Carbonite Home review
Carbonite, one of the most established online backup providers, gives you unlimited backup storage. There’s no monthly plan and you can only associate one PC with the account, so if you want to back up multiple computers, you’ll need multiple accounts. However, discounts are available if you subscribe for two or three years rather than one.
When you install the application, you're asked to name your PC. You can then either allow Carbonite to automatically select the files it thinks you'll want back up (your desktop, document and media directories) and define its own backup schedule, or use the 'Customise your backup' option to set it up by yourself. As Carbonite gives you unlimited storage space, capacity isn’t a problem, but if you’ve got hundreds of gigabtyes of music and video files, upload time may be, so it’s worth tweaking the backup selections to ensure that only the files that are important to you are backed up.
If you go for the custom option, you can start with Carbonite's default folders and edit its selections, or just start with nothing selected and manually add files later. You're also given the option of creating a backup schedule. The default option instructs Carbonite to automatically update your online backup every time it detects a change to any of your backed up files and folders, but you can also have it run a backup once a day or monitor and back up changes only during certain hours.
Finally, you'll be prompted to set up an encryption key. Carbonite by default manages your key by itself, but you can also set your own key. However, if you do this, you'll be entirely responsible for safeguarding it, and won't be able to retrieve your data if you forget it, nor will you be able to access services, such as Carbonite's mobile applications.
With that done, Carbonite completes its configuration and opens its main InfoCenter interface, where you can adjust its settings and restore backed up files. You can't add folders or files to be backed up directly from this interface though. Instead, Carbonite adds a 'Back this up' option to Windows Explorer's right-click menu.
Carbonite's standard configuration means that some file types won't be backed up, including video files, executables and anything over 4GB in size. You can't change this file exclusion list, but you can add otherwise ignored files by selecting them directly (including by selecting the entire contents of a folder) and adding them to your backups.
If you want more automatic backup functionality, you'll have to opt for one of Carbonite's more expensive plans, which include features such as default video backups and the ability to add a single locally-attached external drive to your backups. Sadly, as Carbonite now operates entirely from the US, the courier recovery service, where you can have your files sent to you on disc after a disaster, is now not available in the UK. Carbonite saves up to three months’ worth of file versions and hangs on to files you've deleted for 30 days.
When you want to restore backed up files, you have a number of options. The easiest for retrieving a single file or folder is to browse your backups using the Carbonite Backup Drive, accessible from the Browse your backup option in the InfoCenter software. This replicates the directory structure of your PC and allows you restore them to their original location or a new directory via a right-click menu option. You can also search for files by name and restore all your files at once. Although a standard Carbonite Home subscription only allows you to back up one computer, you can restore your files to a new PC, making it easy to get your data back even if your old computer is temporarily damaged.
Unlike many of its rivals, Carbonite hasn't adopted any synchronisation or file-sharing features. There are mobile apps for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices, which allow you to access your files and listen to your stored music. With unlimited storage, an easy-to-use backup and restoration interface, mobile access to your files and a low price, Carbonite is a great option if you don't need lots of extra bells and whistles. However, although it costs £20 more annually, we prefer Memset SquirrelSave’s unlimited capacity and ability to back up multiple PCs.