Setting the Story Straight

by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 23, 2009

On March 21, The Boston Globe reported that Carbonite is suing Promise Technologies, a company that makes storage servers that we purchased back in 2007. This lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred over a year ago. The article (and subsequent coverage by other outlets) references court documents which say that Carbonite "lost the backups of over 7,500 customers." It is possible that readers will walk away from this with the impression that 7,500 customers were unable to restore their files from Carbonite. This is not the case. Let me explain.

All of the affected customers had their backups re-started immediately and automatically. Statistically, about 2 out of every 1000 hard drives will crash every week (about the time it took to get most customers backed up again), so a small number of these customers had their PCs crash before their re-started backups were complete. These customers were unable to restore all of their files from Carbonite. We took full responsibility for what happened, and I did my best to apologize personally to each of these customers.

For the techies who are reading this, what happened is this: The Promise servers use a technology called "RAID" that spreads data redundantly across 15 disk drives so that if any one disk drive fails, you don't lose any data. In fact, the kind of RAID we use allows us to lose 3 of the 15 drives simultaneously before you lose any data. This configuration is in theory 36 million times more reliable than a single disk drive — the chances of 3 out of 15 drives failing at the same time are almost nil. The RAID software that makes all this work is embedded as "firmware" in the storage servers that we buy. In this case, the firmware had bugs that caused the whole server to crash.

So that, in a nutshell, is what we allege in our lawsuit. We were sold defective equipment and hence have asked Promise to refund our money. So far they have refused to accept responsibility, so now we are suing them. The Dell RAID servers that we started purchasing a couple of years ago have been flawless and we're extremely happy with them.

CEO, Carbonite