• Our Users Love Us, But Will They Vote for Us?

    by Lynnette Nolan | May 22, 2009

    We know our users love us, but will they vote for us? That is the question.

    We get plenty of fan mail from users whose data we saved — we restore over 10 million files every month. That's a lot of saved bacon. But do they love us enough to give us their vote?

    Every year, CNET runs the prestigious Webware 100 contest — really an industry popularity contest where users get to vote for their favorite applications. Over 5,000 companies got nominated by readers of CNET's Webware site. In the end there were only 300 finalists. And after 630,000 votes, only 100 winners. Carbonite was one of them. So thanks to all of you CNET readers out there who voted for Carbonite. You didn't let us down, and we will never let you down!

    CEO, Carbonite

  • "Miss Download" Features Carbonite Online Backup

    by Lynnette Nolan | May 15, 2009

    I found this very well-done explanation of Carbonite on YouTube. I don't know Cheryl Poirier, but she's very talented and fun to watch. Cheryl, if you're listening, send me an email! I'd love to thank you personally.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Kim Komando Spreads the Word about Carbonite

    by Lynnette Nolan | May 08, 2009

    I thought I would share a nice letter that one of Kim Komando's listeners sent to her and that she forwarded:

    Dear Kim,

    THANK YOU for repeatedly mentioning Carbonite.com! Our computer crashed two weeks ago and we had to replace it. We were able to recover 99 gigs of data that would have been lost if I hadn't heard your ad and nagged my husband until he started the back up process with Carbonite about 9 months ago.

    - Cindi Johnston

    Thank you, Cindi, for the kind words. I've gotten to know Kim over the last year and she's been a great spokesperson for Carbonite. I enjoy all our other spokespersons, but how often do you run across a smart, beautiful, blonde, self-professed geek with 4 million listeners? If you aren't already a listener, she does a great show. Check her web site, www.Komando.com, for a station in your area. And in her Small Business Center , you'll find a podcast we recorded last time I was out visiting her.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Carbonite Saves One Reporter, Could Have Saved Another

    by Lynnette Nolan | Apr 16, 2009

    Being a well-known technology guru is no guarantee that you're not going to get slammed with the same PC catastrophes that affect the rest of us. cNet's Don Reisinger learned this lesson after doing a demo on how to take apart your iMac and replace the hard drive. Long story short, after spending a significant amount of time and money, he ended up losing most of his files. Here's Don's conclusion for his readers: "I screwed up and it cost me money. Don't let this happen to you. Make sure you back up your files."

    I consider myself to be pretty technically savvy, but a very similar thing happened to me back in 2005. In fact, it was a major factor in the decision to start Carbonite. Like most people, I had an external hard drive and every so often I would back up my PC to the hard drive. The problem, if you're like me, is that you do this religiously for a while, and then the backups get less and less frequent. I travelled a lot back then, and I didn't want to drag the hard drive on the road with me because I didn't want to lose it. When I was home, I was too tired or distracted to connect the hard drive and run a backup. When my hard drive finally crashed, I discovered that it had been three months since my last backup. Worse, I discovered that all the new folders that I had created since originally setting up the backup had not been added to the backup. So I lost nearly everything of value.

    The reason I find online backup so compelling (I truly love it) is that it works ANYWHERE you connect to the Internet. So if I am sitting at Starbucks in the Dallas airport, Carbonite is backing up my work. And I don't know how many people are aware of this, but Carbonite was the first company to offer unlimited backup for a fixed price. The reason we went this route is so that the user wouldn't have to know where their files were stored to add them to their backup. The backup just happens automatically.

    Ed Baig of USA Today recently wrote about how his own personal data loss as part of a larger column on passengers whose laptops were destroyed in the US Airways Flight 1549 emergency landing in the Hudson River. While Ed's data loss wasn't as dramatic of those onboard flight 1549, he luckily was using Carbonite and was easily able to restore his files. Carbonite's restore process is fast — even over a residential DSL, you can get 20-30GBs downloaded in less than a day. Because Ed was using Carbonite, his files were available right away. No waiting to have DVDs shipped in the mail or other similar kluges.

    Has Carbonite saved your bacon, personally or professionally? Let me know your story via e-mail at David (dot) Friend (at) carbonite.com or in the comments.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Further Clarification on Our Lawsuit Against Promise Technologies

    by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 24, 2009

    I would like to further clarify two points with regard to Carbonite’s lawsuit against Promise Technologies:

    1. This event happened over a year ago. We do not say this to minimize the matter. But we do want to point out that this has not happened in a long time and is not an ongoing problem.
    2. The total number of Carbonite customers who were unable to retrieve their data was 54, not 7,500.

