Carbonite must hate me.  And if they don’t hate me now, they might after this post.  For the past two years I have been taking full advantage of their “unlimited” online backup service.  Well, when I say “full advantage,” I’m kind of lying.  I haven’t been able to reap the full benefits of the “unlimited” backup service from Carbonite because for the past two years I haven’t even completed the initial backup of all my data.

How is that possible you ask?  Let me explain.

Before I start explaining, let me just say part of this problem is my fault — I should have done a bit more research when selecting an online backup service.  I know “unlimited” is never truly unlimited.  However that being said, shame on Carbonite for burying the information I needed so deeply in its knowledge base and not even having one mention of it in the company’s marketing materials (not even as a footnote — at least that I saw).

But back to the problem.  I purchased a subscription to Carbonite’s “Home” plan which is $59/year back on August 25, 2011 and everything seemed like it would be great.  I’ll get unlimited data backup for one low yearly price and I won’t have to worry about data loss.  Great.  I set it up on my computer, enable it, and leave it alone.  Of course, I check on the backup every so often just to make the app is running and whatnot, time goes on, and I start receiving renewal offers from the company.

This is about the time I start to notice something isn’t “right.”  The backup application for Carbonite still says it’s in the initial backup phase.  How can this be?  It’s been almost a year since I started the process. Confused to say the least I reached out to Carbonite for support, they had me uninstall the app, download a newer version, and reinstall it.  They told me this would fix the problem.  “Ok.” I thought to myself.

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Now I don’t rely on Carbonite for my main backup — I think of it more along the lines of an emergency plan for me.  My 2TB Apple Time Capsule is what I typically use to restore from (if necessary) so the fact that the Carbonite backup was being slightly wonky wasn’t too big a deal to me at the time.

Fast forward to today, I start receiving renewal notifications again from Carbonite.  This prompted me to check on my backup, so I did.  Only to be shocked.  The backup still hadn’t completed its initial backup phase.

After two years the initial Carbonite backup hadn’t completed.

What is going on I thought? I have a great Internet connection: 75Mbps download and 35Mbps upload and my speed tests are always consistent there is no way it could be me causing the problem. I thought about it a little and the only thing I could think of is that Carbonite is throttling my upload capabilities to its servers. It turns out that I was right.

The [Carbonite] bandwidth policy allows you to back up larger amounts of data at a faster speed. After you reach 200GB in your backup, your upload speed will be reduced. The current maximum speeds are as follows:

  • The first 200GB of data can achieve upload speeds of up to 2 mbps (megabits per second).
  • At 200GB or more of data, upload speeds are limited to around 100 kbps (kilobits per second).

Emphasis added is our own. 100kbps? Holy cow. That is slow. If you are wondering how slow that actually is, don’t worry I did the math for you.

So, let’s say I uploaded 200GB of a 900GB backup at a constant rate of 2mbps — that would mean I would hit that 200GB mark in around nine days.  That’s kind of respectable I guess.  But after that is when it gets bad.

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The breakdown:

  • A baseline: uploading 1GB at a constant rate of 100kbps will take approximately 22.2 hours.
  • Uploading the remaining 700GB at a constant rate of 100kbps will take approximately 648 days.

Taking it one step further, if you consider when I started my initial backup with Carbonite (August 25, 2011), the timeline and data speeds line up pretty closely.  Say it took nine days for the initial 200GB to backup, that would mean on September 4, 2011 it should have hit the 200GB mark (or been close to it).  From then on, it would be moving along at the rubbernecking speed of 100kbps.  According to my trusty friend WolframAlpha, 648 days ago it was November 8, 2011.  Now if I factor in time my computer might have been offline, the data speeds not being exactly constant, etc it seems like the timeline does indeed match up.  The problem is, my backup still isn’t done and that is terribly annoying.

I don’t plan on renewing my Carbonite subscription this time around even though I’m interested to see if it would ever finish backing up.  Instead, I have downloaded and installed CrashPlan and am currently in the process of testing it out a lot more thoroughly than I did with Carbonite.  But so far CrashPlan looks promising, 15 days into the 30 day trial, it has backed up over 920GB and only has around 300GB to go.  In terms of data transfer speeds, they are moving along right now at around 2mbps.

