Carbonite Online Backup

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Internet Backup Service 

Carbonite Online Backup

For years I listened to Leo Laporte from This Week in Tech, talk about Carbonite Online Backup.  It got to the point where I felt like I knew his family just from his talking of his personal experiences with the service. I never thought that I would ever consider purchasing a service to backup my data.  Until one day the unthinkable happened, I lost an entire folder of unrecoverable data.

Over the last decade, I worked as a Systems Administrator for a prominent microchip manufacturer  in Silicon Valley.  Part of the definition of my position was to maintain the data of all the Engineers in our department.  I spent a great deal of time setting up servers to perform the backups of all the data for each engineer locally and nearly as much time negotiating a contract with a Colocation provider in another state.

Carbonite @ Home

Fortunately, I do not have to deal with all that at home, thanks to Carbonite.  Carbonite gives me complete control over exactly what, when, and how quickly my files are backed up.  Through the simple, user-friendly interface I can select what folders or files are included in the backup, at what time of the day and how much of my internet upload bandwidth should be used.  The nod to bandwidth management is particularly useful for those who do not have access to unlimited uploading (like all Comcast Xfinity customers).

CarboniteSettingsBackupDefault

Since it’s debut, Carbonite has only expanded its features.  In the beginning it only worked on Windows, had only one plan, and only for consumers.  Now they offer three different home plans and two business plans for Windows and Mac users.    All of these plans do not require any money up front until you feel satisfied that the service works, or 15 days have passed.  Each of the Home user plans covers at least all of one computer.  Where the HomePlus and HomePremier plans cover external drives and/ or automated video backup and recovery (Windows Only).

Carbonite makes computer data backup nearly maintenance-free. Its easy to determine the status of any file’s backup state by an overlay image that Carbonite includes when you install the software.  Depending on the status of the file, there will be a dot in the lower left-hand corner of each file icon or file image that is either solid green, green & white, or orange.

  • Green = Archive Complete
  • Green / white = Sub folder excluded
  • Orange = Archive Incomplete

I don’t need a backup of every single file and to save time with the archiving process, I make sure that some folders are exempt.  Exempt folders will have no dot and if they are subfolders, then the ones above them will be green / white.

Scheduling & Bandwidth

CarboniteSettingsBackup

If you have sufficient upload bandwidth, this next section may not apply to you.  In my experience most people do not have much uploading bandwidth.  I use the scheduling feature of Carbonite to keep the software from hogging the internet while I am using the computer. Although it is possible to specify the bandwidth to curb this issue, if you cut it down too much, the backups may never be complete. I often run my backup in the afternoon, because I work late.

There are three settings for backup scheduling that can be accessed from the “Settings” view. The primary setting “Backup Continuously” (recommended by Carbonite) I do not recommend. Carbonite recommends this because it gives the highest likelihood to be backed up, it will inevitably slow down your computing experience.

Using the second backup timer “Back up once a day” is good if you do not have much to backup.  The trouble with this feature is that if you do have a lot to do, it may never finish either.  If you pick this option, I recommend starting 10 minutes after you go to bed, that way the backup will have the longest period before you get back to it again.

The third option is similar to the second, but in this “Back up during certain hours”, you can set a specified time range.  This option gives you the most amount of control over when the backup occurs.  I choose this option to keep track of exactly my bandwidth and how much my computer will be used.  When I worked as an Systems Administrator, each user’s back up had a specified time, and most of them were after-hours.

 Restoring

CarboniteSettingsRestore

I am grateful that I have not needed to use use Carbonite since I acquired the service, although I wish I’d had it before I needed it.  There are three options for restoring files; search, browse, and restore all.  The files on Carbonite’s servers are not stored quite the same way as they are on your computer, but they do have a copy of the structure of your file system. This is convenient for when you want to browse through the files.

