Carbonite Pros and Cons

David Salahi Uncategorized 1 Comment


I recently suffered the loss of my Windows system SSD but was able to restore it successfully using Carbonite’s Mirror Image Backup. I wrote about that experience previously in my post Recovering from a Crashed SSD. However, since getting back up and running I’ve had some more experiences with Carbonite, some good and some bad.

I was delighted that I was able to restore my system with Mirror Image so a couple of days later I checked Carbonite’s InfoCenter to make sure it was continuing to update my system image. However, when I examined the InfoCenter control panel I couldn’t find the list of backup snapshots. After consulting the online help I determined that there was just a blank area where that list was supposed to be. Not finding anything, I tried snooping around the backup disk with Windows Explorer. I didn’t find any sign of updates so I submitted a help request on the Carbonite website. They replied, saying that I should call for support on this issue which I then did.

The first tech support person I spoke with was unable to determine why no snapshots were shown. The dedicated backup drive seemed to be alive and well and populated with the same data as before my crash. So, he escalated the ticket to tier 2 support. The next guy probed more deeply via a remote connection, looking at my Windows event log and Windows Adminstrative Tools among other things. Unable to find a problem he started CHKDSK, a disk checking tool. However, the software version he used was run from the Windows GUI and it ran into problems. After running for several hours it was only 20% complete. Meanwhile, it was using 28 of my system’s 32 GB of memory and performance had become very bad, so bad that I was unable to continue working.

So, I canceled that operation and reran CHKDSK from the command line. This time the operation completed in a couple of hours without consuming all of my system’s memory. Still, CHKDSK /f didn’t solve the problem so I got back on the phone with Carbonite tech support. After poking around my system some more the latest guy decided that the only way to get things working was to reformat my backup drive. Obviously, that would wipe out my previous backup snapshots but there seemed to be no other way. So, that’s what we did.

After doing that, Carbonite’s InfoCenter showed it getting back to work on my Mirror Image backups. But there has been a minor glitch. After running for more than four hours the InfoCenter still says it’s “preparing” my drive. According to the last tech guy this is supposed to take a short while, like the 10 minutes or so suggested on the InfoCenter dialog. My PC is a very fast system so there’s no reason why it should take more than four hours. My guess is that it’s actually doing the backup but just hasn’t gotten around to updating its screen.

This type of problem is something that I run into a lot with Carbonite; i.e., a misleading or unresponsive user interface. For example, Carbonite gave me no clue that it had been failing to back up my Mirror Image. I had to proactively investigate to discover that there was a problem. Another example is the green “Back up now” button you can see in the screen shot. I recently updated a number of files that I wanted to back up immediately so I clicked that button. Nothing happened. Clicking ten more times over the next half hour did nothing either.

Unresponsive. Enigmatic. These are not words you want to use to describe your backup software but they are words that come to mind for Carbonite. I’ve been using Carbonite for several years now and these are not new problems so it’s kind of frustrating.

For the most part, Carbonite does seem to work reliably. And one time when my main backup wasn’t working because I had unplugged the external drive it helpfully notified me. Reliable and proactive are words that I would like to use to describe my backup software. Most of the time Carbonite fits this description. But sometimes it doesn’t and that can be worrying.

I will say that I’ve been pretty happy with Carbonite’s tech support. When I call I quickly get to talk to a tech support person who is reasonably knowledgeable. They don’t make me jump through hoops and they don’t sound as though they’re reading from a script. They’ve been helpful and personable. I do appreciate all these attributes when I call for help with backing up or restoring my vital data.

Update 3/12/15: After running for 20 hours straight my Carbonite InfoCenter looks exactly the same. I.e., it still says it’s “preparing your Mirror Image drive. This can take 10 minutes or longer.” This is the kind of unresponsiveness I’ve seen repeatedly with Carbonite. It makes me wonder what it’s really doing. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

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  1. Pingback: Crashed SSD Redux : The Photo Performance

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