Backup roundup (part 3) - Carbonite on Windows

Carbonite offers much the same type of service as Mozy, reviewed in the previous part of this series. Unlike Mozy, the service is presently limited to Windows systems, although Mac support is in development.

The inner structure seems more opaque than Mozy’s, from a superficial exploration, but the end result is similar.

The user interface is much more polished than Mozy’s: the developers clearly put substantially more effort into the appearance and integration. Where Mozy just gives a progress indicator, Carbonite adds a small colored dot to each backup-eligible file in Explorer, green when the file has been backed up, yellow when the file (or the content of a folder) has been modified since the last backup. There is also a context menu extension, allowing you to exclude files or folders or force an immediate backup of that data: much more useful than Mozy’s daily system-wide batch backups.

This is very user friendly: you can see at a glance if there is a current backup of any given file or folder, trigger an immediate backup after an important change, or exclude data you don’t need backed up. On the downside, Carbonite is more selective: video files will only be backed up after you explicitly request this for each folder containing video data.

In addition, backups are more current: Mozy performs a daily backup of all data, while Carbonite will trigger much more frequently when you create or alter files in a backed up area. In version 3.5, Carbonite added the ability to restore previous versions, another advantage over Mozy.

Restoring data to a new machine also features clever handling of user accounts, giving you the option of creating a new user account to match the one backed up or restoring into an existing user’s account (regardless of name). This is quite useful for moving from one machine to another.

The only drawback I have experienced is a conflict with installing software from MSI packages: Carbonite is a little bit too efficient and tries to back up the Windows Installer’s temporary files while they are in use, causing occasional conflicts. Suspending Carbonite backups for the duration of the installation is usually enough to get around this, although on one occasion (on Windows Vista Enterprise x64) I had to disable the Carbonite Windows service before an application would install successfully.

Features and advantages

Limitations and problems


In every respect except web access to files and Mac support, Carbonite currently beats Mozy. For Windows users, it’s an excellent choice; on the Mac, the best choice seems to be the combination of Mozy and Time Machine, giving similar functionality with faster restores at greater expense. Once it’s released, I’ll examine the Mac version of Carbonite and revisit this conclusion; so far, I expect Carbonite and Time Machine to prove a winning combination, but Mozy could yet close the gap.

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