Whether you browse or have specific file or set of files that you need to restore, you will only see the files that have been backed up.  So if you, like me, do not have every single file included in the backup, you will only see those files that are included (all files that has a solid green dot).  If you do have the entire system backed-up then the file structure should look like that of your computer.

Once you’ve found the files that you need, you have two options for retrieving them.  You can either download them one-at-a-time or group them and download a zipped archive.  A fair bit of warning about this is that if you need a large number of files, the time it takes to zip and download will be proportional to the total size of the files.  So if you need several gigabytes of files consider how long several gigabytes will take to download on your internet connection.

Online Help

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There are a large number of video tutorials providing help with Carbonite when or if you need it.  The application on your computer has several links to the materials online.  The Support page has 4 topics; Getting Started, Video Tutorials, How-To Guides, and Troubleshooting.  A good deal of the help tools use video to easily walk you through the question or solution.

In the Getting Started section the company begins with the installation and a video.  As you progress down the page, the features and functionality are expounded on, with each section opening up below the last.  If you only need one section this presentation is ideal as you do not have to scroll through a long list of irrelevant information.

As I noted earlier, there are a good deal of video tutorials.  Carbonite really wants this to be as simple as possible for you. The tutorials cover just about every major topic in Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac OS.  It may be worth noting that if you have the basic plan, some of these tutorials may not apply.  Fortunately, the title of the video will help you to determine if the video relates to your product version.

If you still feel lost or just want a bit more information, the How-To Guide topics may be the space for you.  Over the years Carbonite has had much practice in responding to needs of their customers and has a sizeable knowledge-base of articles for your perusal. This list can be browsed or searched to find exactly what you need.

Troubleshooting is a familiar topic for me as it is one of the most taxing things I dealt with at my job.  Having a database with the answers to many of these questions is so very helpful.  Do not hesitate to check this section if you feel that something has gone awry.  You may even find a tip about improving the performance of the software.

3-2-1 Rule for Backups

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There is a simple rule for backups that has been around for a while.  The concept goes like this

  • 3 – You should have your files in three locations or formats.  
  • 2 – The files should be on at least two types of media
  • 1 – At least one of the backups of your data should be off-site (not in your house).

Three different media types??  Yes, there are many media types that qualify. For example, DVDs, CDs, Floppy Disks (although maybe not so much any more), USB Flash Drives, USB Hard Drives, Network Attached Storage (NAS), tape backup and online backup.  Your hard drive still counts as a media format, but preferably not as a backup location.

For those of us fortunate enough to have Carbonite Online Backup, that fulfils one part of each of the three rules.  It counts as a location, a media format, and online backup.

I personally like Seagate external USB backup drive as my second media type, rather than a DVD or CD, because it has a massive amount of storage and is fast to access my files.  At one time I had Network Attached Storage drive, that is a hard drive that is connected to the network, rather than a USB cable to a computer.

If you’re wondering where the third copy of the files are, it’s not so much a copy as it is the original files.   Your three locations or formats should include the original files, an external media (CD / DVD / USB), and Online (offsite) backup

This may sound like a great deal of fuss over a few files, but when you’ve lost them for whatever reason, there is an amazing peace of mind that comes when you realize that you have not one copy, but two.  And Carbonite, in my opinion makes this whole process a great deal easier.

Conclusion

I’ve used Carbonite Online Backup for just over one year.  I’ve actually used both the mobile application and the web interface, to access files remotely, when my computer was shut off.  Not everyone has access to their files and Carbonite satisfies this issue.

As a Systems Administrator, I am aware of how it is possible to set up another one-time cost method of off-site backup.  But it would not come anywhere close to the feature set of Carbonite.  After all, Carbonite Online Backup provides a great deal of help and access to your files for only $5 / month. I know that a not many other solutions would not be equivalent.

For the typical customer or for the advanced techie, Carbonite Online Backup is a very good, very affordable tool.  I for one am grateful that it exists and a satisfied customer.

Check out Carbonite Online Backup today

Protect your files with Carbonite Online Backup