Carbonite is known as one of the leading backup service providers in the market these days. Started in 2005 and presently headquarters in Boston, the company boasts of having almost 200 billion backed up files and over 7 billion restored files in just 7 years of operation.
With all this experience, it is no wonder why a lot of people almost always turn to Carbonite when they want to sign up for a backup service. So what does this backup service really offer and how can you benefit from it? Let’s find out.
What Carbonite is All About
According to its website, Carbonite is “the better backup plan” that offers secure, automatic, and affordable online backups to those who are looking for a service they can trust. Although one can argue that there are other providers that are just as reliable Carbonite is, in a nutshell, as simple as it can get. I say this because of several reasons and most are based on the features that the service offers to users.
There are 5 main features to the Carbonite backup service which are worth looking into if you want to determine whether or not it is for you. These are automatic backups, accessibility, security, and affordability. Not a very impressive set at first glance, but I’ll discuss each with more depth starting with automatic backups.
When you are engaged in a lot of ventures or just simply have quite a number of tasks at work, it is easy to forget the importance of having backup copies of all your files. This is especially true if you don’t have that much time to check the contents of each and every folder located in your computer and would rather get some work done instead of wasting time. This is why Carbonite’s automatic backup is very valuable, as you literally set it and forget it while it runs silently in the background even when you’re working.
Aside from this, one can easily see which files have been backed up, which are queued for backup, and which files are not lined up. These are marked as green, yellow, and red circles respectively regardless of what type of file you want to upload to your account. A green circle with a white dot in its center also tells you that there are files within a folder that have already been backed up so you can be sure more or less that you have everything covered whenever you work on your PC.
Now the good thing about Carbonite’s backup service is that it offers unlimited storage space so users don’t have to worry about going over a certain limit when they sign up for the service. However, you need to remember that although storage space is unlimited upload speeds for backups are throttled once you reach the 35GB mark for the basic plan and 200GB for the higher plan.
You initially get upload speeds of up to 2mbps, but once you go over the threshold regardless of your plan, upload speeds are reduced to 512kbps and sometimes even 100kbps. This simply means that if you have more than 35GB worth of files and would want to back them all up, you would have to wait for 2-3 days for everything to be uploaded onto the cloud instead of just a single day or a few hours at the least. Once the initial backup is done though, upload speed is no longer an issue since all that is needed to be uploaded are the most recent versions of the files you have accessed or edited and that can certainly be accomplished faster.
For those who need to ensure that everything gets backed up whenever they want, scheduled backups are also available in Carbonite. You can simply choose when backups are going to take place so you can keep an eye on the files you want to upload to your account. Moreover, you can also adjust the rate by which Carbonite uploads your files to the cloud so you don’t have to deal with an unnecessary amount of bandwidth being consumed by the service while you are online and surfing the net.
Accessibility is the next feature that makes Carbonite at par, if not better, than most backup providers in the market these days. The service has an app which can be downloaded directly to a smartphone or tablet to be able to manage, view, and share files from your mobile device. If you have music files already stored in your account, you can access these from your mobile device by simply logging on to your Carbonite account. There is also no need to worry about forgetting an important file that is due at the office or for a presentation because you can access your files from any PC as long as there is internet connection.
Okay, so how many online backup providers offer accessibility from almost anywhere? There are a lot, right? Now how many of these actually have an app for their backup service? Not too many, and this is perhaps the edge that Carbonite has over the others when it comes to accessibility seeing that more and more people are relying on their phones and to basically do everything they can do on their desktops and laptops.
Now let’s talk about security. It’s not uncommon for people to backup sensitive files and documents onto a cloud account because it is more practical than keeping a hard copy and leave it lying around the house or in the office. However, the thing with online backup and storage is that it is not invincible to hijacking and hacking attempts from unscrupulous individuals or groups. If you remember what happened to a number of Dropbox accounts a few months back, you certainly understand my point. The good thing about Carbonite security is that aside from the 256bit SSL encryption being used on all files, you and only you have access to your account because you are able to choose your own encryption key when you first install the app on your laptop or desktop.
