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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.

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.

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.

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