Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Friday, November 9, 2018

Fail, Fail, Fail, Win

Carbonite; Not the good guys.

So, I had a computer drive fail.  3.6TB of image files, basically 15 years of photography.

As it turned out, my Raid array had also failed, so I was left with my third and final copy, with Carbonite.  In case you don’t know, they’re a cloud backup service.  My purpose in writing this blog, in addition to venting, is to dissuade you from doing business with them.

90 is not a few

I set up their “restore” utility and started to download my files.  It was slow, but the window said I’d need to wait “a few days.”  Fair enough.  The next morning I did the math, and found that the actual time to completion would be about 90 days.  More than a few by any definition and too long for me, so I reluctantly paid $99 for them to courier a physical drive to me.  They said I’d have it in one to three days.  I put my life on hold for the signature-required delivery and waited to hear from them.  The drive arrived after six days, and (I discovered after copying files overnight) was missing the last 6 months of my work.  Who knows more might be missing, but my image folders are labeled by month so I could see that gaping hole at a glance.

Even better, a text file on the messengered drive listed the files not downloaded because they were corrupted.  This is expected, and I wasn’t going to get upset about a few lost images.  That is, until I saw the number of corrupted files: 218,384.  Yes, really.

I spent an hour on the phone with them, my “case” being “escalated” and hanging out on hold waiting for one dude to “talk to a manager.” At this point, any response except “we made a mistake and we’re going to bend over backward to make it right” was unacceptable.  I asked, could they just send another drive?  No, they would “assign an agent,” who would call me about the issues within 24 business hours, which meant Wednesday, I guess, this being Friday.  I asked for clarification but got none.

At this point, I took my drive to Data Doctors and brought them a nice fresh external hard drive in the hopes that they could salvage data and put it there.  For $99 they do diagnostics and if there’s anything to save they charge another $150.  Money well-spent, and they were kind and professional.

The Carbonite “Senior Escalation Team Member” Emailed me, offering to speak with me by phone.  The email came in at 1:55PM.  They’re in Boston, so that’s likely 5 minutes before he left for the weekend.  I answered less than ten minutes later but heard nothing until Monday when he offered me a telephone appointment Wednesday.

By then I had heard the good news from Data Doctors that they’d made a full recovery from my bad disk.  I was not so anxious to work with Carbonite at that point, but did have some questions.  In summary I learned that the 200,000 plus files were indeed corrupted.  Maybe they could reduce that number but there were no guarantees.  Also, the last six months of my work were not going to be recoverable.  They just didn’t have them.

I’ll be shopping for another service of course but as for you, please think twice before hiring this company, even if you don’t have a large amount of data.

Here’s wishing you only good luck with your backups!


  1. At least...thank goodness for Data Docs. Last time one of mine failed, I spent the money but...bupkes. Thanks for the heads up on Carbonite.

    FWIW, anyone reading this, don't use Microsoft's File History as a backup, either. I backup fairly routinely (probably not as often as I should, but at least I do), but it seemed to be a mirror of my files, straight forward, same names, etc. I did a last backup on that, including my Lightroom files, just in case they took the machine away. Took the computer in and, as I suspected they might, they gave me a new computer (don't ask). When I got home, and tried to restore from File History, I discovered that it attaches a UTC code to every single file EVERY SINGLE FILE. Every one. And...that included Lightroom backups, and images, and every damn document in my computer. If I wanted to use any - they had been changed into READ ONLY docs, and you had to save under another name to use. Unreal. Lucky for me, my normal backup was only out by about 1 month, and I was able to use those and just update from a few 2ndary backup sources, but...damn what a time waster that all was.

    Glad your stuff was saved.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Lori. We do need to stick together and help each other with these things!

  2. I am not a professional, so losing photo files would not be the end of the world for me, but when my External drive failed two years ago, I went to Data Doctors for help. It took a few days, but they recovered almost everything and put it on the new drive I provided. As with your experience, they were both kind and professional. I now have multiple external hard drives, though. Best of luck finding a reliable cloud storage service. I'm sticking with "old technology" = )

    1. Thanks, Lee. I'm not sure, now, that a cloud service is worth the trouble and expense. I'm researching Backblaze and Crash Plan, but may end up just using a remote physical location instead.

  3. Hi Rebecca
    my sympathies on the ordeal- I for one have thought the cloud storage thing never sounded like a good option to me. I have always had a simple system with a pair of mirrored RAID's for two seperate backups to my data drive which up until the latest cleanup was a striped RAID. One of the mirrored disks is stored at my day job and is ferried back and forth after any significant shoot so it can be rebuilt. I also use Softraid software so health of disks is continuously monitored and when I get a sick one (happened twice) I have additional disks that are identical to the ones in RAID (purchased at the same time a few years ago) that can immediately be plugged in and rebuilt. Not sure if any of this helps with a strategy going forward, but thanks for the blog- it helped me in my mind to reinforce my original decisions as being in the right direction- thx Eric

    1. Thanks for you thoughts, Eric. It’s important to think about these things, for sure.