells you that it’s done. The fact is that no online backup system has ever intended to work. The amount of data stored on a PC vs the cost of bandwidth, cost of server space, and the amount people pay just does not work.

Carbonite is a scam.

Jason (user link) says:

Online backup works

The discussion over whether online storage and backup works or does not is mute. It works. The question is, which company you go with. Obviously you need to steer clear of Carbonite as the writer points out – real data loss and no admittance of responsibility (they should be backing up). They blew it. I have used and have had no problems whatsoever.

Regardless, storing data on DVDs or USB is no good. You can’t access DVDs remotely (even a pain locally) – you might as well bury the files in your backyard. And a 500GB USB Drive? I’ve heard those have a bad habit of “walking” (theft). And they don’t help you in lightning strikes or floods (basement floods have nuked a few people I know).

Online backup opens up file sharing, remote access. Just find a reliable company.

Dave Friend (user link) says:

Setting the story straight

I would like to make sure that your readers understand two points with regard to Carbonite’s lawsuit against Promise Technologies:

1) This event happened over a year ago. We do not say this to minimize the matter. But we do want to point out that this has not happened in a long time and is not an ongoing problem.

2) The total number of Carbonite customers who were unable to retrieve their data was 54, not 7,500.

Here is what happened: The Promise servers that we were purchasing in 2006 and 2007 use RAID technology to spread data redundantly across 15 disk drives so that if any one disk drive fails, you don’t lose any data. The RAID software that makes all this work is embedded as “firmware” in the storage servers. In this case, we believe that the firmware on the servers had bugs that caused the servers to crash. Carbonite automatically restarted all 7,500 backups and more than 99% of these were completely restored without incident. Statistically, about 2 out of every 1,000 consumer hard drives will crash every week, so 54 of these customers had their PCs crash before their re-started backups were complete. Since they weren’t completely backed up when their PCs crashed, these customers were unable to restore all of their files from Carbonite. Most of the 54 got some or most of their data back. We took full responsibility for what happened and I did my best to call each of these customers personally to apologize.

As a result of our problems with the Promise servers, we switched to a popular Dell server that uses RAID6 – an improved RAID that allows for the loss of 3 of the 15 drives simultaneously before you lose any data. This configuration is in theory 36 million times more reliable than a single disk drive — the chances of 3 out of 15 drives failing at the same time are almost nil.

So far, Promise has refused to accept responsibility for their equipment’s failures, so now we are suing them to get our money back. The Dell RAID servers have been flawless and we’re extremely happy with them.

Dave Friend, CEO
Carbonite, Inc.

Tom says:

Re: Setting the story straight

Right. Your operations guys sourced the wrong hardware and failed to have redundancy built into your model, instead depending on the hardware RAID (gambling with your customer’s data). As long as your marketing says “usually, most of your data will be fine” then customers should not be upset.

I think you probably have a good case against Promise, it just doesn’t help your customers any, nor does it lessen your responsibility to have failover in place.

Gatewood Green (profile) says:

Re: Setting the story straight

So it sounds to me that your system fails to check for and handle hardware failure. Keep in mind that even using RAID6 is no guarantee. I have personally had multiple drives fail in the same RAID array (Dell PowerEgde equipment for what it is worth). My saving grace was that the data on the RAID was backed up nightly to (at that time) tape. The short time of data lost (that since the night backup), was considered acceptable given the costs of dual hot systems at that time.

Working for a company that produces packaged equipment, I have seen a few RAID card (not drives) failures. In some of those cases, the card scribbled all over the drive data in its final death throws, making the data unrecoverable with another card of the same type and configuration

Given the recent Seagate firmware situation that bricked drives (any one remember the IBM deathstar drives from about 5 or 6 years ago?) and potential for issues in the RAID card firmware, all beside the possibility that the hardware itself could fail, I would think that Carbonite would have contingency plans in place that include internal duplicity of core systems and storage and spare (even if cold standby) complete system replacements on the ready.

I guess as an experienced IT manager, an engineer and a business person, I cannot for the life of me figure out how you lost more than a few hours of data (worst case). Given the nature of your business, I am not sure why you would even lose any data short of a full on nature disaster taking out an entire facility (off-site backups to minimize the total loss anyone?).

Granted for the cost of your service, a user should clearly understand what they are paying for and be willing to understand that more reliable backups will cost more. Anyone who cares about their backup, WILL understand the full backup chain; they would know exactly where their data is and how it is managed at all times. But I still have a difficult time reconciling the nature of your business with the type of failure that occurred. You lost data in the exact situation for which your propose to protect your customers.

