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Carbonite Online Backup review


Not the most fully featured service, but the only one that makes backup a complete no-brainer

Review Date: 17 Aug 2010

Reviewed By: Stuart Andrews

Price when reviewed: £36 (£42 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Despite competition from the new breed of cloud storage services, straight online backup services still provide the most effective means of keeping a safe copy of your files in a remote location. And our current favourite, Carbonite, hasn't stood still since we last reviewed it. For instance, mobile apps for Blackberry and iPhone now allow users to browse, view and email files stored on Carbonite from their mobiles, proving that the company isn't afraid to learn new tricks.

However, Carbonite's touchstone remains simplicity. Sign up to the service, download and install the client application, and with a minimum of configuration, you're covered. A system of green and yellow dots on the folder and file icons in Windows and Windows Explorer gives you a quick view of what is and isn't safeguarded, and you can add new items to your backup set just by right-clicking.

Carbonite Online Backup

The Carbonite client works quietly in the background, spotting when files are changed and uploading just the modified data to the backup set; in our tests, it regularly uploaded amended files within two minutes of saving. The performance impact on PC and internet speeds is minimal, and you can set internet usage to low priority should you need to. Carbonite has also become faster since we last tried it. Where the initial backup used to take much longer than on rival services, the 6hrs 37 mins it took to upload 1GB of test data was competitive, as was the 37 minutes it took to restore 500GB of photos.

Previously, it was only possible to restore files using the client, but it's now possible to restore individual items through a web-based interface. Sadly, this is slow and clunky, and the Windows Explorer-style view isn't exactly quick to refresh. Carbonite's support for versioning is also behind Mozy or iDrive, with limited access to previous versions of files.

At £41.95 per year for unlimited backup of one PC, Carbonite offers excellent value, provided you don't have multiple systems on the go. Business and power users, therefore, should consider the new Pro service, which offers backup for unlimited numbers of PCs, with the price dependent purely on capacity used. For $10 per month, 20GB might easily cover the essential files of a small business. Data is secured using 128-bit SSL for transfer and 448-bit Blowfish encryption for your files.

Other services are catching up with Carbonite for ease-of-use, while outpacing it in terms of features. If, however, you want pain-free - even brain-free - online backup, Carbonite remains the way to go.

Author: Stuart Andrews

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User comments

Good backup with few flaws

Have been with Carbonite for past two years and when it worked well, it worked really well. On occasion, the backup crashed, eg unable to backup files with abnormally long filenames. Then you realise the side-effect: the software was so simplified that it was opaque to troubleshoot. The most recent client software seems to be significantly improved. However, the error logs are just as absent.

The single feature that kept me with Carbonite is the unlimited backup size. No fair use clause. Apparently, a few customers have over 1 TB of data backed up!

Recently, I restored almost a hundred thousand files and there were less than ten files that were unable to be restored.

So my experience is: you will have a very good backup experience with Carbonite - unless you need to troubleshoot. Hopefully, this will be addressed in the next software iteration.

By mnj_lim on 17 Aug 2010

Reasonable but slows machine

I've just dropped carbonite as I found it slowed the PC down too much. A remarkable difference with it completely removed. I now run backips to a desktop drive at close down each night. Quicker, and all under my control.

By mandarin44 on 18 Aug 2010

Good features but don't all work

I went through the trial version of Carbonite, but some of the features important to me just didn't work. The scheduler was ignored (I didn't want it backing up during working hours), and if you rebooted it would not automatically restart backups (it would start up but "paused").

In fact, the only time it would, without my manual intervention, start backing up, was when I had told the scheduler NOT to work!

I paid for the Mozy service instead!

By Jules on 18 Aug 2010

Works if you follow their rules

So that means that partitions have to be NTFS or FAT on Windows or a couple of Mac formats (and not FAT, although the Mac will read/write that) on Macs. This particularly affects people who dual-boot, including to Linux.

I went to Diino, whose Java-based client works on all three platforms, and also lets you run it on multiple machines for the same price.

By iwatters on 21 Aug 2010

Alternative to Carbonite (Timeline Cloud)

I have tried Carbonite for a short while and it was really complicated the backup process took a long time, especially with Outlook Files you can’t locate them, and you have to manually go deep in the system to select them!!!Imagine the time that will take. I did extensive research tell recently I came into Timeline Cloud, they backup to Amazon S3 which is safer plus they have cloud disaster recovery which makes me feel safer all under high level of encryption. Definitely recommend checking them out. You can check them here:

By RonaldH on 12 Jul 2011

gotta have local backup as well

Like many I'm moving away from Mozy as the price has shot up.

Mozy 2 had a great feature where it backed up to a local (usb) drive as well as online, so if you suffer a sizeable data loss the recovery doesn't take forever. Crashplan does this, and also does initial seeding (or recovery) on a loan drive (for a price). USD49/yr unlimited. (I'll write again if it doesn't work out)

By shimself on 2 Jan 2012

I believe my backup system backup direct allows you to backup live databases

The system my small business uses is from backup direct. A complete doodle to set up. A live webinar with a support member of staff walked me through every step of the way. I have been a customer of backup direct for 5 years now! I was so happy with their level of service when I recently deleted my iTunes folder by accident. I called them at about 9pm on a Friday night and they were able to show me exactly how to restore it. I was so happy with it that I now get my business broadband and their VoIP telephone system from them. Email me if you want to know more!

By Patsy1984 on 21 Mar 2012

500Gb in 37 minutes

Your review said you restored 500gb of photos in 37 minutes. Surely not over a web connection??

By AndrewD on 25 Apr 2012

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