If you use Carbonite you might just need a CrashPlan

I do backups regularly. Time Machine, Retrospect, even offsite HD storage. I try to run as paperless as possible and thus I am very protective against disaster in the digital world. The cloud has always been an interesting option but without Google Fiber it is just not going to work for everything and on top of that the ability to restore complete systems is probably not going to be easy. With that said, what is very attractive to me is the idea of having access to all of my laptop files from my iOS devices whether the laptop is turned on or not – or dead or alive for that matter.

So, I dove into the waters of Carbonite. It seemed to work well. I selected a highly mission critical folder and it backed up everything online as advertised and I was able to access everything backed up from my iPhone – and email docs when I was no where near my laptop. I then moved over to Mountain Lion (which probably does not make a difference) and at the same time I thought, “I have unlimited storage with Carbonite, why don’t I just backed my entire home directory?” So I did. It was going to take about a month to upload it but when it dragged on for more than that, never seeming to get any further, I began to wonder. I also could not access my cloud backup from iOS (or even the web for that matter) and the first line of support was to reinstall Carbonite (which they make quite easy to do). That sort of seemed to work for a while but then it got stuck again and I lost all online access as well.

Carbonite Fail


Okay, time to make that dreaded call to tech support. The support process at Carbonite is very streamlined. It quickly delivers you to a tech who (with your permission) can take over your computer to check logs, change settings, etc. Okay, this is cool… Then seeing the log (which really did not provide much information) and coming to the conclusion that the program is getting “stuck on something it cannot backup” the tech proceeded to deselect apps and other “troublesome” files in my home directory. What? I began to be amazed as to what Carbonite did not backup by default (the Virtual Machines directory is not even accessible for selection – not that I wanted to back up that monster on the cloud) but also video files were skipped by default too. Then the manual process of hunting down troublesome files – WTF? In a home directory containing 380GB of files – this was going to be a long night. Thus I said goodbye to tech support and tried to simplify the directory tree on my own – in other words still backing up more than my first successful attempt but no where near everything. Running into the same problems almost immediately I gave up.

Doing a little bit of research online I decided to dive into the cloud one more time jumping ship to CrashPlan. What? You really can backup anything you want? What? You can do regular expression exclusions? What? You can back up locally too? …and more, and more, and more. What? It actually works?

The bottom line is you have to be brain dead to be a Carbonite user (at least under Mac OS X). For a program to exclude files (without even telling you), to have trouble with certain kinds of files (that make it get stuck), and to be told (yes, this is a good one) that the program is used under different OSes so they cannot exclude apps on the Mac side without affecting Windows users. What? How about just making it work?

In summary. If you are looking to the cloud for backup avoid Carbonite at all costs. There might be other options but CrashPlan works, works well, and has enough options to find uses beyond a simple cloud backup. The other amazing thing about CrashPlan is the fact that it is cheaper than Carbonite. Your milage might vary but do anything to stay away from the world of hurt I had with Carbonite.

[Update: After posting this article I was pointed to a review of CrashPlan (amongst other solutions). If you are interested in CrashPlan they have a 10% off coupon referenced on their site as of the date of this posting. I wish I could have used it before signing up during the trial period but either way I am happy.]