• Accountants: Resolve to Create a Better Backup Plan in 2013

    by Lynnette Nolan | Jan 02, 2013
    As a small business owner, your New Year's resolutions might include optimizing your business or running a more efficient practice. But what about creating a preparedness plan to safeguard your business critical data – including clients' financial, taxes and contact information – should the unthinkable occur?

    Register for free today and join Carbonite's Pete Lamson, on January 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm EST for a webinar covering:
    • Why protecting your data matters to your business
    • What your business continuity and disaster plan should include
    • Ideas on how to create a plan to help ensure your business can continue operating should a disaster – natural, technical or otherwise – strike
    In addition to learning everything you need to know to get your own DIY data backup plan up and running, we'll also be providing a special offer to the accountants who join our webinar!

    We all head into a new year with the best intentions. Clients place their trust in you to ensure their fiscal health. Place your trust in Carbonite to ensure your business' success by protecting your clients' records.

    Cheers to a happy, healthy and successful 2013 for you and your business!
  • Ask a Carbonista: What are Best Practices for Backing Up My External Hard Drives Connected?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 20, 2012
    We know our customers have different backup needs, which is why we offer a variety of plans with different features and capabilities. And one of our popular features is external hard drive backup.

    Whatever plan you have, you can rest assured that your backed up data is safe in the cloud with Carbonite! But it’s important to understand the difference between backup and storage – especially if your plan includes external hard drive backup.

    Carbonite's automatic, continuous backup means that, after the initial backup of your data, files are backed up within 10 minutes of the first change and within 24 hours of subsequent changes. But if your device is disconnected for an extended period of time, the Carbonite software will assume you no longer want that data and those files are deleted from our servers.

    Staying connected is easy when you’re backing up a computer – in most cases, whenever the computer is on, it’s online (and connected to Carbonite!). But for those backing up their external hard drive, it’s important to remember to keep those devices connected to ensure enough time for the backup to occur. Frequently unplugging or disconnecting an external hard drive could mean an incomplete or unsuccessful backup.

    Whether you’re backing up your home laptop, work desktop or external hard drive (or all three!), we want to make your experience as simple and stress-free as possible! So if you ever have questions about the status of your backup – or your external device’s connectivity – you can reach out to our support team.
  • A Packing Plan Means Less Travel Trouble!

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 17, 2012

    We've all heard the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination.” But when it comes to holiday travel, we want that journey to be as easy as possible! We've got you covered with our Anytime Anywhere Access, so we figured we'd share some tips to help you prepare for other facets of your trip... like packing.

    There are as many packing styles as there are holiday travelers. But, whether you wait until last minute to throw items in a duffle bag or you meticulously lay things out for weeks, we’re all familiar with that pang of fear that inevitably strikes once we've hit the road.

    USA Today compiled 10 tips to help you avoid the wave of panic that washes over you as you wonder if that one item you can’t live without – even for a weekend – made it into your suitcase.

    If you’re a jet-setter, make sure your essentials are stored in your carry-on where you can easily access them at any point in your trip. And you can fit more essentials in your carry-on by opting to travel with a tote bag instead of a purse or small laptop carrier. Know you’ll be stuffed into your grandparents’ closet-sized guest room upon arrival? Pack dual-purpose items that take up less space – in your suitcase and at your final destination.

    When you’re armed with a packing plan, the journey is a little less daunting. And when you can enjoy being at the destination (with all your essential items), holiday travel can be fun again!

  • Calling All Affiliates: Promote Carbonite Business, Earn Commissions of 30%!

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 13, 2012

    The Carbonite Affiliate team has announced an exciting new change to our affiliate program! Now, in addition to the Carbonite Home product, we’re offering affiliates the opportunity to promote Carbonite Business!

    Comprised of two plans – Business and Business Premier – our business product is designed to meet the needs of small business customers. Unlike other backup plans that charge per computer, our SMB customers pay a flat annual rate for simple, secure cloud backup.

    Product Highlights:

    • Automatic Once installed, Carbonite Business automatically backs up an unlimited number of computers, external hard drives and NAS devices – no matter where those devices are located – in real time and in the background.
    • Accessible Whether employees are in the office or on the road, they can access their backed up files from any internet-connected computer, smartphone or iPad with a free Carbonite app.
    • Affordable Business – For just $229/year, customers receive 250 GB of backup space to share between an unlimited number of computers, external hard drives and NAS devices. Business Premier – For $599/year, customers receive 500 GB of storage space to share between an unlimited number of computers, external hard drives, NAS devices and Windows servers.

