By Charles P. Jefferies
Backing up files is important for obvious reasons -- if your computer fails, your data is gone. Online backup solutions are the latest way to ensure your data is safe, and today we take a look at the Carbonite Online backup service.
Carbonite installs a program on your computer that works in the background and looks for files that need to be backed up; it then uploads these files to Carbonite's servers. The company says they encrypt data the same way banks do for security purposes.
A free trial is available on Carbonite's website. The full version is $54.95 per year with no limit on how much data can be uploaded.
Carbonite's initial setup begins with downloading the desktop client program, which is just a few megabytes in size.
Setup begins after installing the program. There are two settings: automatic and custom backup. The automatic setup is what most people want to do; it automatically backs up files in Documents, Pictures, and so on. Videos, music, and large files (4GB+) are NOT automatically backed up and I am not sure why; they must be selected manually. There is no file size limit, however.
There are three custom backup settings:
What gets backed up: all files and folders that need to be backed up must be selected automatically by default; there is also a full manual option. Once the Carbonite program is installed, selecting files manually is simple (though can take some time):
Backup schedule: backup can be handled in one of two ways: continuously (the program will always be scanning for new/updated files) or on a schedule (new and updated files will be queued for backup at a specific time); I left it on continuous.
Encryption key: an encryption key is used to unlock your data; Carbonite manages it automatically by default and I left it at that. Users can choose to keep the only copy of their encryption key, however if the key becomes lost -- well, bye-bye data.
Depending on how much data you backup, the initial backup could take several days. The Achilles heel of online backup is upload speed; most broadband Internet connections are limited to 1MB/s or less. On my cable Internet connection it took several hours just to upload a few gigabytes of data, and I have over 150GB worth.
However, after the initial backup only new/updated data will need to be uploaded so it will not take as long.
There are three ways to restore files:
Search for files to restore: Shown above-left, this option opens a window that allows you to search by file name
Browse my online backup drive: Shown above-middle, the Carbonite program integrates a virtual online backup drive in My Computer, so browsing the online backup is basically the same as using a Windows Explorer window. I like this solution; most users will be familiar with Explorer's interface.
Restore all of my files: Shown above-right, choosing this option launches the Restore Manager. Restoring all files is a three-step process which is generally painless. Like the initial backup, this can take a while. Carbonite must download all of the files to your computer, which is limited by how fast your Internet connection speed is. On my Internet connection it took just over an hour and a half to download a 1GB folder I backed up.
The Carbonite program has options to pause or stop backup, make backup a low-priority task (so it uses less bandwidth), or disable the program completely.
Carbonite is a viable online backup solution for home users. It is easy to install and requires minimal configuration.
As an Internet-based service, Carbonite has its drawbacks. The initial backup will likely take a long time since it is limited by your Internet connection speed; the same goes for downloading all your files. Also, no Internet connection means no backup.
Overall the service performs as advertised. My main complaint is how some user intervention is required to back up music, videos, or files larger than 4GB+ because Carbonite will not back them up automatically. For those that have their media scattered in different folders, this could be a hassle.
Carbonite is a recommendable service, and $54.95 per year is a good price.
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