Thursday, April 26, 2007

Software: Carbonite

Back in September 2006, when I was entering college I was faced with a problem: what to do when my hard drive fails. It is not a question of if rather a question of when. Having had hard drives fail before, I knew it was going to be very risky having all of my class notes stored on my hard disk. One of my concerns was having an recent backup of all of my files, but from experience I know it is difficult to force yourself to actually burn a CD or DVD of your files and it is just expensive and annoying to copy things to an external hard drive. If you use a hard disk you have multiple versions of files everywhere and CDs and DVDs just start to stack up and it is impossible to organize them. Even with these backups, it is possible for them to be damaged or lost. In some cases, you risk them being stolen.

My solution, subscribe to an online backup service. My first problem, how much can I back up? Well, I am a data pack rat. I have all of my files neatly organized based on year and subject. My school files are organized in a detailed system with the first folder being each semester and the next folder being each class followed by class specific folders. I don't know what I would do if my files were somehow lost. When I migrated to Vista I transfered 20 GB of just documents, music, and pictures! This is not even all of my data, much remains on my older desktop waiting to be sorted through.

Getting back to online backup services, the problem is many of them limit the amount of data you can backup. I wanted one that was not expensive (I am a college student) and would have a copy of my data in some server in the sky that would be safe even if my laptop battery decided to burst into flames.

My software of choice ended up being Carbonite. (No, this has nothing to do with Star Wars.) Carbonite was a rather affordable service costing about $50 for a one year or $90 for two years. I decided to spring for a two year plan on my tablet (at the time I knew it was a bit of a gamble but the service seemed rather reputable). There were several things that made Carbonite stand out over other services.

(I blocked out the file that it was currently transferring in red)

Definitely the most important feature was the UNLIMITED backup. Well, if you really look closely at the fine print it is not unlimited. Basically, they let you back up everything up to 50 GB then they restrict you to .5 GB a day backup. I really haven't noticed them enforce this .5 GB limit per day but I am sure it would take forever to backup a terabyte hard drive using a normal internet connection anyway. As you can see from my screenshot of the interface, I have over 55GB backed up on their servers. On my other computer which runs Carbonite I have even more data backed up (mostly family photographs).

However, the above picture is probably misleading. A lot of my data appears to not be backed up. This is because I just transfered to Vista and manually transfered all of my files and reinstalled Carbonite. Another benefit to Carbonite is that it keeps the files you delete for a month. This way if you delete something you can always go back to your Carbonite directory and recover it. Also, Carbonite is also smart enough to not transmit a file it has already backed up. That is what it is doing right now file by file. It is like, is this file backed up, yes, OK, next next file backed up... It is taking a while.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the service. Mozzy is one of the competitors software which offers a very similar service, but currently has more features. Carbonite hints of updates on their website but I have yet to see any of them make it to the end user. However, back when Vista was first released Carbonite was not compatible at all, and actually was one of the pieces of software that held be back from upgrading (obviously it is working now).

Just to end with a free advertisement for Carbonite, I have had very little trouble with the service, it is very transparent. Their servers do go down from time to time (I assume for upgrades or maintenance) but typically my data is backed up and secure just a few minutes after I make the file. I have a feeling of comfort knowing that WHEN my hard drive finally gives out I will have one less thing to worry about. I have a feeling that a big project for class will be located on my drive when it crashes and I would be completely lost without Carbonite.

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