    Carbonite Business offers backup solutions that small businesses need! Don’t miss the opportunity to earn promote an industry-leading brand! Our program boasts 30% commission levels, meaning our affiliates can earn $180 on Business Premier plan sales! We’re invested in your success, so in addition to new links and banners, we've created a buy-direct landing page for your customers to by-pass the 30-day trial – a move that sets you up to start earning commissions immediately!

    Current affiliates can start promoting today by logging into your Commission Junction account at www.cj.com and manually accepting your new Special Terms and Conditions. If you’re already promoting Carbonite Home, make sure to accept the new Special Terms and Conditions by January 11th, 2013 to maintain your relationship with Carbonite. If you’d like to become an affiliate and start earning commissions for promoting a leading cloud solutions provider, visit our website and submit an application to join the affiliate program.

    If you have any questions, our team is ready to assist – just reach out to us at affiliates@carbonite.com.

  • Ask a Carbonista: How Do I Transfer a Subscription?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 06, 2012

    The simple answer: Simply!

    We know you have better things to do than stay chained to your screen dealing with a clunky install process, so we've made it easy to transfer your Carbonite subscription from your old device to your new one, as long as they are computers with the same platform.

    Just log in to your Carbonite account on your new computer, and click Transfer Subscription.

    Carbonite will instruct you how to complete the transfer and download Carbonite to your new computer. Once installed, you’ll have the option to restore all backed up files from your old computer to your new one with the Restore Manager.

    You can also chose to select certain files and folders to restore, or you can start fresh without restoring any files from your old computer. But don’t forget – if you chose not to restore all the files that were backed up from your old computer, they will be deleted from Carbonite's servers after 30 days.

    It only takes a few minutes to transfer your Carbonite subscription and make sure your data is protected when you decide to make a switch!

  • Insights on Zmanda from SVP of Engineering, Oussama El-Hilali

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 04, 2012

    Last month, we announced the acquisition of Zmanda. Today, I would like to talk to you about how Zmanda's solutions complement Carbonite's cloud backup offerings and the potential integration can bring to your business.

    Small businesses today have ranked their business data as their most valuable asset – even more than their business’ inventory or their physical office, so we all know that backing up is a must. So as more and more small businesses rely on applications to run their daily operations, the need to back up databases is a fundamental requirement in the selection of their backup application. And of course, businesses also need to look at the reliability of the backup and the ability to restore from it at a reasonable speed. In addition to safeguarding critical business information, these needs have made the choice for the right backup application very important but also a bit more complex.

    Carbonite's backup solutions offer continuous backup to the cloud with offerings for both Home/Home Office and Business – very well suited for desktops, laptops and mobile devices, and we also have options for NAS devices, external hard drives and Windows Servers. With Carbonite Mobile apps, users can access and browse their backed up data in the cloud using a web browser, and can monitor, share or even restore their backup to other devices.

    Zmanda provides a schedule-based backup with options to do full, incremental and differential backup that can be local or to the cloud or both. And this functionality is not limited to the file system, but rather, expands into database backup – key for many small businesses. Competitors who treat databases like files often have complicated restores. But with the choice local or cloud backup, Carbonite offers a significant advantage to our customers.

    In choosing their backup application, one of the problems that many small businesses come across is the ability to backup their file servers, database servers and desktops/laptops using one vendor. Today, this is possible with the combination of Carbonite and Zmanda solutions.

    With a common set of monitoring tools the solution can provide ease of management and administration. We invite you to help us design these monitoring tools by sending your thoughts and comments to ZmandaFeedback@carbonite.com.

  • Stress-Free Shopping for the Toughest One on Your Gift List

    by Lynnette Nolan | Dec 03, 2012

    Does it seem like there's always someone on your gift list that gets tougher to buy for every year? You aren't alone! No matter how many gift guides we see – and some of them are pretty fantastic – the perfect gift always seems to elude us. Why can't everything be as easy as automatic backup?!

    As the weeks until our gift exchanges dwindle down, it seems like each Monday is more manic than the last. So we figured it was time to trade the holiday shopping stress in for fun!

