Carbonite: easiest PC offsite backup

I backup both my Mac and PC to external hard drives every single night. Religiously. I use Retrospect 7 on the PC, ChronoSync on my Mac. However, having only one backup strategy is a recipe for disaster. Especially if you’re backing up to vulnerable media like a hard drive or CD. It’s not a matter of if your external (or internal) hard drive will die. It’s when.

So I always have a second method in place for backup. I’ve tried many hosted backup solutions over the years but I’ve never been happy with them and stopped quickly. Why? Two reasons: It’s slow and it drags down my computer while the upload is happening.

Carbonite bills itself as “Backup for Everyone” and so far, they’re not giving me any evidence otherwise. It’s so easy, I’m confident I can give my Mom the link and she can use it without any instruction or support from me and that says a lot. 😉

Carbonite provides unlimited hosted backups for $50 a year. Store a GB of data, pay $50 a year. Store 50 GB and pay $50 a year.

What makes Carbonite worth blogging about isn’t what it does, but how it does it in such a “non-scary for newbies” way.

Carbonite doesn’t schedule backups like its competitors do. It backs up continually. It takes a few days to do the first backup, but after that it backs up files quickly as they are changed. It backs up only during idle time, so there is absolutely no impact on system performance when the machine is in use. That is what drove me crazy about other online backup systems….they’d start when they were scheduled and be damned anything else I wanted to do at the same time. I could never let the backup finish. I always had to stop it to get anything done, even if it started overnight.

Carbonite’s status window shows how the backup is going:

 When you need to restore a file (or folder), it’s right there in “My Computer” and you can browse and copy back anything you want…or if you’re on a different computer you can log in to your account and restore from the website.

It adds a small colored dot to the corner of each file to let you know whether it’s backed up or waiting to be backed up. It even has a handy option that gives Carbonite lower priority if it’s interfering with Skype or Vonage calls. So far, I haven’t had any problems with Vonage with Carbonite in its default setting.

So yeah, I’m impressed. I’m not throwing out my external drives. Carbonite only backs up data, no system files or applications. So if your hard drive goes completely, you can’t use Carbonite to completely restore everything. But if you’re in big do-do if you lose your budget files or that report you’re working on and like me you need set-it-and-forget-it-backups (and you’re on a PC running Windows), Carbonite is exactly what you’re looking for at a very reasonable price.


3 responses to “Carbonite: easiest PC offsite backup”

  1. I have been thinking of using a similar service but I am somewhat cynical of them. How do you know the company is reputable? Will not lose your data, go out of business or even lack security? I would love to try Carbonite… am I being paranoid?

  2. Hi DG, Like I said I wouldn’t trust just one backup method, so I’m not as worried about the data disappearing. If it does, I still have what I backup to external disk. The chance of both going at the same time is too small to worry about.

    As far as security, Carbonite says that they encrypt in such a way that even they can’t read the data. Plus they have a lot of positive reviews around the ‘net and a great BB Online rating. So you don’t know, and if anything bad happens certainly don’t blame me 😉 but my hunch says that they’re okay.

    Do as I did and do a Google for “” and read what’s being said about them. I originally read about it in Laptop magazine.

  3. Word to the wise: Carbonite doesnt keep any revisions. if you open up your valuable document, select all, hit delete, save it, and wait for a while, all you will have is a backup of the empty file. so unless you’re incredibly good at noticing f-ups right away, you need another system. i suggest a look at mozy. and no, i dont work for them. i am a customer of both carbonite and mozy, as i need more than one solution too