Stop Trusting Spanning Backup with Your Data

This has been a difficult thing to try and wrap my head around, but the following is a story about how Spanning Backup simply DELETED all my backups from the last 3+ years.  What I am going to detail in the paragraphs to follow is not only a timeline of their horrible stewardship of the data, but also how their own process failures will result in this happening to others at some point.  If you are a customer of Spanning Backup, please read on and be prepared for the worst.  I will state that I was a user of their service for over three years with my personal data and the data of my wife’s small business.  The following has nothing to do in any way with my day job working for another data protection vendor.  This is a personal horror story. 

Spanning Backup, Feb 18th 2021

This started like any other day for the most part except I decided to log into the Spanning Backup account used to backup my two GSuite Users.  To my surprise the UI told me my account was expired and there was zero backup data.  As you can imagine panic set in and in my haste I started to hit the renew button.  The first mistake as this actually charged a renewal TWICE in a row for some reason, which has yet to be credited as of today in fact.  I then examined my records because I knew I placed the renewal in 2020, and for sure I did and in fact November 12th, 2020 service was renewed.

I subsequently opened a ticket about the missing backups only to wait DAYS for someone to actually get back to me.  It seems this tweet ultimately got someone to pay attention:

What I came to find out later about what they did to my data, and their EULA has been nothing short of maddening.

The Spanning Backup EULA Storage HAS Limits

Their EULA as of the time of this post is captured here as I suspect they will be changing it, or maybe they won’t.  The part to point out is Page 3, section 4 about Usage Limits.  Specifically, the following is stated in the version I have examined.

  • Licensee’s usage of the Software is subject to usage limits, including, for example, the quantities specified in an Order Form. Unless otherwise specified, (a) a quantity in an Order Form may refer to sets, users, devices, storage or other metrics as applicable to the Software or Service, and such usage of the Software or Service may not exceed the applicable usage metric, (b) a User’s password may not be shared with any other User or person, or used simultaneously with multiple instances of the Software, and (c) a User identification may be reassigned to a new individual replacing one who no longer requires use of the Software or Service. If Licensee exceeds a contractual usage limit (“Excessive Use”), Spanning shall give notice to Licensee of any Excessive Use by Licensee (“Excessive Use Notice”). If Licensee fails to cure any Excessive Use within five (5) days of the date of receipt of an Excessive Use Notice, Licensee shall promptly execute an Order Form and pay for additional quantities of the applicable Software promptly upon Spanning’s request, and/or pay any invoice for excess usage in accordance with the payment terms and pricing set forth in this Agreement and any Order Form. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in any event Spanning reserves the right to suspend the Services for any Excessive Use by Licensee.
  • Spanning does not impose any pre-set limits on the amount of storage capacity Users are allowed to consume; however, it is Excessive Use if at any time the cost of Licensee’s Users’ storage consumption far exceeds the Fees for the Services as calculated by Spanning.
  • For any license or licenses of Licensee, storage of more than ten (10) gigabytes of Customer Data per license for a period of two (2) consecutive months or longer is Excessive Use.

To me, this is a mess, and at best a bait and switch.  In one statement, there is “NO PRE-SET Limits”, yet the next paragraph states a ridiculous limit of 10 Gigabytes per license (User).  I am not even sure where they came up with 10 Gigabytes (after stating no limit where 10 Gigabytes is clearly their limit).  Most people have 256 Gigabytes on their iPhone so 10 Gigabytes of backup storage is, quite frankly a joke.

Secondly, the fact you have to pay more for going over a hidden non stated limit by way of “executing an order form” is confusing at best.  This is the bait and switch part.  Basically you get 10GB per user and you will be considered excessive over that and get 5 days to comply.

Lastly,  let’s pay attention to the FIVE DAY warning as this will be come very important.  There is no 30 or 60 day notice there is a 5 day notice to pay for more storage….on a system that “does not impose any pre-set limits”.  The more times I read this the sillier it became.

The Data Gets Deleted

So let’s go back to the timeline of events.  As I investigated more it turns out I was sent ONE email warning of my usage.  however, they company also confirmed just ONE notice was sent, nothing else.  I mean I sound like Sean Connery in “The Hunt for Red October” here “Just one ping only please” but I digress.  Bear in mind this process alone shows that Spanning is a horrible steward of data.

October 22nd, 2020 – Single usage warning email sent

Guess what?  I never saw it.  When they sent me a copy it made sense why….it looked just like most other messages from them I got weekly or monthly.  There was no “impending doom” look or feel about it.  There was also just a link to a simple form which looks like a standard inquiry form.   So yes, they sent it, but one warning in a mass of emails is not a good process to steward data!