    If you're like our social media specialist, Dad may the toughest nut to crack when it comes to finding a perfect present. Observer and Eccentric even says, "finding great gifts for guys is an art." Unfortunately, many of us here feel more like finger painters than impressionists this time of year. So we read a little further and found some great ideas we hope will inspire you to deliver a thrill to each of your gift recipients!

    Our favorite suggestion to help with shopping is incredibly simple but so often overlooked: just ask!

    Of course when you ask your recipient-to-be what's on their wish list the answer is invariably, "I don't know." Sometimes we just need a little help figuring out what direction to head in – and often times all we have to do is ask for a little help. Sending a text to your husband's best friend or an email to your father's golf buddy might provide the tidbit that points your shopping cart in the right direction! 

    We hope these shopping tips help you as much as they're helping us this season!

  • Ask a Carbonista: How Do I Share Some Peace of Mind?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 29, 2012

    To our customers, Carbonite is more than a backup service – we’re also a provider of peace of mind!

    Did you know you that you can give the gift of a Carbonite subscription through your account? Giving a Carbonite gift subscription is easy and convenient. If you like to get your holiday shopping out of the way sooner rather than later, you can buy today and schedule an email to be sent to your recipient on Christmas. Or, if you’re a last minute scrambler, you can simply log in, order and send away!

    If you’re planning to send the kids back to school with a new laptop after winter break, surprise them on the first day of spring semester with an email saying they've received a year – or two or three! – of easy, automatic cloud backup.

    Let your loved ones know that you've got their back(up) and spread some peace (of mind) on earth!

  • Buy 5 Subscriptions, Get 1 Free: Become a Carbonite Reseller!

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 27, 2012

    Have you considered becoming a Carbonite authorized reseller? With our new special offer, there's no better time than now to begin offering your clients the better backup plan!

    In addition to the extensive benefits inherent to becoming a Carbonite authorized reseller – partnership with a nationally-recognized brand, multiple plan offerings, easy customer management, preferred pricing and recurring revenue – for a limited time, you'll also earn a free subscription for every five plans you sell!

    Customers want the cloud and they expect their IT experts to provide these solutions. Become part of a fast-growing network of IT service providers – like PC DOCtectives and Corvallis Technical – who are already successfully selling the better backup plan to their clients.

    To join the program and start growing your business with the cloud, contact the Carbonite Reseller Team today by calling 877-391-4759 or emailing resellers@carbonite.com

  • Cleaning House

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 19, 2012

    Here at Carbonite we understand the value of simplicity. We certainly didn't become the better backup plan by making things complicated!

    Since Carbonite is automatically backing up your devices, we thought our blog was a good place to offer some of our favorite tips to help simplify other facets of your life too. Because if you're anything like us, you've got a dozen tasks to complete sometime between now and when you toss the turkey into the oven.

    Something top of mind for us this week is getting the house ready for guests. Sure our digital lives are organized, but to be honest, it seems like housekeeping is always a permanent item on our list – anytime of the year!

    With Thanksgiving week here, we know some of you will be dedicating Wednesday to cleaning the house top-to-bottom, while some of you may be scrambling to get things together up until the moment your guests start pouring in like gravy. This Real Simple article has cleaning tips for every time constraint scenario – for every room in the house. We're definitely going to tackle our kitchens first and we love the idea of using an all-purpose cleaner to mop without the mess!

  • Five Tips for Small Businesses to Stay Ahead: #5

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 16, 2012

    Carbonite SVP of Cloud Backup Pete Lamson is sharing his top five tips for busy professionals to stay connected with their industry in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week. You can check out previous tips here:

    Tip #1: Check out a webinar

    Tip #2: Attend an industry event

    Tip #3: Connect with your community

    Tip #4: Step up your social networking

    Tip #5: Scan industry news

     

    Take a few minutes a day to browse industry news from your favorite media outlets. Some publications produce newsletters that can be emailed to you daily or weekly. You don’t have to read every word every day, but you may find that you enjoy having something to read that’s related to your profession when you find yourself waiting in line, on public transportation or early for a meeting. I subscribe to emails from a range of sources, such as SMBNation and SearchSMBStorage and follow blogs including New York Times’ You’re the Boss and SmallBizTrends.