Most people may not have as much data as I do, but either way, it’s pretty ridiculous to throttle someone’s upload so much, especially when you consider that what is being uploaded is so critical to the entire purpose of the company and its service.  Anyway, lesson learned.

  • Sounds like you need to have a look at crashplan. Not only can you pay to backup to the cloud but you can also do local backups or backup to a friend for free. The only downside is that their client software currently is written in Java. The other option for more of a native Mac OS X client would be backblaze. They work great too. Both can and will backup all of your data and not try and scam you in to thinking that they work for the data set you have.

    I am sure that for some users Carbonite is great. But for the more heavy users it is a joke. Plus their Mac OS X client is quite buggy.

  • Good article. I am glad you are giving Crashplan a go. They do offer a good service and software. My only issue with it is that it is a java app and not not native to OS X. Also, Have you tried doing the local backups or backup to a friend options? I like both of those as it does provide flexibility so that if you do not need to only rely on the copy that Crashplan has at their data center. Plus the non cloud options are free.

    As for Carbonite, I am sure that for the users with light data needs they are fine. But for me I have found that their Mac OS X client to be quite buggy and I do not like that it feels that they are trying to scam people in to using the “unlimited” marketing term when in fact that they are not. If is going to take YEARS to do your 1st backup over 200GB they should say that is their limit and either offer a plan where you could pay more to store more or just drop the “unlimited” from their service.

    One other service I like is backblaze. They do have a nice native Mac OS X client and are unlimited. So in the end doing your homework is best.

  • Your complaint must have taken Carbonite down! Been waiting on CHAT for 54 minutes and have only moved up 1 place since I started (bet they closed the window!)

  • I had the same experience except my initial back up took only a few weeks. Since I have only small data changes Carbonite kept up with the job though it frequently made other applications like Safari inoperable.

    I wanted to get rid of some pictures and old audio books before I left for a month without my computer so Carbonite saw to it with Carbonite’s staff that my computer was optimized and functioning. When I returned Carbonite was still uploading material. It is totally useless.

    I now use Apple’s time machine for back ups that are done very quickly no matter how much new or deleted material there is without significantly affecting my other applications. Since HD’s are inexpensive I use more than one for a back up and to be sure the most important data is hand shifted to a hard disc outside of time machine.

    Bye bye Carbonite. My wife that has very little data was satisfied and signed me up with Carbonite for three years. I can’t get my money back, but figure it will take the full three years to fully download my changes at which time they will erase all the data.

  • I have crashplan, they are also worthless if you have a lot of data.
    I have 6TB of data. After 1.5TB was uploaded it slowed down to 300kpbs.

    My estimate for finishing the initial upload is now 1.4 YEARS.

    Im a photographer. Every day a shoot, crashplan falls further behind, so its useless to me :(
    Havent found a better solution yet. Trying them all.

    I need a permanent archive, so when you delete a file off your drive its NOT deleted off the cloud and I need fast uploads really really badly!

    • Hey! That’s really strange. I’ve been using Crash Plan since I wrote this post and it’s been wonderful. I’ve recently backed up around 1TB without any issues or slowdowns. Have you reached out to CP support to see if they have any explanation?

      I’m good friends with a commercial photographer who may have similar requirements as you, I can reach out and ask him what he does if you’d like? Let me know!

  • My experience with Carbonite for customer service is certainly less than desirable. I purchased a 2 year contract 3/13/15 $284.99. On 3/16/16 Carbonite stopped backing up my system leaving me unprotected. Plus I received no notification of lack of back up until I discovered it on my own 5 weeks later. Now they are trying to say it is my fault, but nothing occurred on my system other than what they thought was an expiration. Also FYI, I discovered Carbonite is just a sync service. I looked at iDrive and they actually archive all your information fully not just a sync. Now I cannot get it uninstalled and they are refusing my refund for the 3rd time. PLUS I had to install iDrive and pay for that because Carbonite’s support was not available until the next day.

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