Since 2006, Carbonite has offered its online backup services for personal and professional use. At the beginning, they were the only one to offer unlimited storage in a world of per-gigabyte pricing. These days they’ve been on the cutting edge of useful, new features like mobile app support and file syncing.
No Limits on File Size or Type: You can backup all file types and sizes, although some may require manual upload. Typically, files over 4 GB, videos, .exe files, and uncommon file types require you to right click the files and select upload. In some cases, you can also choose to automatically update files of that type in the future.
The most commonly backed files on personal plans are images, documents, e-mails, music, settings, and videos.
Unlimited Cloud Backup: There’s no data limit on the storage space for Personal plans. The business plans are available in 250GB or 500GB sizes with additional 100 GB add-ons.
Mirror Image Backup: (Excludes Personal Basic plan.) If you have an external hard drive, this feature allows automatic backups. With this feature, you’ll be able to backup files as well as your operating system and software programs.
Sync & Share This new feature, available on the personal and business plans, is a real life saver. It syncs your files across all the devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones) that have the Carbonite app. You can save a file at work and pick up right where you left off at home. The “share” side helps you send these files to others easily from the app, which shows all of the files you’ve edited and saved in the past 30 or more days.
Mobile App for Android and iOS: The mobile apps allow you to search and access your backed up files. You can even play music and view photos through the app. There are several additional options, depending on which plan you choose, such as the Sync & Share app.
Continuous Backup: This type of backup occurs once every minute, 24 hours per day.
Scheduled Backup: This option allows you to schedule a convenient backup time, usually overnight.
Valet Installation: (For Business plans) A customer service rep can walk you through the entire installation and set-up process to get you going on your first backup.
The Good On Carbonite
No More Throttling
In the past, Carbonite would “throttle” data upload after you hit a certain GB of data storage. After resounding complaints, they ditched this policy, so uploads should be faster than ever before.
Carbonite uses 128-bit Blowfish encryption, which is one of the top algorithms available. Blowfish has never been cracked. Transfer and server-side encryption make sure your data is never vulnerable to a weak spot.
15 to 30 Day Free Trial
Personal plans have a 15 day trial, while business plans have a 30 day trial. This should give you enough time to try backing up and re-downloading a few sample files to get the hang of things.
The Android Carbonite app has a really nice feature: it automatically uploads your image and video files to your cloud space. While there are other apps that do this, the syncing of devices is very well-integrated using this app. Unfortunately, this feature is not yet available on iOS, but you can still take advantage of Sync & Share and other Carbonite apps on iPhones and iPads.
You don’t have to work through the Carbonite interface to manually upload files. Instead, find the file on your computer then right click and backup.
Restore to Different Computer
If your computer is completely shot, you can restore on an entirely new hard drive. You’ll want to contact customer service to make sure they roll over your plan to the new computer; otherwise you’ll be able to restore but not be able to continue backing up.
Continuous or Scheduled Backups
You have a few options when it comes to how you back up your files. Continuous backup updates your files once per minute all day, every day. The downside is the potential for lag, especially during peak working hours. For this reason, Carbonite also offers scheduled backups that can take place overnight or whenever you don’t expect heavy computer use.
Customer support is US-based and available 7 days per week from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. There is also a chat support as well as e-mail, though they have the same response hours as the phone line. While there are the occasional complaints, especially about the lack of 24-hour help, we’ve found most customers are satisfied with the assistance they get from the support team. The average wait time is about 20 minutes.
The Bad On Carbonite
Backup NOT Archiving
This isn’t really a bad thing if you understand what you’re getting into. A lot of Carbonite’s bad reviews come from customers who did not understand the purpose of backing up their files versus archiving them. A simple key to remember is this: Backups are generally for constantly changing files while archiving is for long term storage of unchanging files.
For example, Carbonite only keeps deleted file for 30 days. They are not a cloud-based, online “hard drive,” so if it’s gone from your computer, it will soon be gone forever on their end as well. So while Carbonite offers storage space for photos and videos, they’re really intended for new and constantly changing data like workplace documents.
Bottom line is this: don’t delete anything on your end expecting Carbonite to store it forever for you.
Sorry Mac Users
Personal Plus and Prime are not available for Mac. We’re not sure if or when to expect this to change.
No Free Plan
Some of Carbonite’s competitors have a plan in which the first 2 GB or so of storage space are free. Carbonite does not have this option, so it’s best for those really expecting to need a lot of data.
No Month-to-Month Plan
You must sign up for a year’s worth of services in advance, and you have to pay that fee upfront. The upside is the discount for buying 2 or 3 years’ worth of subscription time, which affords you a 5 or 10 percent discount.
As a matter of security, it is worth noting that Carbonite does not currently store your files in more than one physical location.
Slow Backups & Restores
This especially applies to your first backup. The process can be painfully slow. If you are trying to restore hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos after a computer crash, you may be in for a long wait there, too. Try to keep these types of files minimal or store them on an external hard drive.
Only One PC per Account
This does not apply to the business plans, which allow you to sync up an unlimited number of devices. With the personal plans, however, you can only have one desktop PC per subscription account. On the plus side, you can sync up a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone.
We’ve heard a few horror stories from people who did not keep on top of their subscription timeline. Since you purchase a year at a time, it can be easy to lose track of time or miss the renewal e-mails. If you fail to re-subscribe, you may risk losing all of your backup data.
Our Verdict On Carbonite
Although Carbonite offers personal use plans, it really is better designed for small and large businesses.
What most personal users are usually looking for is archiving, which allows them to store photos, videos, software (like games, Adobe products, etc), and other large collections of files. Carbonite can do this, but if your computer ever needs a full restore, it will take a very long time to download all of the files. If this is what you’re looking for, look into an external hard drive instead.
For businesses, however, Carbonite is an excellent tool. Its secure file storage allows you to recover multiple versions of documents and other files based on various save dates. If a file becomes corrupted or accidentally deleted or lost, your backup is right there to save the day. This is especially crucial for financial, POS, CRM, e-mails or other constantly updated files. Carbonite’s HIPAA compliance makes it a worthy option for businesses in the healthcare industry, as well.
Take the time to consider the Appliance deal, which allows you both local- and cloud-based storage. It’s a bit pricier, but the investment is miniscule when you consider your potential losses as a business.