    These tips are just a few ways you can stay connected to other professionals in your field. If you’re interested in how technology can help your small business, start a free 30-day trial, visit www.carbonite.com, call the Carbonite business team at 1-855-CARB-BIZ (1-855-227-2249) or email business@carbonite.com for a no-cost consultation on backing up your business. Use code ENTWEEK to get two free bonus months when you purchase a subscription to Carbonite Business (Offer expires November 30, 2012).

  • Give Yourself the Gift of Organization

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 15, 2012
    With the holidays upon us, people are gathering for dinners, Yankee swaps and – of course – holiday parties, and memories are made and saved with the flash of your camera (which is often your smartphone!).

    So we have a special tip to help you preserve these holiday memories. Between shopping and scrambling, cooking and cleaning, the holidays can be stressful enough... why not give yourself the gift of organization this year?

    Of course, you’re already diligently backing up all of your digital holiday memories with Carbonite, but are those images organized and readily accessible for you to print and show off? One of the best parts of capturing these moments is knowing that you’ll get to relive them every time you flip or scroll through your albums.

    That’s where the professionals at Appo come in.

    Appo members are certified professionals who work with their clients to sort, catalogue, and edit once-scattered pictures to create photo narratives and albums. If you've got folders full of digital pictures that you have no idea what to do with, get in touch with an Appo member in your area.

    But what about those pictures from holidays past, before Black Friday was ruled by digital camera deals? The folks at FotoBridge can help you scan and digitize all the holiday prints that have – until now – been banished to the junk drawer with all the re-gifts you've collected throughout the years.

    With a little help from the pros, you can limit your holiday photography stresses to posing the kids and snapping candids around the dessert table.
  • Five Tips for Small Businesses to Stay Ahead: #4

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 15, 2012

    Carbonite SVP of Cloud Backup Pete Lamson is sharing his top five tips for busy professional to stay connected with their industry in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week. You can check out previous tips here:

    Tip #1: Check out a webinar

    Tip #2: Attend an industry event

    Tip #3: Connect with your community

    Tip #4: Step up your social networking

    Facebook is helpful for keeping in touch with friends and interacting with your favorite brands, but there are a number of other communities that promote education and news specific to an industry. LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for professional groups for nearly any industry, and there are industry-specific communities like Spiceworks (for IT professionals) where people can share insights, ask questions and interact with likeminded professionals.

    These tips are just a few ways you can stay connected to other professionals in your field. If you’re interested in how technology can help your small business, start a free 30-day trial, visit www.carbonite.com, call the Carbonite business team at 1-855-CARB-BIZ (1-855-227-2249) or email business@carbonite.com for a no-cost consultation on backing up your business. Use code ENTWEEK to get two free bonus months when you purchase a subscription to Carbonite Business (Offer expires November 30, 2012).

  • Give Thanks, Win Carbonite

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 14, 2012

    It's hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is next week! We know you have a lot on your plate (and we aren't talking turkey) so we've launched a fun, easy-to-enter contest on Facebook to give you a reprieve from holiday stress – all you have to do is give a little thanks!

    For the next two weeks, we'll have a Thanksgiving-themed question for you. Each week, 10 lucky voters will win a free year of Carbonite for themselves and another year to give to the person they're most thankful for. Plus, one grand prize winner will receive a $250 Amazon Gift Card!

    Almost everyone expects a plump, juicy turkey in front of them on Thanksgiving. And if you've got relatives like ours, they'll be anxiously awaiting an email full of the festive photos you took and uploaded to your laptop after dessert.

    But what if something went horribly wrong?! This week, we're wondering if you'd be more thankful not frying the turkey, or not frying the laptop?

    We told you it would be easy! So while you're scouring the web for delicious side recipes or hints about the best Black Friday deals, take a minute to stop by our Facebook page, give us a like and vote for your choice.

    Be sure to check back on Monday for next week's question and a fresh chance at winning!

  • Five Tips for Small Businesses to Stay Ahead: #3

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 14, 2012

    Carbonite SVP of Cloud Backup Pete Lamson is sharing his top five tips for busy professionals to stay connected with their industry in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week. You can check out previous tips here:

    Tip #1: Check out a webinar

    Tip #2: Attend an industry event

    Tip #3: Connect with your community

    Getting involved with an organization like your local chamber of commerce or small business council can offer many benefits. Becoming an advocate for your business community will allow you to work with influential business leaders and play a role in local economic development. Community organizations often put on educational events for members, which can include panels, roundtables and networking nights.