  • November 12th, 2020 – Renewal processed
  • November 28th, 2020 – 36TB of data was “reaped”
  • Feb 18th, 2020 – I find out about the data being gone and they tell me there is no way to get it back

There was NO other notifications ZIP, ZERO, NADA!  In fact they took my money for renewal AFTER the warning and BEFORE the data was reaped, and their process had not other notifications.  I mean how screwed up is that?!  They also confirmed I was not even sent a “sorry your account has been suspended” notification.  I had no idea that for over TWO MONTHS, I was not even getting backups!  If you are a Spanning customer and you MISS this one notification, be warned.

Spanning Backup Failed Processes

I have no problem paying for services I use.  Where I take issue is where the process fails and basically screws the customers.

Spanning Failure #1:  Don’t tell people there’s no limit….when there really is, just state it and move on.  Don’t be shady as shit, just state it and ALSO state the cost for more!  This is not news to anyone, but sucking people in for $4/month/user then pulling this crap is unacceptable. 

Spanning Failure #2:  Don’t send one notification with 5 days to comply, give AT LEAST 30 days with multiple notices.  Hell, GoDaddy bugs you for 2 months before your domain expires and continues to do so every week until the final day and they are dealing with domain names, NOT DATA!

Spanning Failure #3:  The system does NOT even have a way to exclude directories or file types like media files from Camtasia export.  So I asked them to explain to me HOW a customer is supposed to control their dataset.  Short answer, you CAN’T!  It’s either on or off to backup GDrive, so be warned.  Even if you know which directories have large data you can’t control it, so your only recourse is to pay MORE than their stated per user price for their limit that does not exist.  Processes all that for a moment.

You have to understand you are trusting Spanning with your data, and they are shady as can be about their processes and their limits and I paid the ultimate price in lost data.

Spanning Backup The Aftermath

At this point there is no getting the data back.  They have offered NO compensation or retribution for the 3 years of lost data.  They only thing they have offered is 3 years of backups for up to 45TB of data, yet they reaped 32TB and are only giving me less than 10TB more?  That will not even last the three years and considering GSuite is unlimited storage, what are they even thinking as a backup provider?

So here is the more interesting thing.  To make this offer even work they want to provision 45 user licenses even though I only have TWO users!  So do the math.  That’s 1TB per license, so tell me AGAIN there is no limits?  Seriously what games are they playing here?  Also how does that even make sense in their system?  Is it PER USER, or an aggregate of licenses to a pool of storage?  I mean hell if I know at this point, it makes zero sense.

Then if I go over 45TB (remember you can’t control directory level or file type backups either) so it’s guaranteed I will go over, they want ME TO PAY THEM MORE…….even after they deleted my three years of data!  So what exactly am I getting?  I could tell you but the analogy might be just a tad to vulgar even for me…

Here is how I take the value of their offer:

  • 45 licenses @ $4/month/license = $180 / month
  • $180 / month * 12 months = $2160 / year
  • $2160 / year * 3 years = $6480

I think they should cut me a check for $6480 and we part ways, based on their own value of the licenses that seems fair right?

Their business practice is classic bait and switch.  They pull you in with a $4/user/month price claiming no limits but when you hit one they want more money.  I guess the next step is to file some Better Business complaints, maybe see if CRN, or a trade rag will pick up this story.  I even tagged the CEO of Kaseya on LinkedIN, with no response, which I am not surprised.  Fred Voccola should be ashamed as shit of doing this to even a small business.  It’s hard enough to survive these days, but then to just treat a customer like garbage.  I don’t care what you’re charging me if I am paying I am worth more than that and so is my data Fred.

The bottom line is if you use Spanning Backup, go back and check your usage and be warned, they WILL delete your data or maybe they are just discriminatory about whose data they deleted given the day of the week.  Either way it will get done without regard for how long you have been a customer.  I was with them for THREE years and this is how easily they just dumped my data into the ether, with almost no viable offer of compensation for my losses.  Please comment, share, tell anyone you know using their service to dump them ASAP.

About Chris Colotti

Chris is active on the VMUG and event speaking circuit and is available for many events if you want to reach out and ask. Previously to this he spent close to a decade working for VMware as a Principal Architect. Previous to his nine plus years at VMware, Chris was a System Administrator that evolved his career into a data center architect. Chris spends a lot of time mentoring co-workers and friends on the benefits of personal growth and professional development. Chris is also amongst the first VMware Certified Design Experts (VCDX#37), and author of multiple white papers. In his spare time he helps his wife Julie run her promotional products as the accountant, book keeper, and IT Support. Chris also believes in both a healthy body and healthy mind, and has become heavily involved with fitness as a Diamond Team Beachbody Coach using P90X and other Beachbody Programs. Although Technology is his day job, Chris is passionate about fitness after losing 60 pounds himself in the last few years.

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