Posted by John on 9th January 2010
As recently noted, I have decided to give Carbonite another shot.
I am pursuing the strategy of only using it for the more critical files, that I may want to retrieve over the internet. There is no way that you are uploading 3tb of data to them even over a top-level broadband connection (I know now from experience – was just curious to see the speed) let alone getting them back, either, in any sort of timely manner.
So I’ve got just under 16 gigabytes of documents, spreadsheets, source code, etc. up there. A few treasured family pictures, etc. The rest resides on multiple local drives, which are not hooked up when not needed (see top 3 items here). This also allows me to off-site a few spare drives, to a reasonably flood / fire / etc. resistant spot. Again, as anyone who’s ever had a drive fail can avow the data lost is often worth many times the cost of the drive itself.
And my timing was spot-on. (yes, failure bites . . .)
SMART errors are impending doom. A number of years ago, I got a bad batch of drives and they’ve been slowly dying off, with a horrible clicking noise as the final symptom upon power-up. The manufacturer replaced them under warranty, but they are old 500g drives anyway : not something I care to keep about, if not reliable.
I have simulated a bare metal restore, and then deactivated Carbonite on my desktop, and activated it on my “new” desktop (laptop) and restored data successfully. It does keep a couple of generations of data (two back revisions of that pesky spreadsheet, etc.) but by default it only backs it up once per 24 hour period. You can override this behavior, but only on a per file basis, not globally.
I chose to keep control of my own encryption keys : the .pem keyfile is stored on multiple other drives, and keys as well as on a couple of remote servers. This still presupposes trusting the manufacturer of your crypto, in this case the Carbonite folks. (though in their proverbial shoes, I’d just as soon be able to tell anyone that it’s not physically possible to give them the data, they need to bother that individual customer . . .)
Carbonite has worked well in the couple of weeks I’ve been using it. While they also have a Mac version, I’ve not tested it out.
All in all, keeping realistic expectations about what you are going to get, I would say this is a good data file backup system for a secondary backup. Just realize it is not designed to do bare metal restores, it is for specific data files that you choose, such as “My Documents” etc. For all of my local home backups, I’m using old sata drives via this esata dock and I also have a couple HD’s off site in town, and a limited amount of data rsync’ed remotely as well.
Once you’ve had data failure that costs a lot in hassle, grief, or dollars, you tend to get better prepared