Carbonite Online Backup Review

by Reads (17,975)
  • Pros

    • Unlimited data storage
    • Easy remote file access
    • Discounted long-term plans
  • Cons

    • No server OS/app support
    • Limited operating system support
    • No monthly pay plans

In the Star Wars universe, carbonite was the only acceptable medium for keeping Han Solo safely and indefinitely preserved, so naming an online backup service Carbonite is a bold statement of (geek-centric) quality. Is this data retention solution worthy of Boba Fett’s seal of approval, or is this just another case of dark side branding treachery? We seek out the truth in this review.

PRODUCT OVERVIEW

Carbonite is designed to make the backup process simple with a single-level service offering; there are no tiers of features based on price, just a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s not to say there is only one price for Carbonite. There are discount offer codes available, as well as price breaks for a multi-year service plan. Like many online backup programs, Carbonite requires a subscription to use the service. The chart below has the details of the various price offerings:

Feature

Carbonite 1 year plan

Multi-year plans

Annual Cost

$54.95

$99.95 for 2 years

$129.95 for 3 years

Storage

Unlimited

Unlimited

Supported Systems

Windows XP (Home/Professional)

Mac OS X

Windows XP (Home/Professional)

Mac OS X

DOWNLOAD & INSTALLATION

Once you’ve bought and paid for a valid Carbonite subscription account, the backup program can be installed on a PC. The Carbonite backup program handles communications between your PC and Carbonite’s online backup resources. The figure below shows the download of the Carbonite backup program:

Carbonite online backup install download

The installation starts with a notice of the license agreement for the service. From there, the installation is relatively quick and painless. Once installed, the local program launches an initial configuration wizard to set up the backup parameters for your PC, as shown in the figure below:

Carbonite online backup initial configuration wizard

Within the advanced options available during initial configuration, users can select an encryption key, as shown in the figure below:

Carbonite online backup encryption key manager

Carbonite can encrypt any data it backs up prior to transfer to ensure that the data is useless should it be intercepted. The options here are to create your own key or let the Carbonite account manage it directly. So long as you protect your account access, having the service manage the encryption key is probably advisable. Once the key management issue is settled, the configuration wizard is complete.

At this point, the default configuration is ready to be used on the computer — and you’ll know that because an audio file will autoplay to let you know the default configuration is ready. The aforementioned default configuration backs up the contents of the My Documents and Desktop folders for Windows systems.

Shown below is the Carbonite status menu, which appears when you double-click the associated taskbar icon:

Carbonite online backup status menu

PROGRAM INTERFACE

Carbonite’s installation makes it easy to get started with the first backup. Carbonite’s status indicators are not limited just to the taskbar-prompted menu, as there are backup status points displayed directly in the data being protected. For example, backup status icons appear in Windows Explorer. The figure below shows the folder “House Stuff” marked with the yellow indicator, while the folder “Games” is marked with a green indicator and the other folders are not marked at all:

Carbonite online backup Windows Explorer status indicators

This indicates the three status points associated with Carbonite backups:

  • Green: Backed up
  • Yellow: Pending backup (in process)
  • No indicator: Not backed up

The Carbonite InfoCenter allows users to set their preferred backup schedules. This is important to consider, as an online backup services can consume a lot of Internet bandwidth. The figure below shows the scheduler:

Carbonite online backup scheduler

Carbonite has an automatic option that will allow the PC’s data to be managed for backup by the local application. Depending on the Internet connection impact, this may be good for many environments. The backup status indications on files and folders make it easy to determine if this configuration will work for a specific system.

The advanced scheduling options are thorough and also allow for exclusion times, so that data and bandwidth won’t be hogged during, say, your morning e-mail burst or day-end receipt tallies. This can be beneficial for systems where the Internet connection is significantly affected by the backup. Carbonite does not have a throttle or bandwidth control to limit the impact on the Internet connection during a backup, which is a rather glaring omission, especially compared to its competitors.

IN USE & EFFECTIVENESS

The Carbonite backup process is easy enough, but where the product really shines is during the data restoration process. Carbonite restores are handled by the same InfoCenter menu that configures backups, offering similar functionality through the same intuitive interface. The figure below shows restore interface:

Carbonite online backup restore interface

The restore process allows the data to be placed in the original location or redirected to a new location — all directly through Windows Explorer — shown in the figure below:

Carbonite online backup Windows Explorer status restoration menu

It is important to note a few behavior points of the Carbonite backup service. For PCs with multiple users, each profile is backed up with a different username. Moreover, there are a few parameters to the backup process that are associated with selected file types. Specifically, that the default backup plan will skip over a file that is larger than 4GB (this could be a problem with large video files, for example). Also, program files are not backed up with the default service configuration. So, files such as .EXE files will be omitted on normal backups. Another note is that the free evaluation of the Carbonite service does not back up music files, unless the account transitions to a subscription.

Like most online backup services, Carbonite does not support server operating systems (or even older consumer OSes).

CONCLUSION

Carbonite offers a good service for home and small business PC backups. Most systems will be able to use the service, though the lack of any server support as well as older operating systems may be a factor. Carbonite is adding features, such as the recently announced Mac support, to deliver a competitive product.

PROS

  • Unlimited data storage
  • Easy remote file access
  • Discounted long-term plans

CONS

  • No server OS/app support
  • Limited operating system support
  • No monthly pay plans


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