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Carbonite Review – Simple, Affordable Online Backup

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If you’re not backing up your computer then you are taking a huge risk, especially if that’s where you keep all the pictures you’ve taken over the last five years, important work documents and more. While backing up your files to an external hard drive has gotten easier in Windows and with other tools; many users don’t have the desire to configure these settings, nor does it protect against disasters like the recent natural gas explosion in San Bruno. For protection against the loss of your home you also need an off site backup, something that’s common in the business world, but not so much at home.

Thankfully, with Carbonite you get an easy to use online backup tool that stores a full system backup in the cloud so that no matter how your hard drive dies, you’ll be able to recover your important files. Carbonite provided us with a review license to give their service a test running the latest version, Carbonite 4.0 which brought some new features and a revamped user experience.

Value: For $54.99 a year you get a set-it-and-forget-it backup solution that keeps your data safely stored offsite. While you can roll your own solution at home, most home users will find value in this automated and low maintenance solution.

Setup: Getting started with Carbonite is simple to set up. Just go to Carbonite.com and sign up for a free 15 day trial. From there you’ll be prompted to download the backup tool and install it. When installing Carbonite it will automatically backup files it deems important including documents, photos, music and data files. During the trial you cannot back up music files. By default Carbonite does not backup movie files or files over 4GB. You can tell the software to backup your videos automatically, and you can backup 4GB or larger files on a case by case basis.

Carbonite also doesn’t back up .exe files by default. These are the files you use to install programs and in the case of software purchased online, a local .exe may be your only backup. You can back these up on a case by case basis with a right-click, but we wish there was a bit more flexibility in this area.

The Backup: After you start your backup the process will take some time. To backup about 20GB on the test machine over a Standard Time Warner Cable Connection took a few days. If you have less data or a faster connection you will see a quicker backup. Carbonite allows users to check a “Low Priority” mode that prioritizes backing so that it doesn’t impact your computer use but in our testing we didn’t notice any issues leaving this mode unchecked. Users can choose to automatically backup their files or set a schedule that fits their usage.

Features: Carbonite 4.0 has revamped the user interface and added new options when it comes to restoring files. In our testing of the Restore file feature, the service was able to restore files without any trouble. Carbonite also comes with Versioning which keeps previous versions of any backed up file for up to three months. This comes in handy if you accidentally remove a page of a long paper and need to go back to an earlier version.

To restore a file to a previous version you simply need to right-click on it and choose restore versions to see the available restore options. You can restore to the same spot or to a different location in case you want to compare files.

To a new computer: Another feature that you can use with Carbonite is restoring to new computer. The Migration Wizard allows you to move all of your files and folders to a new computer, putting the files where you are used to seeing them. We did not have a chance to test this out yet, but look forward to trying it in the coming months.

Accessing your files: Once your computer is backed up you have access to your files on the go via a web browser, the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or BlackBerry device. The web interface is straightforward and keeps files in the same location you are used to looking for them on your home computer. If you need a file you can download it to the computer you are using. Unfortunately, if you make any changes that you want to save you’ll need to take the file back to your computer on a flash drive or by email since you can’t upload your new file to Carbonite from the remote computer.

We tested out the iPhone and iPod Touch app on an iPad and found it to be an OK way of getting to your files, allowing you to email them to yourself or another person from within the app. It would be great to see a full-fledged iPad app that could open files to other apps for editing and even allow for uploading changes.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for an easy to use backup solution Carbonite is a good choice. It may not have all the advanced settings and options that you’ll find in Mozy, like automatic backup prioritization, but many home users won’t care and will simply appreciate the ability to have an online backup solution that just works without fiddling around. If Carbonite provided users with the option of also backup up to an external hard drive, like Mozy, we’d up our rating from good to great.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Offsite backup
  • Automatically finds important files
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use file versioning
  • Access to entire backup online from any browser

In the middle:

  • Not too many options – More than enough for basic users, but higher end users may want a few more.

Cons:

  • Need to Opt in videos and select .exe files one by one
  • No support for also backing up to an external hard drive
  • No iPad or Android specific apps

Josh Smith is a longtime mobile tech user, currently using a Droid as his primary smartphone. Josh is also an editor at Notebooks.com where he reviews notebooks and other mobile tech. Follow Josh on Twitter @Josh_Smith or email him Josh@Notebooks.com.

2 Comments

  1. John Crumpton

    December 22, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Thanks for the review – how does this compare with Trend Micro Safesync?

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