Carbonite Backup is not sold by Zirius, or do we sell any online backup by itself. We do however sell Online Managed Backup.
This review does not cover Carbonite Pro.
- When do we recommend Carbonite backup?
online backup performance and targeted customers?
- What does Carbonite do
you should know about?
- Carbonite conclusions
I am an IT guy who uses Carbonite Backup at home. (Shhhh.
spread it around.)
inexpensive. It works ok for my needs to back up photos and music
files. The limitations that bother a business user (and
enable it to be so
inexpensive) do not affect me on this computer.
is a decent service at a great price if you can accept its limitations.
Those limitations, which allow it to be so cheap, can create problems
for businesses. Most home users will find
Carbonite a vast improvement over
is not an online service.
the past few years we have used, sold, serviced, and/or tested twelve
different online backup services for our small business
clients. We have researched even more.
This article will
evaluate if Carbonite (or a different online backup)
would meet your needs.
don't. Our clients are businesses. We even own
licenses from years ago that we never offered for sale.
think the big issues are these, but there are more lited below if you
read down. The shortcomings listed below are handled differently in
good, business-class backup services.
How far back
does the backup go?30 days, but without versioning (see next line) it is not so good.
means to keep multiple versions of the same file for a set time.
Carbonite does not keep versions, so only the most recent file is
preserved. This can mean a lot of trouble. For esxample, if you get a
virus that infects your files, thereby changing the files, Carbonite
will only have the most recent, infected version of the files.
Backup for them. (I.E. redundany)
class backup servcies have a data center that holds your data, and
another cata center copying that data center in case something goes
wrong. Like an earthquake, or a flood. Or just it hardwarr problems.
Carbonite has only one data center. it costs less that way. But Carbonite has lost customer's data.
They blamed a hardware problem. They blamed the company that sold
them the hardware. maybe so, but they need a backup data center. That's
the real problem.
Slow to perform
be excrusiatingly slow at downloading and restoring data. Can take
days. Running backups becomes slow when you have a lot of data
Slows down your computer
This happens when just running a backup, but it especially can affect computers more than three years old.
Freezes your access
freezes access to files (Word files, QuickBooks, etc.) when
backing them up, and this can happen throughout the day in the
default mode of running backups "continuously". Inconvenient to say the
provides support by phone, chat, and by remote connection to your
desktop if needed, but the technicians are very basic. Our
experience is of asking a clear qestion several times, and
thinking they are answering it, but theyreally don't understand, don't
ask for clarification, and draw us into lots of time wasted.
Honesty about "unlimited backup"
We think they are not honest claiming to offer unlimited backup. Carbonite backup is not unlimited. Repeated reports say they limit it to 100 GB. That is still a lot of data to back up, but please be honest.
Summary of Carbonite
online backup performance and targeted customers:
seems to target the consumer and home office marketplace. It is safe to
say it is not intended for a more demanding business user.
It has made a
splash by offering "unlimited" backup for an
Carbonite backup does not include some features considered
important in a business environmen, and that some home users don't want
to be without. These features include ability to
get your data restored quickly, access to support and its ability to
run on a
without slowing it down or interfering with your ability to work.
As with all online backup, the
first backup takes a while (and this can be days or several weeks), but
afterwards each backup usually only takes 15 to 30 minutes.
Ssometimes the service does not work well for some environments. Read
below for details.
What Carbonite Backup does well:
- Very, very
low cost. Ridiculously low. (Only Mozy Free is less expensive, and
covers only up to 2 GB.
- Runs 1 to 3
times per day, automatically.
Backs up without you thinking about it.
(But not always. See below.)
- Great, easy instructions.
use of voice introduction.
Nice set of
can see some of the tutorials here.)
use of little messages
to explain what it going on in your first backup. Here is an
there!"It's normal for your first backup to take several days. When the
lock icon in your system tray turns green, you are all backed up.
(Then, updates to your backup will take just a few minutes per day.)