What does this mean? Well, when you upload any file onto the Carbonite server, no one will be able to view your files – including Carbonite staff – unless of course you choose to share access with a loved one or a family member. Aside from this, there are several servers in various data centers across the country that house all uploaded files so even if one of them goes down there will be other sources to retrieve or view your files from whenever necessary.
Lastly, Carbonite offers affordability to users with annual plans for unlimited backup and recovery services and US-based customer support which is available thru email, chat and phone. Although the norm with other providers these days is to offer a monthly plan to users, it certainly sounds much better to me to pay in advance for a year’s worth of services and just forget about it until the next billing cycle commences. Plus, paying a monthly fee regardless of how seemingly small it is can have an impact on your cashflow if you’re not too careful with the math, which is why an annual plan in this case looks more appealing.
How Does It Work?
Carbonite offers a 15-day trial for new users who want to see what the service is all about before committing to one of the paid plans, and the good thing is you are not asked for any payment information upon registration. You simply enter your email, choose a password for future access to your online account, and download the app for installation.
Users will be asked to agree to the terms and conditions of the service before installation begins, after which the installation wizard will pop up to let you choose the settings for your preferred backup option. For the purpose of this review, I chose the advanced settings to be able to choose which files to be backed up and to manage the encryption key as well.
By default, you will be given the chance to allow Carbonite to automatically back up music, photos, documents and email when you get started. However, you also have the option to start with no files whatsoever and just manually choose which ones you want to upload onto their servers. One thing that needs mentioning however is that the service does not allow you to upload video files by default if you are on the lowest plan nor will you be allowed to back up system files, apps, or any file that is larger than 4GB. You can have this capability with the higher plans – something that a lot of people will find as somewhat negative on the part of the service as almost every provider provides the means to upload videos even if theirs is a free account.
Anyway, once you have chosen which types of files you need to have secured and backed up you will also be asked to choose between a continuous backup and a manually set schedule, after which the backup process begins and Carbonite will work silently in the background while you continue with your work.
Advantages of Using Carbonite
What I liked about Carbonite is that it takes very little effort to back up files and documents. If you have a Word document that you have just finished for example and you need it to be secure, you can just right-click on the icon present in your folder and choose the option to add to the Carbonite backup. Rinse and repeat for each file you want to back up – it’s that simple.
Another thing that I liked about Carbonite is the fact that one can personally manage the encryption key being used when backing up files. Sure, you will have to bear with some services from Carbonite that will not be accessible to you according to the disclaimer on the installer, but if it actually helps you keep your files and documents more secure then what’s a little sacrifice?
The Downsides to Using Carbonite
There are two things that threw me off the service and the first one is the one-plan-one-PC policy for backups. This means you cannot back several computers with one account for the $59, and you need to sign up for a business plan or a separate plan altogether if you want to have the service for additional PCs. There are providers in the market that allow you to backup up to 3 or 4 PCs at a slightly higher price than $59, but at least you get additional backups.
Aside from this, the issue of throttling also caused me to become a bit apprehensive about Carbonite especially since back up large amounts of files on a regular basis and 35GB does not begin to cover even half of them. Nonetheless, if one has the patience then this is not an issue at all.
Plans, Pricing, and Recommendation
Carbonite plans can be categorized in two. The lower plans focus on home and small business or home office users and cost $59, $99, and $149 per year per computer. The $99 and $149 plans already include external hard drive memory backup as well as the basic functions in the $59 plan. The Business and Business Premier plans on the other hand are suited to larger businesses that need backup services for an unlimited number of computers. These cost $229 and $599 for 250GB and 500GB of storage space respectively.
All in all, I would recommend Carbonite to anyone who wishes to have reliable backup services either for the home or for a business. However, one needs to also be aware of some features that you may or may not find to your liking. Information is the key, and by doing your homework you can determine whether or not Carbonite is really what you need. I suggest that you take advantage of the free trial first before signing up for a paid plan so you can get a feel of what the service really is all about.