Channel companies have been called upon to fulfil their "moral obligation" to be clearer when marketing "unlimited" backup services to end users.
The calls come after the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) upheld a UK complaint against US backup outfit Carbonite. The company offered "unlimited" backup and although the ASA ruled that this amount was possible, it said that after 200GB had been backed up, the lack of bandwidth slowed it down so much that the claim was misleading.
Carbonite rival Mozy said companies in the channel have an obligation to send out clear and honest marketing.
Clair Galbois-Alcaix, senior marketing manager at Mozy, said those who ally themselves to unrealistic offers could see their reputations tarnished by association.
"Resellers are always looking for the best product and the best deal. There is a perception that unlimited offers are easier to sell than a more limited product," she added.
"A big advantage [for resellers] is a monthly revenue stream, but unlimited offers are often not as good as they seem and this is a problem because it is so misleading to end users. If an offer claims to be unlimited but there is a big catch, it can really damage a VAR's reputation.
"Some vendors even charge in order to retrieve data that was backed up."
Backup competitor Livedrive, which launched its first channel programme in 2010 and has a base of 2,000 VARs, said misleading unlimited offers give backup providers a bad name.
The company's founder Andrew Michael said: "Carbonite slowed down [the rate of backing up after 200GB] so much that it basically stopped. It is playing a numbers game and hoping people do not have that much data to back up, and that is not a way to build a sustainable business, so I think ASA was quite right to clamp down on this.
"Instances such as this give the whole industry a bad name and now a lot of customers are sceptical about [the phrase "unlimited"]. With any emerging, fast-growing market, you tend to get these bandits who think it is part of doing business, when it is not."
About a year ago, Mozy dropped its unlimited backup offer due to changes in the way backup was being consumed. Galbois-Alcaix added that the developments in technology meant unlimited offers were no longer sustainable.
She said: "Because of the growing appetite for new technology such as smartphones, from a business perspective, offering unlimited storage is very difficult. A true offer is fantastic but businesses have to think out how they can actually offer this.
"Businesses cannot give away their wares for free."
Carbonite disagrees with the ASA ruling and said in a statement that its messaging was clear.
The statement read: "Carbonite respects the ASA. However, we disagree with their decision... The Carbonite Home service is unlimited as we offer unlimited backup space; we do not offer or claim to offer unlimited bandwidth."
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