    Use code ENTWEEK to get two free bonus months when you purchase a subscription to Carbonite Business (Offer expires November 30, 2012).

  • Five Tips for Small Businesses to Stay Ahead: #2

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 13, 2012

    Carbonite SVP of Cloud Backup Pete Lamson is sharing his top five tips for busy professionals to stay connected with their industry in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week. You can check out

    Tip #1: Check out a webinar

    Tip #2: Attend an industry event

     

    If you’re looking to actually leave your office, industry events are a great place to learn from and network with others in your field. You can find listings for upcoming events in a variety of places, including professional association websites, media outlets, and event directories that let you search by keyword and location, like Eventbrite. You may find it valuable to attend both industry-specific events (for fields such as accounting, real estate, law or IT) and broader business events, such as the NY Business Expo — where Carbonite will be presenting on November 15 — or Entrepreneur Week.

    Use code ENTWEEK to get two free bonus months when you purchase a subscription to Carbonite Business (Offer expires November 30, 2012).

  • Five Tips for Small Businesses to Stay Ahead: #1

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 12, 2012

    As SVP of Cloud Backup at Carbonite, I spend a lot of time speaking to small businesses about the challenges they are facing. The one that I hear over and over again is that there’s just not enough time to get everything done. While I can help ensure small businesses are able to back up their data without having to take any time away from their work, nothing can add hours to the day (though I’m sure it’s being worked on in some lab right now!)

    When you’re running your own business, it can seem like you don’t have time to catch your breath, much less take the time for professional development. But one of the responsibilities of leading a business is keeping up to date with the newest trends and developments in your industry. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, I’ve compiled five tips that will help busy leaders stay connected to their industry. I’ll share one each day this week:

    Tip #1: Check out a webinar

    Webinars are a great way to learn about best practices, new solutions and trends without ever having to leave your desk. No matter your interest, there’s probably a webinar for you. Look for free live webinars that allow participants to ask the panelists questions after the information is presented. Carbonite has an ongoing educational webinar series that covers such topics as disaster preparedness, backing up in a HIPAA-compliant office and end-of-year planning.

    These tips are just a few ways you can stay connected to other professionals in your field. If you’re interested in how technology can help your small business, start a free 30-day trial, visit www.carbonite.com, call the Carbonite business team at 1-855-CARB-BIZ or email business@carbonite.com for a no-cost consultation on backing up your business. Use code ENTWEEK to get two free bonus months when you purchase a subscription to Carbonite Business (Offer expire November 30, 2012).

  • Ask a Carbonista: How Do I Manage My Private Encryption Key?

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 08, 2012

    To make backing up as simple as possible for our busy business customers, Carbonite manages your private encryption key by default so that you only have to remember your user name and password.

    But we understand that different industries have different needs, and for those in the medical field, HIPAA requirements play a significant role in devising backup plans. To help our customers with their compliance efforts, Windows users have the option to manage their own private encryption keys. Managing your own private encryption key adds an extra layer of privacy and, because only you have the required key, it means that Carbonite cannot access your backup.

    If you're a small business who needs to adhere to HIPAA's privacy standards, here are some tips to ensure the encryption key you manage is safe and accessible to you:

    • Store the private encryption key in a secure location
    • Keep copies in two locations – like an external hard drive in a safe in your office and on a flash drive in a safety deposit box at a local bank
    • Share details on where the key is stored with at least one other trustworthy person who is also authorized to access your backed up data.

    Both Business and Home users can rest assured that their data and backup is secure and encrypted even if you aren't managing your own key. But for those businesses that need to adhere to HIPAA's privacy rules, it can help in your efforts to comply! Not sure if managing your key is right for your business? Give our knowledgeable sales team a call. They're always here to help!

    Want to learn more about how Carbonite's cloud solutions can aid your SMB's HIPAA compliance efforts? Register now for our free November 16th webinar!

  • Insights from Dave Friend: Why Zmanda is a Great Fit

    by Lynnette Nolan | Nov 01, 2012
    This week, Carbonite completed the acquisition of Zmanda - a leader in database and server backup (both to local media and to the cloud). I want to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on why this is so exciting.

