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Cloud backup drama: Mozy kicks Carbonite after ASA's had a go

Ad body smacked it for 'unlimited' claims, but what is Mozy on about?

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Cloud backup service vendor Carbonite recently had its knuckles rapped by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority for misleading punters by saying its cloud backup service is "unlimited". Now EMC-backed Mozy, a Carbonite competitor which doesn't offer unlimited backup data amounts, has waded in to the fray.

The ASA quoted a Carbonite online ad which said: "Carbonite offers unlimited online backup storage. You can back up as much as you want with no limits on storage capacity."

The ASA noted that data uploads of more than 200GB resulted in lower bandwidth, making the backup take longer. It asked Carbonite for clarification but got no response. The ad body sniffed that it "was concerned by Carbonite Inc's lack of response and apparent disregard for the [ASA] Code." The complaint was upheld.

I don't see it. Yes, the ASA got slighted by a lack of response, but to say that unlimited backup "with no limits on storage capacity" misleads because it implies a constant backup bandwidth speed seems to me to be arse about face. Yes, it may be sneaky, but it's fair to other users as no one user could hog the available bandwidth and, to state the obvious, no one could think for a moment that bandwidth is unlimited.

Now cloudy backup rival Mozy – which doesn't offer unlimited backup data amounts – has added its two cents' worth. Claire Galbois-Alcaix, Mozy's senior marketing manager, says the Carbonite case gives the industry a bad name:

The danger is that people are burned by a claim that turns out not to be true and are put off using the services altogether, when something like online backup is really crucial. ‘Unlimited’ is an easy concept for vendors to sell: people want the peace of mind from never having to think about what they’re sending to the cloud.

But they’re being sold a false sense of security because data caps will take them by surprise when they hit them without even knowing they’re there - or find that their data, or the company hosting it, isn’t there when they want it back."

But Carbonite isn't imposing a data cap.

Galbois-Alcaix continues: "We all know that data generation is exploding and that the volumes of data that people are storing and transporting is growing geometrically. Drive prices are decreasing – but the costs of power to keep them spinning and cool is increasing. And more drives means more power, more people to manage them and bigger data centres to store them in."

She adds: "Online storage and backup companies have to make a choice between capping data use and maintaining service levels, cutting costs and putting data in jeopardy, or making a loss and ultimately going out of business."

That's a nice soundbite, but Carbonite isn't capping data use. It may in the future – who knows – but it isn't now. It's throttling bandwidth speed to prevent a single data hog unfairly affecting other users of its service. To say that cloud backup vendors have to impose a data cap or go out of business is not fair. In fact Carbonite is growing fast; revenues grew 41 per cent to $22.1m between the second 2012 quarter and the year-ago quarter. The net loss was $4.2m, compared to $4.7m a year ago – so it's not forecasting profitability yet.

Mozy, which had an unlimited backup plan but stopped it, is now offering fee-based backup services based on data amounts.

Mozy's financial results aren't revealed by owner VMware, itself majority-owned by EMC which bought Mozy in 2007. ®

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