Weird Harold's former #5 fan says:

Re: Setting the story straight

we switched to a popular Dell server that uses RAID6 – an improved RAID that allows for the loss of 3 of the 15 drives simultaneously before you lose any data. This configuration is in theory 36 million times more reliable than a single disk drive — the chances of 3 out of 15 drives failing at the same time are almost nil.

RAID6 doesn’t matter if the server goes belly-up and takes all 15 drives with it. RAID6 doesn’t matter if a tornado wipes out the data center and you don’t have a second data center to fall back on.

From your comments, it sounds like you’ve only replaced a single point of failure (that failed) with a more reliable single point of failure.

Bruce Goldensteinberg says:

David Friend to the rescue!

wherever there is legitimate criticism of carbonite anywhere on the internet, David Friend or one of his lackeys pop up out of nowhere explaining that whatever the issue in question was is not Carbonite’s fault, but instead, the fault of either the user, or in this case, their supplier.

Not only was it bad enough that carbonite hacks posted reviews on amazon (while being boneheaded- or contemptuous enough of potential customers)using their own names, now they are admitting what many carbonite users have experienced for a while.

their service is shoddy. the “customer support” is nonexistent. just look around on the internet, look at the reviews of carbonite in many different places- i.e. amazon. now if most of the reviews have the same criticisms, there is likely to be some truth to them. i refuse to believe that all, or even most companies, are so unethical as carbonite and go around planting negative reviews about competitors.

carbonite is a scam of a company. if they took even a fraction of the money they put into advertising on rush limbaugh and others into building a better product with better equipment and better customer service, they wouldn’t have these issues. but david friend even said in an article on a while back he hopes to sell Carbonite for close to a billion dollars in a few years, based upon the amount EMC paid for (another big, visible backup company) a few years ago.

Ron Eberhart says:

Carbonite service - Lost in a good idea

Here is what I sent Carbonite two weeks ago, and what I recieved back form them. I ahve not heard anything from them since even after I contacted the Presedent himself. In my opinion the customer support here is non-existant and I dont thik David (CEO) gives a shit!!! I know I will be moving on and WILL NOT RECOMMEND this service to anyone.

I have been reluctant to contact you because I know you are a busy man and I wanted to try to get help thru your normal channels before escalating this to you. I have tried and tried now to get things resolved, but I have just been amazed that no one will seem to address these issues with me. I will give you the case number (############) so you can pull your tickets there to see the history, but then give you my questions so it may be more clear.

1. Slow backup – I have been a customer for nearly 2 years now and at one point I had all my files backed up. I then upgraded to a new 1TB disk and in the process of this upgrade Carbonite thought I had a new system or something and started ALL over again backing up my files. So I figured maybe I did something wrong and would just live with it as it was making good time backing up the files. But then it hit a wall and was only backing up 1-2gig a WEEK and that was unacceptable.

2. Can’t contact – So with the slow issue I tried to file a ticket using the tool and I waited for a week after hearing nothing and tried again. At that point it told me the last message had not been sent and to try again which I did, and another week or maybe month went by before I tried again. Well I figured it was not going to send it so I went to the web and contacted someone. They looked and said that everything was fine and nothing could be done to speed things up. But nothing was done to correct anything!! No fix to the issue of contact. Well fine I went on my way, but it was still crawling so I contacted again and someone did something because it went sailing along for a couple of weeks till it again died in the water. I again contacted the web interface and was told that all is normal it was just over 200gb so it would be slow now. GREAT!! Do you know how long it will take to backup a 1TB disk at 2gb a WEEK? I did get a response from Maxwell however and I was very please that he at least explained the details of your policy to make things slow. Mind you I at one time had this all backed up, but now I am only about 490gb backed up. Please remember that number of 490gb for a minute. Also remember that I only use my system about 2-3 hours max a day the the rest of the time 24×7 it is on and I have an excellent cable connection with very good bandwidth.

3. Lost data – So now it is the end of September and it has been many months since this all started. I went on vacation with that 490gb of data safely tucked away on your servers, and low and behold when I came back from vacation I had a whopping 170gb of files. I did nothing to the system since I was not here, but where did they go? Following up on the ticket once again I asked where my files went? They told me to send the log files so I tried the tool and told them I did not think it would work. It did not after I tried 2-3 time to send them that way. I contacted them again to say I was not able to send them that way and if they would tell me where they were I would just attach them to an email and send so they sent me instructions on how to do that. After a couple of tries I finally got them sent but heard nothing for several days. So I again sent a message to ask if they had received them and had a chance to examine them to answer my questions. The response I received today was unbelievable!! Nothing is wrong!! Everything is fine!! And did not address a single issue.

