Carbonite Loses Data for Thousands of Customers, Sues Vendors

March 22, 2009 at 7:19 pm 5 comments

Online backup company Carbonite alerted the public that it had lost data belonging to over 7,500 customers over a number of separate incidents by filing a law suit against a hardware vendor and systems integrator. Carbonite claims that the cloud storage disaster was the result of $3M in faulty equipment provided by Promise Technology Inc. and has brought suit in Suffolk County. The Boston Globe reports that Promise denies any wrongdoing or liability.

Regardless of the outcome, events like this do not bode well for cloud storage providers. Failures, regardless of who is at fault, damage the critical consumer confidence that cloud storage requires to thrive. The impact of this breakdown, from a well-funded (the Globe indicated that Carbonite has raised over $46m) and well-known player in the online backup space, remains to be seen.

Thoughts? Please let us know what you think…


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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave Friend  |  March 24, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    I would like to make sure that your readers understand 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, CEO
    Carbonite, Inc.

  • […] 24, 2009 In response to our recent post regarding Carbonite’s lawsuit against its hardware vendor, we received a comment from Carbonite’s CEO David Friend. The entire comment has been […]

  • 3. vijay  |  March 31, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Carbonite customers’ data loss is not Promise’s fault. For some more context on this case, see Promise’s response in a letter sent to customers this week at

  • 4. Miek  |  February 16, 2010 at 9:15 am

    It SHOCKS to read the respond from Dave who is suppose to be working on DATA Security and backup at Carbonite.

    So the RAID failed?

    Wow this is really amazing. Even newbie techs know that RAID is not BACKUP. Let me repeat. RAID is not backup. So how in the world can a Backup provider think and trust their data to RAID?
    I thought this was a bad joke. Everyone in the computer industry knows Raid is only for business continuance, that means, it will let you keep the server/service up but 78% of data lose is data corruption and Raid does tend to crash and Raid does tend to corrupt arraids. I saw more people lose data because of Raid then without it. The only think raid protects is hardware, nothing else. Now I know I will NEVER in my life use Carbonite or Mozy or this cheap providers.

    People backup their computers to your Raid servers right? Well that is BAD and this exactly why that happened to Carbonite. As a backup provider you should mirror servers or its also called Replicate. And as a backup provider the replication should be made to another physical location, that means another datacenter. But I suppose that is out of the question because of price. Well, believe it or not, putting a NAS on your home is just a safe then. I really thought Carbonite would replicate data again for each account an it seems they just use a simple cheap raid storage. A backup provider should know better then that. Thats why someone uses a backup provider, because they are suppose to be having not one but multiple copies of your data and give you a paid guarantee against data lose.

  • 5. Miek  |  February 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Oh and I wanted to add, you just said that only 54 accounts losed data because their computers crashed before data was pulled off. That is a misleading and lie,. Carbonite losed 7500 accounts. If you start o make a full backup from each account again, then it means you where backing data again as soon as you could, that means you DID not had the data. If this computers would crash, like those 54 happened then they would all be losed. Let me make it simple. If they where offline, Carbonite would not be able to connect and start making a full backup again, that means the only copy of the data was on each laptop/pc of each client. Carbonite DID losed the 7500 clients data, thats a fact, just because they where online and you could backup them again, means they where VERY, Very lucky, except those 54 of course. If you did not had a copy of the data and you must accept that you loosed all the accounts. Even when the timeframe was very low, until the data was up again, is enough for a disaster. And im 90% sure some of those 54 clients, actually crashed because of Carbonite. If you said partial data was uploaded it means they crashed when doing seed full backups and that means sense. Doing a full backup is very heavy against disks, and if they where old and almost to a point to die, then the full backup just forced them to die sooner, thats why most disks fails when doing backup/restores, raid rebuilds, etc.


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