Sunday, April 12, 2009

Online backup warning when it comes to restore data

Do you use or consider online backup? Here is something to consider. I think several backup services has this problem but I know by experience that Carbonite is one of them.

Carbonite is great at taking backups and just stay in the background doing its job but when it comes to restore data you might be in trouble. In my experience restoring a backup is very slow. Restoring some GB of data would probably take days and during that time in recovery mode you cannot have the backup running leaving you unsafe. Imagine you need to restore some specific folders only but you still want the backup to continue. This is not possible with Carbonite. (Update via comments: “In fact, this is very easy to do either through the Carbonite Backup Drive or through Restore Search without interrupting the backup.”)

If it just was slow but there is a more problematic lack of feature that makes it fail.

You cannot restore to a “state” at a specific date and time. Either everything is restored or you need to restore the files one by one. This is because Carbonite takes backup of files one by one and does not take into account the overall picture.

I will exemplify this with how the files are saved for Windows Live Writer.

In ..\Documents\My Weblog Posts there are two folders. “Drafts” and “Recent Posts”. The problem comes if you would want to restore the backup of the drafts. Say you make drafts once in a while that you work on. Some of the drafts are several months old and so on. If you with Carbonite would restore the whole Drafts folder you would maybe get hundreds of drafts, most of them you have already published. If you don’t know specifically when files you want to restore you might be in BIG trouble.

I can think of many scenarios when you would be in trouble restoring files with Carbonite. Say you have your Internet favorites folder. If you sometimes move favorites from one folder to another or delete some once in a while you can imagine the pain it would be to restore these from the backup.

Another problem with Carbonite is that there is no way to restore files via a web interface. Update thanks to a comment. It is indeed possible to restore via web now but limited to restore only one file at a time and only the latest version of a file.

If you are a programmer you can imagine that restoring for example a Visual Studio solution or project would be almost impossible.

Which files does Carbonite back up? is also important to read as not all files and file types are backed up by default.
Some of the file types are: .BAK .CHM, .COM, .CUR, .DLL, .EXE, .ICO and so on. There should really be an option to easily specify what “non default” filetypes to allow to be backed up.
One thing I miss is that Carbonite does not backup LNK files (shortcuts) at all.
Larger files than 4GB must be manually selected to be backed up.

One online backup that does not have this problem is Mozy. Mozy takes a snapshot of everything that will be backed up and you can select to restore files that existed in a folder at a specific date and time.

Do you know other online backup solutions that handles restore in a good way?

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