Few Carbonite Customers Lost Data in Drive Failure, CEO Says

Saturday’s Boston Globe contained news of a lawsuit filed by Boston-based online backup company Carbonite against two companies that supplied allegedly defective disk drive arrays. Carbonite CEO David Friend confirmed today that that a suit has been filed, but he says he’s concerned that the Globe story—which has been widely re-reported in outlets such as TechCrunch—created the incorrect impression that thousands of Carbonite customers lost their data in the incident.

“It would be easy to come away from the Globe coverage with the impression that 7,500 users lost their data, which is not at all the case,” Friend says. “Nearly all of the affected 7,500 customers were immediately and successfully backed up again and did not lose any data.”

The lead paragraph of the Globe story stated that Carbonite “is alleging that two other companies sold it more than $3 million worth of defective hardware, resulting in thousands of customers losing data.” The article included the following direct quotation from the complaint, which was filed last week in Suffolk Superior Court: “Carbonite lost the backups of over 7,500 customers in a number of separate incidents, causing serious damage to Carbonite’s business and to its reputation as a reliable source for backup data service.”

The Globe article’s lead would appear to be borne out by the quotation. But Friend says little data was actually lost in the episodes, which took place in 2007, because the company immediately grabbed new copies of the lost data from most of the affected users’ PCs. The equipment that allegedly proved unreliable had been supplied to Carbonite by Milpitas, CA-based Promise Technology via Norwell, MA-based system integrator Interactive Digital Systems. It was later replaced with hardware from a different vendor. “Since switching to Dell RAID servers a couple of years ago, there have been no further problems,” Friend says.

Carbonite’s complaint, according to the Globe, seeks unspecified damages from both Promise and Interactive Digital Systems. It charges Promise Technology with breach of contract, fraud, and unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and charges Interactive Digital Systems with breach of warranty. “All we are seeking in the lawsuit is for Promise to refund our money,” says Friend.

Update: TechCrunch has updated its story with a response from Friend and from a Carbonite customer who claims some data was lost.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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5 responses to “Few Carbonite Customers Lost Data in Drive Failure, CEO Says”

  1. Bruce Goldensteinberg says:


    good reporting. I actually read a few of your other articles, like on the google books settlement, for some stuff i’m working on. it was well done.

    w/r/t carbonite, do you see a pattern here w/david friend? he’s always blaming someone else for whatever issues people raise against carbonite. you may consider mentioning how Carbonite’s executives responded to the scandal with the fake reviews and this lawsuit they filed. any similarities? differences? etc.

    check out the latest amazon reviews. there is no indication they are fake, like the ones that carbonite employees wrote. they all basically state the same complaints that caused me problems with the service back in the summer of 2007.

    2007 was when carbonite said they had the problem with this company’s hardware. i find it hard to believe that no customers were affected. if carbonite does get any money from a settlement, they should have to give it to their customers for the problems they experienced.

    i only wish customers would band together and file a class action suit against these guys. they have a record of incompetence. just look at all the complaints/reviews about them on amazon- they all allege the same thing that i experienced- specifically, though the backup works ok, the restore is a crapshoot. then when you need to get some customer service, they are MIA.

    Wade, dig a little deeper, peel back the layers of the onion and you will see how much this one stinks. keep up the great reporting.



  2. jim says:

    If you offer unlimited backup at only $50/year, then that’s what you should really expect. Storage for business is not cheap. At $50 per year, and if users upload 50GB of data, the company will either lose big or have to use extremely cheap hardware.

    The scary part is users will continue to upload more and more data and not deleting any files (because unlimited, so why delete?). If so, the only way out of this is to either stop offering unlimited storage, or hike the price, or use crappy hardware.

  3. vijay says:

    Carbonite customers’ data loss is not Promise’s fault. For some more context on this case, see Promise’s response in a letter sent to customers this week at http://www.promise.com/support/Announcements.asp.