    Here is what happened: The Promise servers that we were purchasing in 2006 and 2007 use RAID technology to spread data redundantly across 15 disk drives so that if any one disk drive fails, you don't lose any data. The RAID software that makes all this work is embedded as "firmware" in the storage servers. In this case, we believe that the firmware on the servers had bugs that caused the servers to crash. Carbonite automatically restarted all 7,500 backups and more than 99% of these were completely restored without incident. Statistically, about 2 out of every 1,000 consumer hard drives will crash every week, so 54 of these customers had their PCs crash before their re-started backups were complete. Since they weren’t completely backed up when their PCs crashed, these customers were unable to restore all of their files from Carbonite. Most of the 54 got some or most of their data back. We took full responsibility for what happened and I did my best to call each of these customers personally to apologize.

    As a result of our problems with the Promise servers, we switched to a popular Dell server that uses RAID6 – an improved RAID that allows for the loss of 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.

    So far, Promise has refused to accept responsibility for their equipment’s failures, so now we are suing them to get our money back. The Dell RAID servers have been flawless and we're extremely happy with them. Dave Friend, CEOCarbonite, Inc.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • 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

  • Price Increase - Why Did We Do It?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 19, 2009

    I got an email this morning from a long-time user complaining about our recent price increase: "It's great that you've released Remote Access, but why does that justify a price increase?" As you may know, we recently increased our yearly subscription fee by $5, to $54.95. The simple fact is that the size of our average user's backup is growing by about 3% per month. That's 36% more data every year, and consequently we have to buy 36% more disk space and pay for 36% more bandwidth. Luckily the price of disk storage is also coming down, so we can keep our price increase to just 10% after 3 years. There's a new generation of less expensive 2TB drives coming out later this year that should allow us to hold this price for quite a long time — certainly several years. Meanwhile, we're still 10% less expensive on an annual basis than the companies that are hawking $4.95/mo ($59.40/yr).

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Access Your Backed Up Files from Anywhere

    by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 17, 2009

    Over the weekend we launched Remote Access — an application that lets you access and download your backed up files from any computer with a web browser. This is an application that I have wanted personally for a long time. Last year I was on a business trip to Hong Kong and discovered that a Powerpoint presentation I had put together for one of my meetings had not gotten transferred to my laptop. Luckily, I was able to use the alpha version of Remote Access to download the presentation from the backup of my office desktop computer. What a life-saver!

    The new feature is accessible to all Carbonite users from our home page. Just click the new "Remote Access" tab in the upper right corner of the screen. Once you enter your email address and password, you can navigate through your backed up files and instantly download any of them.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Carbonite Receives Praise from UK Media

    by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 04, 2009

    I wanted to share some great press that Carbonite has gotten lately from the UK. First, Web User, a popular UK magazine, gave us the publication's top Gold Award and 5/5 stars. We beat out all the usual competitors for the Gold.

    In addition to the Gold Award at Web User magazine, we also got kudos from The National Student Guide, Raising Kids, UK Family and Sixtyplusurfers. The staff at Sixtyplusurfers are big fans of Carbonite and have used the service themselves commenting: "I thoroughly advise everyone to use Carbonite. Both myself and Murray [publication editor] at Sixtyplusurfers subscribe to the service and would never be without it. Constantly saving all your work, data, pictures and all your important documents, the service is simple to use and unobtrusive."

    We were also named by Tech Radar as one of the 15 best file synching apps on the planet at number seven.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Yahoo Decides to Unpack Briefcase

    by Lynnette Nolan | Mar 02, 2009

    It looks like yet another "storage in the cloud" service is shuttering — Yahoo Briefcase will be closed down at the end of March, including their paid service, according to an email from Yahoo. This announcement follows close on the heels of AOL's shutdown of xDrive.

    Other similar services, even some that have gotten great reviews, appear to be on life support. My take: there is no business model here. While these services are cool, few people find them compelling enough to pay for them. And the advertising thing hasn't worked either: there was some thought that they could scan your backed up files and try to figure out what advertising to target you with. Not a very attractive idea to most folks.

