Perils of on-line backup systems: Carbonite and my Mac

Posted on by Mike Evans

Previously I've lauded Carbonite for providing a comprehensive cloud backup system for Macs. I took out a $99 two-year subscription earlier this year and confidently set to backing up all my important stuff to Carbonite's servers. The initial backup of 49 MB took about two weeks, but then the system ran well until the autumn when I had to reformat my hard disk and reinstall everything. I did this from local backups, so didn't need to call on Carbonite.

Since then, however, things have gone from bad to worse. I reinstalled Carbonite but couldn't link to the original backup because the OS had been reinstalled. So I had to start the backup again. And again. And again. Every time the system locked after about three days and I never got beyond 10 GB. Carbonite's support people were very helpful and we tried everything they could think of. I reinstalled Carbonite several times and every time it failed after a day or so. 

Finally, last week after a long chat with technical support, I was told that they could not resolve my issue and would give me a refund, which they have done. Naturally I was disappointed in this and I wonder in what position this leaves other Mac users. Many people recommend Backblaze, but I'm a bit reluctant to start all over again and possibly encounter similar problems. 

My temporary solution is to use Dropbox. For some months I've been storing all my data, except iTunes and iPhoto, on Dropbox and it works faultlessly. Now I've extended my storage limit and synced both music and photographs to Dropbox. The upload of some 30GB has gone smoothly and is now complete after only three days (considerably faster than Carbonite ever achieved). I now have secure cloud backups for all my stuff with the exception of applications and libraries. Since I have three local backups, including Time Machine and Drobo, I'm not too concerned about having a complete mirror of the internal disk. The main thing is to avoid losing vital stuff that cannot be replaced. 

Of course, Dropbox is a synchronisation system and is not directly comparable with Carbonite and Backblaze, for example. It means that all my data is synced to all my computers (including the Air where the minute 64GB SSD drive is filling up alarmingly). This can have benefits, but does mean a lot of bandwidth. 

Do far it all works well and I have peace of mind while I consider other options. Pity about Carbonite, though. I wonder if Leo Laporte knows, because I first used Carbonite after his recommendation on one of his regular podcasts?

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