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Carbonite Loses Cloud-Based Data, Sues Storage Vendor

The service raised $46 million in venture funding

Carbonite, the online backup vendor, says it lost data belonging to over 7,500 customers in a number of separate incidents in a suit filed in Massachusetts charging Promise Technology Inc with supplying it with $3 million worth of defective storage, according to a story in Saturday’s Boston Globe.

The catastrophe is the latest in a series of cloud failures.

Carbonite charges Promise with fraud, unfair and deceptive business practices, and breach of contract.

Carbonite is also suing system integrator Interactive Digital Systems Inc, who brought the storage in, claiming breach of warranty.

The widgetry was supposed to detect disk failures and transfer the data to a working drive. It allegedly didn’t.

The story says Promise couldn’t fix the errors and “Carbonite’s senior engineers, senior management and senior operations personnel…spent enormous amounts of time dealing with the problems.”

Carbonite claims the data losses caused “serious damage” to its business and reputation for reliability. It’s demanding unspecified damages. Promise told the Globe there was “no merit to the allegations.”

The suit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court.

Carbonite, which sells largely to consumers and small businesses and competes with EMC’s Mozy, tells its customers: “never worry about losing your files again.”


Dear Maureen,

I noticed that you covered Carbonite's lawsuit against Promise Technologies and I would like to make sure that your readers understand two points with regard to the lawsuit:

  • 1) The data loss event discussed in the lawsuit happened over a year ago. We do not say this to minimize the matter, but it's important for your readers to know that we stopped buying the servers that caused the problem a long time ago. This is not a current 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, a couple of years ago 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.

We'd appreciate anything you can do to make sure that your readers understand the facts.  Please feel free to call me if you need further clarification. 

Regards,

Dave Friend

David Friend | Chairman & CEO
Carbonite, Inc. | 334 Boylston St., 3rd Floor | Boston, MA | 02116
Office: 617-587-1110 | Fax: 617-587-1101
www.carbonite.com  
Backup.  Simple.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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