    So why are hundreds of thousands of people willing to pay for Carbonite? Simple — we solve a real problem. The cost and pain of having your hard drive crash and losing all your financial records, business documents, wedding photos, and so forth, is so high that people will gladly shell out $50 a year to have the problem go away. Storage in the cloud, like Yahoo Briefcase, is not really a backup system. Yes, if you're willing to work at it, you can store files on Yahoo Briefcase. But they are not encrypted, updates are not automatic, it doesn't just work continuously in the background, there is limited capacity so you're always running out of space, there is no client software to check the integrity of the backup, no visual representation of what is backed up, no way to manage your bandwidth so that the backup doesn't drag your computer to its knees, there is no warning to tell you that your backup failed or is out of date, there is no way to easily restore all your files, no help with migrating from XP to Vista, and on and on. Storage in the cloud is, to some extent, a solution looking for a problem. Look for other similar services to pack it in over the next year.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Another Reason to be Wary of External Hard Drives

    by Lynnette Nolan | Feb 24, 2009

    External hard drives definitely have their place for doing backups. But most people don't realize that inexpensive consumer-grade hard drives fail just as frequently as the hard drives built into their computers. And, if they are right next to your computer, they will typically share its fate in the event of theft, fire, power surges, etc. Now here's another thing to worry about: firmware bugs.

    IDG news service reported last month that several models of Seagate's popular Barracuda and DiamondMax external hard drives have faulty firmware that is causing the hard drives to "freeze" under certain conditions. The article that I read refers to this condition as "bricked," a term I hadn't run across before but which is amusingly descriptive of what you can do with a frozen hard drive. Seagate is a great company, so I'm sure they'll fix this problem, but there's only so much you can do when there is a single point of failure.

    As I've said in the past, any single hard drive is going to be much more vulnerable to data loss than the RAID arrays that Carbonite uses (which are 36,000,000 times more reliable than a single hard drive because of redundancy). So while external drives are a good and inexpensive way to store big files such as ripped movies or TV shows, I wouldn't consider them safe enough to store my irreplaceable photos or financial records.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Can you believe 2 billion files restored!

    by Lynnette Nolan | Feb 18, 2009

    Every so often I get a briefing from our operations staff on data center statistics. Last week, I learned one number that startled even me: as of Jan 20th, we had restored over 2 billion files for our customers. I assume that most of these files would have been lost if they had not had Carbonite. Also, Carbonite's restore process has been extremely reliable. You'd think with that many files being restored that there would be some that are lost or corrupt. While these kinds of problems occurred once in a while when we were young, it doesn't seem to happen anymore. The RAID disk arrays that we use to store your data are 36 million times more reliable than the hard drive in your computer. That's one reason that online backup is far more reliable than a cheap external hard drive.

    But this reliability has not completely eliminated restore issues. Even though the Carbonite service works flawlessly, data restores are still an issue with Customer Support. There are basically three problems: First, some programs, notably Outlook and Quicken, don't automatically find the restored files. So it's not uncommon for us to get calls complaining that they did a restore and they didn't get their Outlook file back. It is in fact there on your computer, but you have to go into Outlook to connect to it.

    The second problem is that Carbonite defaults to backing up your Documents and Settings folder, and all subfolders. If you stick files somewhere else, such as in your Programs folder, they won't get backed up unless you tell Carbonite to do so. This is true of any backup you do, whether online or using an external hard drive or flash drive. If you don't back up the file in the first place, you won't be able to restore it when your computer dies. That's why we put the little green dots on folders and files – it makes it easy to see what is backed up and what is not.

    The third problem relates to restoring files that were backed up from an XP computer onto a new Vista computer. Vista and XP don't have the same folders. We came up with a very nice "wizard" that helps you decide how you want to migrate your old XP folders to your new Vista machine. If you have to do this kind of restore, use the wizard! Some people just ignore it and then their folders are all over the place and they can't find them. BTW, Carbonite is still the only backup service that has addressed this problem.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Think You're Safe Backing Up to an External Hard Drive or Second Computer?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Feb 10, 2009

    The Sunday New York Times had this little story regarding one of the passengers on the US Air flight that crashed into the Hudson River:

    When US Airways Flight 1549 went into the Hudson River last month, it gave William Wiley, an engineer at Software Associates, a new meaning for the term "computer crash."

    Mr. Wiley was on his way home to Johnson, Tenn., from the company's headquarters on Long Island. He had years of work on his laptop, carefully backed up on another laptop — but both were on the plane with him.

    Now the two laptops are among approximately 50,000 passenger items that a mortuary company has frozen, in refrigerated trucks, to preserve them until they can be dried, cleaned and returned to their owners."