- Will back up files up to a maximum size of 4
pretty big. (Carbonite Pro, just released and not yet reviewed, uses a
maximum file size of 10 GB.)
Mac (which we have not tested) and Windows.
MacIntosh computers. This is the trend for all
online backup services today.
easy to select files for backup. There is no program window for
selecting files to backup. Instead, you right click on files or folders
in Windows Explorer (i.e. the folder tree). Once you learn
this, it is
an easy and simple system. Very nice.
backs up Outlook (unless you choose to select the files for backup
- (Note - this is an EASY
file to miss because of the way
Microsoft buried in deep in many folders. See here.)
backs up your "My Documents" and many settings (unless you turn this
of). Not unusual. If you don't use the My
Documents folder, or just let it collect junk, you can un-select
- Offers a
says "unlimited", but it actually is limited, and they have
accused of false advertising in this. Carbonite limits it to
an undefined amount more than the average account uses. More info here. Still, they offer
a lot of backup for not much money. Seems you just have to stay under
100 GB 100 GB.
- You can get
your files when you are at another computer.
This is GREAT, but not unique. Stilll, a lot of value for the money.
More about Carbonite issues
you should know about:
advertises the backup as covering "unlimited" data on your hard drive.
It is not. You are limited by their formula. It seems safe to count on
it backing up 100 GB, which is still a lot. Carbonite denies the limit,
but reports of people expoeriencing reduced speed of backups and limits
to the service continue. For more info see here
and here. You can also google "Carbonite not
- The maximum
file size it will back up is 4GB. (This would
be an enormous file.)
- The maximum
you can transfer (combined backups and
restores) is 100 GB per month.
Peope who back up large amounts of music and photos may run against
this limit, which seems to be part of the limit calculation
described in the above paragraph.
- The computer slows down
during online backup.
is two issues. There
is a big difference between Carbonite and
of the other backup
services (which cost more) in this area.
The first issue
is that Carbonite uses a lot of the "resources" on your
computer - mostly memory and CPU. This makes your computer run slowly or not
respond when a backup is running. This is really bad only in the first
couple of minutes of a backup, but continues somewhat for the
duration of the backup (about 20 minutes on my computer).
used by Carbonite on my computer is about 150 MB for the following
- 64 to 85 MB;
The second issue
is that Carbonite
locks your files
during each backup so that you sometimes cannot save
two to three times daily, since Carbonite backs up your data that often
(unless you set it otherwise. See a few lines below.)
this happens, Windows just
tells you that you might be out of disk space, which sends you on
completely the wrong direction.
Windows says "There is not enough free memory
to run this program. Quit one
or more programs and then try again."
This can interferes with your work flow.
Businesses tend to not tolorate computer programs that make
you stop your work while they do their work.
you click on the Carbonite "Lock Box" in the system
tray (the simple and easy point from which you control Carbonite) and
select "Pause Carbonite" or "Disable Carbonite", you cannot get this
freeze to thaw and return your computer to normal operation - until
Carbonite finishes its backup.
Sometimes on my XP computer, even when Carbonite finishes,
does not return to normal. Rebooting fixes the problem, and I am not
certain that Carbonite is the only culprit. It might be that Carbonite
only does this when it is installed on a computer with a particular
other program. But it happened to me, and this is not a level of
inconvenience you need to tolorate if it
is a problem for you. there are other backup programs that work fine in
One of our people wrote this about
this really bugs me. Suddenly nothing
when I click. If I am trying to open a file I am refused with
a cryptic message. If I
am saving, a message appears that says my disk is full and I cannot
Ah! It is just that
Carbonite is starting up a
Carbonite comes preset to run multiple times per day, these issues can
multiple times daily. Or you can choose settings to avoid the
I have set the preferences for Carbonite
daily. Some folks set it to run at night, with the computer running all
night, but since I like to work green, I want it to run during my work
set it to run when I usually take lunch.