    Last summer we launched Carbonite Business, a version of Carbonite specifically tailored to small businesses.  It includes features that businesses were asking for like remote access, NAS backup, and file backup for Windows Server.  And we made the pricing simple: unlimited number of computers sharing 250GBs of storage (or 500GBs for the Premier version).  

    While Carbonite Business does a great job of backing up computers and all their files, we did not attempt to backup production databases, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, Exchange, MySQL and others.  In talking to our customers and resellers, they made it very clear that backing up production databases was such a mission critical job that they would be very careful about adopting a new and untested solution.  So building a database product ourselves didn’t seem like the right solution.  Yet I knew that there were many customers and resellers who wanted to get both PC backup and Server backup from one vendor.  

    When I met the CEO of Zmanda, a well-respected and established player in database server backup, I found they had the opposite problem – they did a great job of backing up servers, but since they didn’t offer continuous online computer backup like we do, they also wanted to provide a more complete solution.  That’s when we decided it would make a great deal of sense for Carbonite to acquire Zmanda.  I installed Zmanda on my home server and I was impressed with how simple it was to use, even though server backup can be pretty technical stuff.  And the pricing for Zmanda is a fraction of what similar functionality would cost from the leading legacy vendors.  

    Zmanda is based on an open source backup system originally developed at the University of Maryland and is still one of the most widely used backup systems in academic and government data centers.  The Zmanda team saw an opportunity to provide professional support for Amanda and to create proprietary extensions for popular commercial databases and operating systems.  Zmanda has since taken primary responsibility for supporting the open source Amanda code, and they estimate that prior to their taking it over the open source community had already contributed over 200 man-years of development.  This is a very robust and mature product.  

    Today, Zmanda is the sole commercial version of Amanda, which is now running on over one million systems and is one of the most widely used server backup systems in the world.  It was also one of the first server backup companies to recognize the value of the cloud.  So it is indeed a great fit with Carbonite.   

    As we integrate the two products in coming months, we’ll be able to deliver an unparalleled range of cloud backup solutions to small businesses. Small businesses can have all their backup needs met by one company.  We’ve already started the process of training our Boston sales team and our customer support team in Maine on the Zmanda product line.  

    If you are running nearly any SQL database or are running your own email server using Microsoft Exchange, please give us a call so that you can learn how Carbonite can now save you money and make your life simpler.  Feel free to contact us at 1-855-CARB-BIZ (1-855-227-2249) or BusinessTeam@carbonite.com, or if you’re a reseller, contact us at 1-877-391-4759 or resellers@carbonite.com.    

    Regards, 
    Dave Friend, CEO

  • The Buzz Over Big Data: Thoughts from Dave Friend

    by Lynnette Nolan | Oct 30, 2012

    I presented last week at Xconomy's BIG DATA Forum.  It wasn't until after I accepted that I realized I didn't know what the term big data actually means.  So I turned to Wikipedia to find out.  According to Wikipedia, "The term big data is a buzzword, and is frequently misused to mean any form of large-scale data or information processing."  Well, that explains why I was invited to speak.  "Large-scale data" is Carbonite in a nutshell.  I wouldn't use the term "big data" for Carbonite.  We're more like "Extremely Large Data" or "gigundous amounts of data."

    Big data is far from a new idea, of course.  Regression analysis, one of the first mathematical treatments of data sets, was described by the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss in the early 1800s.  Back in the early 1990s, I was CEO of a company in Cambridge called Pilot Software and we did what at that time was called Data Mining.  Our flagship product was a multidimensional database that was especially good at slicing and dicing very large transactional databases looking for patterns and anomalies.  It was used by companies like McDonald's and JCPenney to uncover nuggets of useful management information in the vast quantities transactional data produced by their cash registers.  There are many other buzzwords that have come and gone as well, including business intelligence, data analytics, decision support, data dredging and so on.

    So I had to ask myself, what's makes big data different from the "data mining" I was doing more than a decade ago.  As far as I can tell, it's mostly a matter of quantity, with data now coming from all kinds of devices and places, not just cash registers.