    This particular situation is not likely to happen to anyone, but you can imagine innumerable similar circumstances. The more frequent event is that someone breaks into your house or car and steals your computer and the external backup drive sitting next to it. We hear stories like that all the time.

    In any event, the US Air story, like the California wildfire stories last Fall, all mount up to a compelling reason to backup online where the data is safe from all these hazards.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Ask a Carbonista: How Do I Know the Files on Carbonite's Servers Really Match My Files?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Feb 03, 2009

    I found this question on Twitter. Short answer: Carbonite checks this in the background using something called a checksum. As amazing as it sounds, about every 90 days Carbonite goes through every one of the roughly 25 billion files we have backed up and checks to make sure that the file in our backup still matches what's on your PC bit for bit.

    If you are still feeling nervous, try this: Pick any backed up file on your PC (it will have a green dot on it if it's backed up with Carbonite). Delete it. Now open the Carbonite Backup Drive from the icon on your desktop. Find the file you just deleted – the status column will say "Right-click to restore latest backup copy (Original file deleted)." Right-click on the file, and select "Restore." In a few seconds, you'll see a Carbonite pop-up saying that the file has been restored. Go back to your C: drive and open the restored file. You'll see that it's perfect. I'm sure this is true of every file on you've backed up with Carbonite.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Carbonite's Disclosure Policy

    by Lynnette Nolan | Jan 27, 2009

    David Pogue recently posted an article regarding some online reviews from 2006 that were authored by, but not attributed to ,Carbonite employees.

    As we were just emerging as a company at that time, we did not have specific policies in place regarding employee engagement in reviews. In 2007, we put these policies into place to reflect our commitment to disclosure and transparency online. Since that time, I believe Carbonite employees have been scrupulous about following our policies. Carbonite employees are quite active on the blogs and know that they are to identify their Carbonite affiliation. We’re making sure that any old posts from 2006 are removed and apologize if anyone was misled by them.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Online Backup or Local Backup? Sometimes Both.

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 16, 2008

    Last week, a user posted on her blog: Are there any real advantages to a Windows Home Server other than remote access and backing up multimedia?

    One respondent said it was just a "NAS with a fancy menu." Even though the blogger already has Carbonite, a NAS or some kind of local or network backup can make some sense. I don’t see Home Server as competition. I see it as complimentary.

    I was recently talking to one of our users who was concerned that his initial backup was taking too long. Turns out he had over 200GBs of TV shows that he'd recorded and he was backing them up on Carbonite. Using his DSL connection, it's probably going to take him several months to back up all that stuff and meanwhile his business documents (Word and Excel primarily) are waiting in the queue and could be lost if his computer crashed in the meantime. When I asked him how important the TV shows were, his answer was "I really don't care about the TV shows. If I lost them, it wouldn't be the end of the world."

    My suggestion: If there are REALLY BIG files that have relatively low value, back them up locally. If you have small files that are high value, back them up on Carbonite. When the important files are safe and sound, then you can back up the other stuff. Most people never bother to learn how to select what they do and don't want to back up with Carbonite. It's pretty simple (just right click on the folder with the TV shows and select Carbonite – don't back this up). Local backup, of course, is a lot faster than backing up over the Internet. But, as you can see from the post about my son's fire, local backup does have certain limitations.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Homemade DVDs: Going, Going, Gone?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 15, 2008

    Think backing up to DVDs is a good idea? Not in the opinion of David Pogue, the technology columnist for the New York Times. I hadn't thought about this, but holy smokes! Here's an excerpt from his Dec. 10th post:

    Homemade DVD’s: Going, Going, Gone?

    Jeez Louise. A conference organizer asked if I could put together a DVD loop of my funniest Web videos, to play in the registration area while attendees stand in line. No problem, I thought: I've got all of the original iMovie projects backed up on DVD, in clear cases, neatly arrayed in a drawer next to my desk. (My hard drive wasn't big enough to hold those 50 videos a year.) Guess what? On the Mac I use for video editing, most of the DVD's were unreadable. They're less than four years old! … I know, of course, that home-burned DVD's, which rely on organic dye that deteriorates with time, are nowhere near as long-lived as commercially pressed discs. But man. Four years? Scared the bejeezus out of me. I've been told by experts that the gold DVD blanks can indeed last 100 years. Guess I'll be trying that next!

