The risks of outsourced online backup

You might have heard that a major Online Backup service provider, Carbonite, recently lost the backups of 7,500 customers. They then tried to sue Promise, the manufacturer of their RAID controllers, for the data loss.

In the meantime, many customers suffered catastrophic losses of data. The following account is especially chilling:

I own a IT managed Services company for small businesses. One of my clients disconnected his tape drive from his server and signed up with Carbonite as his new backup solution over my objections. He just had a diaster and had to recover all his files from Carbonite this past weekend. Some of the backup files where missing and some where not the latest dates. The client has lost 4 years of bids and the projects he is currently bidding on are lost also

(Original article)

This illustrates two fundamental risks:

  1. The risk of having only one backup.
  2. The risk of trusting a 3rd party provider with your one and only backup. Note that given that online backup a very competitive industry and many providers compete on price, they may also be taking short cuts with their datacenters.

We’ve known about these risks for years, and that’s why we’ve always recommended having multiple layers of backups – different backups in different formats in different locations. 3rd party backup is great, but ultimately you have little control over it, so never make it your only backup.

If you have multiple backups, the chances of a catastrophic failure are extremely slim – all your backups have to fail at exactly the same time. A good model to work with is something like this:

Let’s see how easy it is to achieve fully automated backups. If the client described in the tale above was using BackupAssist to back up to a NAS or locally connected USB HDD (total cost: around $250), in addition to Carbonite, this disaster wouldn’t have happened. They could either backup important files, or their entire system.

Or, if instead of using Carbonite, they’d been backing up to a self-managed Rsync server using the BackupAssist for Rsync module, this wouldn’t have occurred.

I guess sometimes people do silly things to save a few dollars or a few minutes of their time… and it’s just not worth the risk!

If you’re interested about how BackupAssist can provide multiple layers of backup protection, especially on Server 2008, SBS 2008 and EBS 2008, check out our presentation at:

3 thoughts on “The risks of outsourced online backup”

  1. With regard to the Carbonite lawsuit against Promise, I would like to correct a few points in your post:

    1) 99.6% of the “lost” data was recovered, so customer impact was minimal.
    2) It wasn’t “recent.” It was a 2006-2007 problem.

    There is a more complete statement on this matter on my blog.


    Dave Friend, CEO
    Carbonite, Inc.

  2. This is a great article in showing the different layers of a backup system using BackUpAssist. I love when using BackUpAssist to NAS or locally connected USB that it is cost efficient. I also like that you can self-manage Rsync with BackUpAssist Rsync Module.

    An enjoyable read!


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