So as you can see no one has addressed my questions much for more than to say, all is well and things are just slow. Can you answer my questions?
Where are my files? Will it always be this slow? If so then I surely will need to find another backup service since It will be impossible for you to keep up. My biggest question though is, how do you expect customers to react to customer service like this? I am at the end of my rope. I like your software, and system idea, but it needs to work!! And when it does not, then I need support and not just glossed over. I have sent several customers your way, but I am reluctant to send any more since I do not recommend poor products. That reflects badly not only on you guys, but ME in particular. Kim Komando swears by you guys, but I am sure thinking about taking my story to her too for her opinion. Can you tell I am pissed?

As I say, all I really want is to be helped. I hope that you will take this seriously and get me that help. Let me know what you need from me.


Hello Ron and thank you for your e-mail.

David Friend, our CEO, has asked me to assist you.

Thank you for your note and for explaining your situation. I see that your account is listed under xxxxx I will have one of our Senior Support technicians contact you to determine why the files are no longer in your backup.



Carbonite Customer Support

MaryAnn Johnson says:

Carbonite Lost My Data

One year and three months worth of files were lost by Carbonite from my computer. I cannot replace any of it. I just found out today when I needed to restore my data to my computer following a virus attack that required me to erase everything from my computer, reinstall my software and then download my supposedly backed up files from Carbonite. I have been a customer of theirs for one and one half years. My data backup ended in December 2008 and anything after that was lost. I lost thousands of hours of work and thousands of dollars by relying on Carbonite. I would advise not one person to rely on Carbonite to store and protect their data. In addition, the Customer Service people had obviously been well coached on what to say to me and it was like talking to robots once they realized that my data was gone. Nothing but “we don’t know how this happened”, “we’re so very sorry”, etc. etc. and they had the nerve to offer me a refund of my two year subscription and one year of free service – as if I would ever let them touch my data again.

I Carbonite does not work says:

If you’re considering Carbonite, don’t! I had been a customer of Carbonite for years and always thought that I was protected. One day my PC had a catastrophic event and the system was rolled back to an earlier date. My initial thought was no problem I’ll restore the files from Carbonite and recover. Boy was I wrong. I go to Carbonite to get my files and they can’t provide them to me. Here is why I was told they couldn’t.

When Carbonite is doing their restore they write a file to the PC that they’re backing up and then they use that file to restore the system. Yes, you read that right – they write a file to the PC they potentially need to restore data to and rely on that file to restore the data. Long story short, I’ve lost family pictures, family videos, tax information, work files, and important personal files. Carbonite’s support is horrible, I was promised numerous call backs from engineering which never came. Do NOT use Carbonite. The thing that upsets me the most about this issue is that my data is on their harddrives (if they backed it up like they said) and they can’t give it to me.

If you really want to protect your data, look somewhere else. Please don’t make the same mistake as me.

Roy says:

Disappearing back up data November, 2012

Upon returning from a vacation, I checked my Carbonite data which had nearly 200GB. They were all missing except for 8 MG. Called customer support and she pretended to not understand that the back up data was missing from their servers. She kept stating that I must have somehow erased or altered the data. The original data is in my harddrive. The data used to have green lights indicating that it was backed up by Carbonite. It cannot be found by Carbonite. I have spent several hours.
Is anyone else experiencing data disappearing on their Carbonite account?

FORMER Carbonite Customer after data loss 2015 says:

Setting the story straight / Carbonite keeps losing data

Carbonite failed to back up my data which wasn’t known
until a hard drive failure last week. Instead of apologizing or offering ANY explanation, they tried to blame me!
I wish I had known how dishonest Carbonite is and how
they refuse to stand by their product. There are numerous
NEW 2014/2015 lawsuits against them. I will be looking elsewhere for back up solutions!!!

Real IT says:

Really? You don't see the claim?

No. Especially if your service is to backup data! It was Carbonite’s job to not only ensured that they were able to recovery their customer’s data in the event of a hardware/software/vendor failure but how can I trust you as a reliable backup source when you don’t backup your own business…..??? really?

Real IT says:

It's simple

Don’t trust someone else???? Really? Unless you’re and ISP building storage controllers and hard drives, you’re always trusting someone else! The point isn’t who’s backing up your data as much as how redundant is the storage that it’s being backed up on. There is a thing called testing your backups and disaster planning all of which an online backup storage company should use! Data is changing too often, it is not enough to backup your data once a day and physically carry that data offsite. What is your storage fails a few mins before your scheduled backup time? what if the software you use to backup your data corrupts the backup file?

Real IT says:

It's simple

Yes! True! But as for Carbonite, they are promising to backup other people’s data. Ensuring others are using them as a secondary is not their position but rather the promise that when others lose their data (whether the live data or primary backup data) they will have a backup. How can you promise that as a product or even position the purpose of your product is highly valuable, if you yourself ignores it’s essential function???

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