    So even if you can find the DVDs (would surely be a problem in my messy office) and they don't get scratched or destroyed, they may just be completely unreadable. Another reason to back up online.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Is Backup a Security Product or a Storage Product?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 11, 2008

    Following up on my comments on Microsoft OneCare, I'd be interested to have you put on your wizard hats and tell me how the world is going to view companies like Carbonite five years hence. One scenario is that backup will be considered as part of the data security industry, and will be merged into anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware, and the like. Another view is that backup will be one of a number of data storage-related products, such as archiving, local backup, bare metal restore, smart document storage, and so forth. A third scenario is that backup is just such a big opportunity in itself (after all, there are 700 million Internet-connected PCs out there) that you can build a very large company doing nothing but online backup.

    The first scenario suggests that backup companies will eventually be gobbled up by the anti-virus companies, just as Symantec acquired Swapdrive (now part of the Norton 360 suite). The second scenario is that backup is about storage, and the EMC acquisition of Mozy would argue that direction. They are already making noises about bundling backup with other storage products, such as Iomega. The third is that none of these guys will have the focus to do a really exceptional job at online backup, and well-funded pure-play companies like Carbonite will build brand and distribution and a new category will emerge dominated by pure-play vendors.

    Anyone care to comment?

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Microsoft Pulls the Plug on Windows Live OneCare

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 20, 2008

    Microsoft announced yesterday that they were "throwing in the towel" on their Live OneCare service which included a backup service. According to the web site, "data are continuously protected—automatically backed up on-schedule to a single location I specify."

    This announcement comes on the heels of AOL shuttering its xDrive backup service and several smaller competitors biting the dust. Meanwhile Carbonite continues to grow at double-digit month-over-month rates. And we think at least one of our "pure play" competitors is also enjoying substantial growth. So what's going on here?

    I think it's a matter of focus. Some vendors seem to think that backing up your PC isn't enough. You ought to throw in anti-virus, firewall, syncing PCs and mobile devices, sharing photos with friends and family, and many other "features." Most of these products seem to be dead or on life support.

    Everyone knows they should be backing up their PCs. It's a big and immediate problem. Most of these other features are things that the user already has or are simply a "nice to have" for some subset of users (often younger users who tend to not want to pay for such things). When you have all these other features to sell, it dilutes the important message that you need to be backing up your computer. And because most of them have so many features to support, they don't do a particularly good job at any of them. We're content just to do a spectacularly good job at backup (if I do say so myself). In five years, I believe half the world's PCs will be backing up online. If we want to continue to be number one in this market, we really have to focus and do a better job than anyone else.

    I think Microsoft has found that their expertise at writing software does not automatically translate into an ability to run a rock-solid backup service. When we were out raising our first rounds of venture capital a couple of years ago, I was told repeatedly by investors that Microsoft was going to enter this market and crush us. What has been demonstrated time and again is that if you focus on doing one job exceptionally well and if you're motivated to the point where you’re life depends on it, no big corporation can keep you down.

    CEO, Carbonite

  • Carbonite: For Dummies?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Oct 24, 2008

    According to a recently released survey by Compuware, most data loss is attributable to either user negligence or malice. Only 1% of data loss is due to hackers. I loved the headline on this story: "3/4 idiots, 1/4 bitterness."

    I have to confess to being part of the "idiot" crowd. Three weeks ago I left my laptop sitting on my seat when I got off the train in New York. I remembered it just in time to see my train, with laptop still aboard, disappearing down the track. Except for occasionally recovering individual files that I accidentally delete or overwrite, I haven't actually had a PC disaster since starting Carbonite 3 years ago. So, aside from the pain of having to buy a new laptop, it was fun to use my own product to get everything back. I was really proud of how well it worked.

    What I don't see in the Compuware survey is data lost to hard drive failure. For some reason this doesn't show up in the survey, even though I will bet you that it tops all the other categories. We use a LOT of hard drives in our data center, and our statistics show that roughly 3% of all hard drives will fail each year. That's why we use RAID arrays which are 36 million times more reliable than a single drive. Google also publishes their disk failure rate, and it's roughly the same as ours. Hard drives are a data disaster waiting to happen, in our experience. That's why you need a LOT of redundancy in your data storage architecture, as we do. We store our customers' encrypted data on 16 drive arrays. We would have to lose 3 of the 16 drives simultaneously AND your PC would have to crash all at the same time before any data is lost. When you figure the odds of this happening, it's very very close to zero.

    I hope you never leave your laptop on Amtrak, but if you do, you'll be glad you've got Carbonite.

    CEO, Carbonite