With cloud services now available, gone are the days of those local data backups to CDs or tape – or are they? If your business has a modest amounts of data to safeguard, then cloud services provide a convenient solution for moving a copy of your data over the web to a secure storage environment. The issue is with larger amounts of data, with some cloud backup providers like Carbonite reducing the speed at which the data is transferred. It’s a policy known as bandwidth throttling, something that competitors like CrashPlan say they avoid.
If you know what you’re getting, then you can at least avoid unpleasant surprises. However, some network providers use the word “unlimited” in ways that require interpretation. Carbonite states on its website homepage that it provides “unlimited data backup.” Yet elsewhere it gives a figure of 3GB-4GB of data as the maximum daily backup level, at least in the context of its “Home”, “HomePlus” and “HomePremier” offerings. By comparison, CrashPlan maintains its “unlimited” policy across the board – unlimited capacity, unlimited file size/type, and no policy of bandwidth throttling.
Bandwidth restriction in network connections is not new. Before the cloud, before the Internet even, the bandwidth restriction was often simply the speed of the link connecting you to the network. Back then, an 8 kilobit/second line was a big deal. Today, DSL connections at megabit (think of 1 megabit as a thousand kilobits) are commonplace. The restriction has moved outwards: either back to your computer that can’t send data fast enough, or to the other end, like the data backup provider, that can’t keep up in receiving and organizing the information.
Even data networking giants like AT&T have been forced to issue a notice about speed reduction to smartphone customers on, you guessed it, “unlimited data plans.” The astonishingly large amount of data that these specific customers want to transfer is swamping out the provider’s current installations.
But how large is “large” and what is the impact on data backup times? Let’s take the example of a 500GB hard disk to be backed up over the Internet. This would take about two weeks with CrashPlan. On the other hand, with bandwidth throttling on the “Home” services of Carbonite, it would take as much as nine months.
Where does this leave Carbonite? First of all, the company website states that although less bandwidth is allocated to “Home” users after their backup exceeds 200GB, 98% of Carbonite customers have backups of less than 200GB. For its “Small Business” offering, Carbonite doesn’t mention any mandatory bandwidth throttling. Although the use of “unlimited” might raise eyebrows, at smallbiztechnology.com we’ve used Carbonite and been more than satisfied with it.
The bottom line? As with everything else, read the small print and check the specs. Once you do, you can choose an appropriate level of backup service where you can be sure that the amount of data you want to transfer won’t lead to any problems because of bandwidth throttling.