    So, just why does big data warrant a new buzzword?  I can think of three reasons: 1) it's probably harder to raise venture capital for a data mining company these days, 2) maybe it helps IT professionals justify bigger budgets, and 3) of course, how could you organize a successful conference without a new buzzword? ;)

    Personally, I appreciate that Google can use big data to serve up an ad for something I might actually find interesting or that Netflix knows that I might prefer Steven Hawking to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  But I'd be cautious about all the hype about big data because it's is no substitute for judgment.  Judgment is actually the ultimate form of big data.  You are taking a lifetime of experiences and applying them in a very sophisticated way to predict what's going to happen in the future.  For example, with all the data that's available in the financial markets, with computers making millisecond high velocity trades, MIT-trained physicists and mathematicians laboring away in the bowels of Goldman Sachs,  there is still no way to replace a Peter Lynch or a Warren Buffet.

    The stuff we do with computers is trivial by comparison.  This morning when I was eating breakfast, my cat leapt a good six feet from the sink to the table and landed perfectly right between my newspaper and the cereal bowl.  I thought, wow, now that's big data at work.  Think of the accumulated experience and judgment that it took to pull that off.  Think of the enormous quantity of visual data, the 3D image processing, the billions of neurons, the precise muscle control, the knowledge that if you land on the newspaper it's going to slide, and the knowledge that if you land on my cereal bowl you're going to get whacked.  That's big data and it's humbling.

    So that brought me back to what was I doing talking about big data? Is Carbonite really big data or just ‘a lot of data'?  Well, according to another definition I found on the web, "Big data involves the extraction of useful insight from volumes of data so large that traditional database tools cannot handle the workload."   Well, we would certainly qualify on to "too large for traditional database" front.  In fact, we get over 300 million new files every day.  And we add around a petabyte of storage every couple of weeks.  I doubt that very many companies in New England have more data than Carbonite. 

    But as for the "insights," well, the whole idea in backup is you have this sacred trust with your customers that you're not supposed to know anything about them. And you're certainly not supposed to be able to glean any kind of insights from the contents of their computers.   To break that sacred trust would probably spell doom in our business.  We spend tens of millions a year on advertising to create a trusted brand.  What does "trusted" brand mean?  It means your data is private. Confidential. Secure.  Nobody gets to look at it for any reason.  We bend over backwards to encrypt at every step of the process.  There are zero unencrypted customer files in our data centers.  We hire white-hat hackers to try to compromise our security.  We have PhDs on our team whose sole job is to prevent people from extracting insights from our customer's data.  So just what do we do with all that data?  We store it and give it back to our customers when they want it.  That's it.

    The one thing we may have in common with big data is that it takes very specialized technology just to deal with the volumes.  Commercial databases and file systems aren't designed to work at this scale.  I remember when we were first starting out we stored backed up files using Window's NTFS file system.  When we got to about 500 million files, things got trickier.  So we called Microsoft and they asked "How many files do you have?"  We told them "about 500 million."  There was a good 10 seconds of silence on the other end of the line.   "Uh, NTFS wasn't really designed to handle that many files."  Since then we have backed up over 200 billion files and keeping track of all of them and insuring that none of them are corrupted takes very specialized technology.  Especially when you consider that it has to be done very inexpensively because we offer unlimited backup for $59 per year.

    And all this new data comes salted with some interesting new privacy issues.  While we most definitely don't want to know anything about the data on our customers' computers, we do know some things that help us provide a better service WITHOUT violating the sacred trust between us and our users.  For example, we can suggest tips and user hints based on the type of computer or mobile devices our customers are using Carbonite with.

    But, as I think about big data on whole, one concern is that even data that is innocuous by social media or credit card company standards, tilts the playing field away from the inpidual.  For example, if I am shopping for a flight, it's easy for a travel site to figure out how badly I need to go on a certain day and price my ticket accordingly.  Think about it.  If you're on a plane with 200 other passengers, how many do you think paid the same price that you paid?  It's the same with hotel rooms, or any number of other services.   The problem is the systems know more about you than you probably want them to know, and that could put you potentially at a disadvantage.

    Something else to consider is the potential for prying.  In most countries, we assume our governments are benign, that the magazines we read, the books we take from the library, the causes we support, the purchases we make, even the places we visit, will not be used by some government to persecute us in the future.  It doesn't even have to be a government – when you apply for a home mortgage for example, and you're denied, do you really always know the whole truth about why?  It's all in your big data, but that doesn't mean the data is correct and it doesn't mean that you will ever know what's really there.

    For those of you whose businesses are based on big data, I urge you to use caution when dealing with privacy issues.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant."  I think that may apply to businesses as well.