CrashPlan or Carbonite – Are Bandwidth Restrictions Throttling Your Backup?

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.

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About Hadley

Hadley Jones writes on business, information technology and other subjects. From his base in France he also designs and presents training courses, and creates ebooks, workbooks and website content.

  • Mallefitzo

    Hi Hadley, 
    Thanks for this informative article. Unfortunately, many online backup service do have some hidden bandwidth throttling or other restriction in their TOS. However, I got really impressed by CrashPlan with my latest video review. Have look if you’re interested (it is quite long and very detailed, though): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjtWYOhPATA

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      thanks Mallefitzo

  • http://twitter.com/Kevin_Lee_QED Kevin Lee

    The question In have is which program running on your local machine is the least of a hog when it comes to processor time and yet is good at identifying new files that need to be flagged for upload.  Anyone done a good comparison of that including Mozy, etc. 

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      we have not done this kind of comparison yet – but good point

  • StevenRJensen1

    Steve from Mozy here. I agree with Kevin. A side by side comparison of backup times would be in order. I’m glad Hadley points to the wireless broadband industry and AT&T as an example. This whole topic of unlimited plans and all-you-can-eat services is good to call attention to; it simply can’t last forever. “Unlimited” plans will disappear, and will be replaced by caps and tiers, however painful.

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      yeah- unlimited days are numbered – sadly

  • AminAhmed

    Interesting article. I wonder if there’s a difference between the bandwidth throttling when sending vs receiving files? 

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      sending is slower I believe and also might depend on your ISP

  • Mike C.

    This comment is being made after spending an hour on the phone with a Carbonite tech who remote assistance access my machine, un-install the old version, then installed the latest version and made sure everything was operating the way it should be. He was very knowledgeable, professional and personable. No Complaints there.

    I have an HP-180t 2.8Gig CPU and 9Gigs of ram. So I’m not talking about a slow machine here.

    I’ve been using Carbonite Home Premier for a year. With that feature set It backs up my data to their servers and images my OS (win 7/64) and all applications to a local Tera-byte drive. The Data uploading to their serves is fine – 122 Giga-bytes – and once it is all uploaded to their servers it is fine as far as time to back up any additional new files (A couple of hours, I just run it overnight). However when it images the hard drive with the OS and Apps it can take 10 hours.

    The real problem is that it is a resourced hog‼ user interface requires 16 megs, the data backup requires 30 megs and the mirror image service requires 61 megs. CPU Usage on the resource/performance meter runs at between 9 and 26%.

    I am due for a $150 annual payment tomorrow to Carbonite. I am going to cancel and try CrashPlan. If the blog owner doesn’t mind, I’ll post the differences here.

    Mike C.

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      Mike – THANK YOU so much for your comments. I’d love to know what you find out!

  • Tom Tyson

    I loved Carbonite, definitely the best user interface vs. CrashPlan and Mozy. I’ve used all three and I still have Carbonite

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      Thanks for your input Tom – indeed for some it’s not an easy decision though! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacob.carbon Jacob Carbon

    I love Carbonite for PCs with less than 200GB of data. It operates invisibly and has the best user interface, and visibility to what’s in the backup vs. Crash Plan and Mozy. I’ve used all three. I’m now using CrashPlan on a system that has 850GB of data, mostly pictures and digital video. And that’s a home machine. The problem with the 200GB limit is that Carbonite has been touting that 96-98% statistic for years. It should be obvious with consumer HD video cameras becoming more common that the situation is not static. Carbonite is cherry picking the low volume PCs by keeping the limit constant. Yes there will always be a huge market for backup under 200GB, but those with a collection of digital content that grows with time will have to move on. People like me subscribe to these plans to not have to think about backing up data all the time. Knowing that new content would not be backed up for days was annoying and stressful.
    My biggest problem with the Carbonite plans however, is that they will take $150 a year from you on their top tier, but you get the same 200GB limit as on the $50 a year plan.

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com Ramon Ray

      Wow Jacob, what an insightful analysis

  • Shuresh Torres

    the only real online backup which I felt is faster than others is dupplica backup
    all the rest of them invest time in throttling.

    the biggest players just start off good, but then you can notice the throttle, when all the sudden the transfers go forever.
    dupplica cloud backup retained the same speed all the way