Reviewer's Rating of Carbonite Backup: 4½ out of 5
Today’s computers are wonders of technology, that’s for sure. But at the end of the day, they are still machines. So, it’s a matter of when they will fail, not if they fail. There are a lot of options out there to prepare for this inevitability. Some are hardware–based; others like Carbonite are web–based. Carbonite is one of a number of online data backup services that offer a year of coverage for about $50. What you get here is an easy–to–use, seamless data backup service that keeps your desk, and your worries, clear. It’s compatible with Windows XP and Vista, while a Mac OS X version is due out soon.
To get going with Carbonite, just download the desktop application to begin. It’s a tiny 2.3MB file. After a quick refresh, Carbonite goes online and starts backing you up. During a brief setup window, you have the opportunity to pick which folders to back up, or just go with the default Documents folder. A small taskbar application then runs in the background, backing up your data to Carbonite’s servers. It’s also smart enough to pause itself when you are using the computer.
Now there is one thing to bear in mind. If your Internet provider has a limit on your uploads, you might encounter over–limit fees, so make sure you know how much bandwidth you are allowed to use. Contact your Internet Service Provider for those details. Obviously, though, the faster your connection, the faster you can backup your data. Carbonite estimates that 20GB per day is average for most users.
Unlike most hardware based backup programs though, Carbonite just backs up files and folders. So while it’ll save your music, photos and documents, it unfortunately doesn’t back up operating system files or email. Once Carbonite has all of your files backed up, you can recover them through the taskbar icon.
Using Carbonite is a point and click affair thatâ€™s simple and effective. Right click the taskbar icon and select status and you have two tabs. Backup Status, and Restore Statusâ€¦thatâ€™s it. Now thatâ€™s simple enough for anyone. Carbonite integrates with your system so that right clicking any folder of file allows you to set up its backup options. A simple system of colored dots marks folders that Carbonite is backing up. Blue means the folder is backed up. Green means that the file is backed up. Grey indicates that the folder is not backed up, but a folder inside it is, and Yellow means that the file or folder is set to be backed up, but has not been done yet.
Pros of Carbonite Online Backup:
Carbonite is cheap and easy to use. It’s essentially a hands–free backup solution that makes saving critical data completely automatic. For some people, remembering to create backups was a huge issue. Carbonite eliminates this in the easiest possible way. It’s ridiculously easy to use, and so transparent that you’re forced to ask yourself why you didn’t use it before. The right–click integration also makes selecting files or folder options easy. The system of colored dots makes identifying and selecting backed up files simple and quick. Visually, the look of the application is clean and pleasing, while offering no more glitz and glamour than is needed to get the job done. Another really big benefit to Carbonite is that the offsite storage of files means that they are safe from fire or theft. But the best feature of all is that the size of your backup is unlimited. You don’t have to choose which files warrant saving, which is liberating and reassuring.
Cons of Carbonite Online Backup:
Being web–based, your experience will vary depending on your service type and speed. I have DSL, so my uploads were a lot slower than my downloads. It took a long time to backup my computer, but no longer than what Carbonite forecast. And while it does monitor you computer’s Internet use, which is great, it has no idea what other devices on your network are doing. When placing a VOIP call while your Internet connection is swamped, it can affect your call’s quality. But to its defense, Carbonite gives you a couple of options. You can set the Internet usage to ‘Low Priority’ and it’ll lower the usage to allow for better VOIP quality and Internet browsing. It’ll slow your backup, but it does greatly improve the call quality. You can also right–click the taskbar icon and select ‘Pause for 24 hours’. If 24 hours is more than you need, you can resume backing up: just uncheck the Pause option. I would like to have had the option to set the pause times myself. That said, once the initial backup is complete, the bandwidth usage drops dramatically so it’s really a short–term issue. Both of these options make it clear that Carbonite is fully aware that it’s sharing your bandwidth. I can’t really give them too much grief since they make these tools available to address this.
Another issue related to its Internet–based design is that backing up data is a lot slower than other backup option like an external drive or burnt DVD. Backing up several Gigabytes of data could take all day, as opposed to an hour or so with physical backups. A slow day on the Internet or a bad connection can make recovering files even slower. Of course, as mentioned in the ‘Pros’ section, this con is also a good thing. Remember, no one can steal your backups, and the files are protected from a disaster such as a fire. So it’s really a matter of preference and patience.
For the optimistic procrastinator, this program leaves no room for excuses. $50 a year, easy to use, and effective … what are you waiting for?