Originally launched back in 2006 as a photo backup service, Carbonite is today one of the most popular online backup providers. In a world where the need for online storage space increase exponentially, Carbonite was the first online backup provider to allow unlimited backups for a fixed price, although other competitors have matched Carbonite’s offering in recent months.
By the end of this review, you’ll have a firm grasp on what Carbonite’s strengths and weaknesses are as we’ll take you through the various features offered by the provider.
As far as home-users are concerned, Carbonite lets users sign up for three plans: Home, Home Plus and Home Premier.
These are the features available to you with Carbonite Home:
- Unlimited storage space
- Automatic backup
- Easy file recovery
- Anytime, Anywhere Access
- Free US-based customer support
The Carbonite Home Plus plan matches all of the features mentioned above and adds the following features:
- External hard drive backup
- Mirror Image backup
The Carbonite Home Premier plan matches all the features available with the Home Plus and adds automatic video uploads and a Recovery-by-mail option.
This is what Carbonite currently charges for its plans:
|Storage||Monthly||1 Year||2 Years||3 Years|
|Unlimited||$ 4.92||$ 59.99
Why Use Carbonite?
Alongside all the reasons why you’d want to use a backup service in the first place (ensuring that your data is safely stored on the cloud and that you can retrieve your important files in case your hard drive crashes), Carbonite has a few unique advantages such as unlimited storage space, or ability to access your files from any Internet-enable device, and the ability to retrieve your backup contents via mail.
Getting Started With Carbonite
To get started with Carbonite, you’ll have to download the app on your PC or MAC. At some point during the install process, Carbonite presents users with a couple of options over selecting the files that will be backed up: they can either let the software detect the files that will be backed up, or they can select the files manually.
By default, Carbonite will only back up the documents, the emails, the music, the pictures and the files in your Windows user accounts. To back up videos and all files over 4GB, you’ll have to select them manually.
At the next step, the software will ask for a backup schedule. Again, here the users are presented with two options: back the files at a certain time interval, or back the files whenever a change is detected. Backing up on the go has the advantage of being more secure, but it also puts your machine (and Internet connection) under constant stress. If you’re not willing to sacrifice any performance, you can choose to back up at night, or at certain time intervals when you’re not usually using your PC/MAC.
Once all these steps are complete, your first backup will begin. This initial backup can last up to a week, depending on the amount of data and the speed of your Internet connection. If you find that you need to backup additional files or folders, you can do so by right-clicking on the item from the file explorer and selecting Carbonite->Back Up This File.
Anytime, Anywhere Access
It is often that we see companies provide both cloud storage and cloud backup services, but Carbonite is one of the few providers that combine the two into a single service. Any file that you back up from your computer can be accessed from the web by logging in to Carbonite.
Additionally, the files that you back up with Carbonite can be accessed from any iOS, Android or BlackBerry device by downloading the proprietary apps.
Carbonite can also back up external hard drives, although this feature is reserved only to Home Plus and Home Premier subscribers. If your important data resides on an external hard drive, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay extra to back up that information on the cloud with Carbonite.
Mirror Image Backup
Although your files will be kept safe on Carbonite’s servers, the service cannot back up your Operating System and the installed software to the cloud. This incovenience is somewhat solved by the Mirror Image Backup option that’s available to Home Plus and Home Premier users.
Although this Hard Disk image will not be backed up online, you can store it on an external hard drive. Prospective Carbonite users should be warned that a Mirror Image Backup can eat up a lot of storage, depending on the OS and the number/size of installed applications.
Recovering Your Data
To recover data from backup, Carbonite users can use one of three paths: browse the Carbonite backup and select the files/folders individually, search their backup, or restore the entire backup via the Restore Manager.
Carbonite Home Plus users that reside in the United States can also ask for a copy of their backup to be sent on the mail. If your hard drive crashes (and thus lose all of your data), Courier Recovery might be the fastest way to get a hold of your information, especially if you have several hundred GBs of more to recover.
Carbonite & Data Security
With Carbonite, all your files are encrypted locally using 128-bit Blowfish keys, and then transferred to Carbonite’s servers using SSL encryption.
One very intersting feature of Carbonite is that the service allows its user to manage their own private encryption keys. By default, the encryption key is managed by Carbonite, but you can choose to manage your own key.
When opting to manage your own key, the software will prompt you to download the encryption key at a location of your choosing. If you lose this file, you will not be able to access your backups anymore seeing as Carbonite doesn’t store a copy. For an extra layer of protection, users can password-protect the encryption key (if they choose they choose to manage it by themselves).
Please bear in mind that if you choose to manage your own key, you will not be able to use Anytime, Anywhere Access (the feature that enables users to download certain files from anywhere via the Internet), and Courier Recovery.
Although it is a bit more expensive than other online backup services, Carbonite’s service compensates with unlimited storage space, Courier Recovery and the ability to access the files in the backup from any web browser. As far as shortcomings go, we’re hoping that Carbonite will allow users to upload Mirror Images to the servers as well.