Slow Online Backup


Today’s Question: A few years ago I tried to backup my photo files to Carbonite. I set it up to start, and the next morning only a small percentage of the files had been transferred. I remember thinking that if I let the computer run 24/7 it would take a few weeks to back up over 350,000 RAW files. Should I try it again?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, I think you should try again. While an online backup of a significant amount of data can indeed require considerable time, I have found that Carbonite may throttle your backup once you reach a certain volume of data. You might consider trying BackBlaze as an alternative online backup solution.

More Detail: Using an online backup service involves uploading your files to a server, which can mean uploading a significant amount of data potentially over a relatively slow connection. That can obviously require considerable time, especially for the initial backup of all of your existing data.

In some cases you may be able to ship a hard drive to an online backup service for your initial backup. Regardless, I recommend making use of a service that does not restrict your upload speeds, but instead is able to make use of your full connection speed. BackBlaze is one such service:

Even without any throttling of your upload speed, your initial backup can require considerable time. For example, a somewhat typical high-speed Internet connection might offer an upload speed of 10 Mbps (megabits per second). That would translate to about ten days to upload one terabyte of data. In my case I have nearly six terabytes of photos, so my initial upload could take nearly two months.

Of course, your actual upload speed will depend on your Internet connection. If you are fortunate enough to have access to a connection that employs fiber optics, you could potentially have upload speeds as fast as 500 Mbps. That would reduce the time required to upload one terabyte to around four and a half hours, meaning I could conceptually upload my entire six terabytes of photo storage in a little more than one day.

It is important to keep in mind that after the initial backup is complete, much less time will be required to keep your online backup updated as you capture new photos and generate other additional data.

To be sure, there are limitations involved with an online backup. At the same time, a service such as BackBlaze can provide a cost-effective solution for having a backup stored at an offsite location. I always recommend using such a service only as a supplement to your local backup workflow, but it is indeed a workflow supplement that I recommend making use of.