Carbonite's fifth generation backup software was released last November, yet it lacks some of the key features that its competitors provide.
Carbonite offers several different services. The basic Carbonite Home service offers unlimited backup for both Windows and Mac systems. The HomePlus service adds external hard drive backup along with the ability to create mirror images, while the HomePremier service adds a courier-recovery service where a copy of your backup will be shipped to you.
HomePlus and HomePremier are for Windows users only. A separate service, Carbonite Business, offers storage at higher rates for business users. Carbonite also has apps for accessing archived files on iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphones.
Carbonite's InfoCenter interface has a clear and easy-to-understand view of your backup status. A nice visual touch is that, like the Mozy software, Carbonite places a dot next to every file that will be affected: Yellow means it's ready to be backed up, while green shows that it's already been backed up. It lacks a log of its operations, though.
By default, Carbonite backs up only your desktop, music, document, photo, settings, email and video files. You can add other specific files, but Carbonite's software balks at including system, Windows and program files.
Carbonite can back up files continuously or on a schedule. The operation remains in the background; a progress bar slowly fills up, giving an estimate of how much time remains.
Once the backup is finished, any archived file can be recovered on the host computer or with a smartphone. Files remain accessible from Carbonite's online server for 30 days after they've been deleted from your computer's hard drive.
Carbonite colocates its server equipment at several data centers throughout the US. According to its site, the service uses RAID techniques on its server disks to make sure that a burned-out hard drive in their farm won't take your backups with it. The system uses 128-bit encryption for both online transfers and data storage; it's the least sophisticated security system of the five services I looked at.
When I performed an initial backup, Carbonite copied 655 files (135MB) and moved them to the company's cloud storage in 27 minutes and 31 seconds. It was able to incrementally back up 25MB of material in 1 minute and 9 seconds, just slightly slower than CrashPlan.
Searching for a lost file took 1.3 seconds and the file was recovered in 1 minute and 6.8 seconds, putting it in the middle of the pack. I also created a backup on a 250GB external drive, which took 3 hours and 16 minutes (the drive needs to be reformatted first).
Carbonite allows you to choose the order in which files are recovered so that you can keep working or playing while other files are downloaded. There is a 15 day free trial period.
I like the unlimited storage that Carbonite provides, and the basic service is inexpensive. However, the fact that you can't do a complete online backup (although you can mirror your files to an external drive) is disappointing.