Carbonite glitch disconnects users from hosted backup service

CEO says software bug during IT upgrade forced 1,143 customers off of its server

More than 1,100 users lost their connection to Carbonite Inc.'s online backup service earlier this week at the moment the company completed work on a massive data center upgrade, Carbonite CEO Dave Friend confirmed today.

Friend said that a software bug caused the outage during the early morning hours of March 9 at the end of a scheduled downtime to allow workers to complete a broad expansion of Carbonite's IT operation. When work on the upgrade was completed, the bug caused any customers using the backup service at that time to lose their connection, Friend said.

"It was just one of those things," said Friend, adding that he could not recall which specific end-user "process" triggered the bug to cut off the connections.

According to Friend, all 1,143 users affected by the "little glitch" have corrected the problem by reinstalling Carbonite's software via download from the company's Web site. He said the company wasn't aware of any problem until disgruntled users began calling customer support.

"The minute we reconnected to the Internet, all of a sudden, we had hundreds of thousands computers trying to talk to us at once. For some reason, [1,146] of them didn't reconnect. It didn't affect many people, but [the bug] left things in a weird state that they couldn't recover from," remarked Friend.

Friend said that the problem came after the first major upgrade by the company since 2006. Friend said the hosted backup provider informed customers a few weeks ago about the planned IT expansion and temporary service downtime.

Analysts are predicting that hosted backup services will increasingly become an attractive option for small and large businesses that must simultaneously contend with exploding data growth and shrinking physical storage space.

IT research firm IDC expects online backup revenues to soar from $235 million in 2007 to $715 million in 2011.

The competition to attract business users hungry for Web-based backup is fierce. EMC, Symantec Dell and IBM have invested millions in recent months to add hosted storage offerings to their technology portfolios.

In fact, IDC analyst Doug Chandler noted that smaller hosted backup providers such as Carbonite may be a prime target a larger vendors to gobble up. "It's customer beware for who you pick and choose. If it's start-up company you're using [for hosted backup] and it's any good, it's probably being looked at as an acquisition by somebody," remarked Chandler.

Friend said that Carbonite currently has no further plans for data center expansion in the U.S. However, the company is in talks to build a data center in Beijing, he noted.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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