- The security and
safety of the data storage.
uses only one
location to store your data. The best use two.
lost customer data
a couple of years ago, and got a ton
of bad press. They blame Promise, a hardware vendor and are
them. (Google "Carbonite data loss" for more on it.)
Again, this looks like a case of trying to run a lower
cost service. Although I expect that with the bad press, they have been
sensitized to the issue, it seems like the risk that they will allow
this to happen again is pretty slight.
in mind, however, they do not say that they keep your data in dual
locations. There is just one, and one earthquake could
kill it. Few backup providers actually use redundant data
centers. Iron Mountain is the only one we know.
- Note: it
is rare for an online backup company to give a
guarantee that you will get your data back. (Only Iron Mountain
LiveVault Backup for Servers does this, and at $6 and up per gigabyte,
it is too expensive for many.
But they document that every recovery of data has been successfull -
millions of them - and they track the number.)
- The speed of
- The backup speed just is
when you gain a lot of data.This
is often not critical for small
businesses. As long
as the data all
gets transmitted over the internet, even if it takes weeks, that is
acceptable. It can really take this long if you have tens or a hundred
gigabits or more. Less expensive backups tend to back it up slower.
- HOWEVER -
You cannot make Carbonite run a
Let's say you have just completed a big project and saved
it to disk on your laptop. You want to run a backup before you start
lugging your laptop around. Carbonite will allow you to choose "Run a
backuip ASAP", but that could take some hours. You would have to move
on with your laptop and not have that file backed up on Carbonite.
- Problems with restoring
- Not quick:
This is where the rubber hits the road.
you need to
restore data, you usually want it QUICK. Right away. Pronto pronto.
Fast is usually
critical for a business. You don't want to wait 10
hours to get back a file that is critical to doing work that day. I
have heard of this happening with Carbonite, which I chalk up to the
low price. their servers can get busy, I imagine.
If speed of data recovery might be important
to you, avoid the very low cost "consumer" level
that are out there. Check the service agreement you accept when you
install the free trial. Carbonite is the "low cost leader".
- Sometimes restoring data is
blocked on my pc.
I click on "View Files to Restore" or " Select Files to Restore"
backup is running or Carbonite is getting ready, searching
files to back up, nothing happens. I cannot run a backup. Nothing tells
me to wait until Carbonite is finished running a backup. And
I have to just wait the 20 minutes or so until Carbonite is finished
running a backup to do the restore. I have not found a way to turn it
- How far back
does the backup go?
Carbonite gives you "30 days of backup" instead of saving a
set number of versions of each file. Perhaps this is enough for
For more info on what this means, see our summary of online backup
availability of support
isupport is slow and by email only.
They can be slow in responding (several hours to more than a day, in my
experience.) The support page on their web site states no commitment to
getting back to you within any period of time, but jsut invites you to
send an email.
- Price is Carbonite's big
drawing card. $54.95 is a great price, but it means that the backup
tool has some limits.
is Online Managed Backup
is online backup that is monitored
and sometimes managed by another party for an increased price. There are big differences in what
level of service actually is delivered by the other
way, you know you have a backup
even if your computer, your software, your employeees, or who knows
what goes wrong. You don't have to pay attention to it
in case you are busy or you have a business in which relying on someone
to do this is unpredictable and costs labor.
Managed Backup. We do not sell Online Backup by itself except
to our larger network clients.
good value for the price, if you can live with the warts - that is our
Carbonite does a
very nice job of making it easy to use, and
the lowest price that I know for backing up more than a gigabyte. And
they will back up a hundred.
But you also get
what you pay for. If the limitations of
acceptable to you, great. Use it. But if they look like a problem,
consider that paying an extra $20 per month ($240/year) might be a
small price for backup that works smoothly for the business.
Also keep in
mind that if someone needs to spend time
a backup like Carbonite - opening it, checking that it ran -
that can easily cost you several times the
$240/year additiional for a more business-compatible backup.
If you need this
and don't have the time to spend watching it yourself, we recommend
online managed backup
to keep the cost down.
To see it yourself, visit the website for Carbonite Backup.