Backing up to the cloud? Read the fine print

cloud questions
Credit: Dennis Hill

Some things never change. Back in July 2007 I had a "mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" moment regarding cloud based file backup services.

One thing that backups are supposed to protect against is deleting a file by accident. Yet, multiple reviews at the time (Wall Street Journal, Ars Technica and The New York Times) failed to consider this.

And, the service that got glowing reviews back then, Mozy, provided poor protection. Files deleted on your computer would be deleted by Mozy after 30 days.

Fast forward to this week when Steve Gibson mentioned on his Security Now podcast, that someone he knows uses Carbonite to back up their files. That got me wondering. Sure enough, a look at Carbonite's website turned up this

Lost or (whoops!) accidently deleted a file? No problem. Your files remain on our servers for 30 days. During this time, you can recover the lost file right from your PC through your account dashboard.

That they can't spell "accidentally" is red flag number one. But, most importantly, Carbonite customers, just like Mozy users from years back, are only protected from accidental deletions for a month. After that, they're screwed.

How is this still a thing? Carbonite charges a flat rate, so it is in their best interest to save storage space on their end.

A service that charges more for using more storage, should be prejudiced towards keeping copies of deleted files -- they make more money that way. Mozy now charges based on storage usage, yet they continue to delete their copy of files you have deleted. According to their website

If you delete a file on your computer, it no longer counts against your use of storage space. Deleted files are permanently removed from the Mozy cloud after a grace period. For MozyHome accounts, this retention period is 30 days. For MozyPro accounts, the retention period is 60 days, and for MozyEnterprise it is 90 days.

Every coin has two sides. If files were never deleted, storage usage would grow and so too would the bill. There is no one right approach, we all have different needs and requirements.

I bring this up because it's an important issue that anyone using a file backup service should be aware of.

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