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Summary:

Get ready for yet another cloud-based backup offering for the Mac. The folks at Carbonite are now shipping a beta version for us Mac folks. Should we be excited? Well, let’s see… After trying out their software, I can’t say that it does anything more useful […]

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Get ready for yet another cloud-based backup offering for the Mac. The folks at Carbonite are now shipping a beta version for us Mac folks. Should we be excited? Well, let’s see…

After trying out their software, I can’t say that it does anything more useful than my current solution, Backblaze. In fact, I can say it is less useful. Read on for details on the positives and negatives.

Installation & Main UI

Installing Carbonite is pretty straightforward. You download the package from the Carbonite site and follow the standard install process. Once installed, Carbonite adds a menu item and System Preference Pane.

Main UICarbonite Primary UI

Within this screen, you can define if the Backup is Enabled, Disabled, or Paused. There is also a checkbox for using low-priority mode to conserve bandwidth. Honestly, I can’t tell if this is useful or not, as it took the app over 10 minutes just to calculate 100GB of data. Let’s say that from what I can tell, Carbonite is not speedy.

If you choose to disable Carbonite, this screen changes by adding an Uninstall button for quick and easy removal of the software.

Backup UI

What’s interesting here is that Carbonite works similarly to Mozy in terms of backing up specific data rather than just backing up all of your data like Backblaze or Time Machine. On the flip side, you can completely customize what you want to backup. However, you cannot specify applications or system folders.

Backup UICarbonite Backup UI

Restore UI

Carbonite can restore your files via this simple UI. Just select the files you want to restore and then specify the drive for restoration.

Restore UICarbonite Restore UI

It also has a restore wizard. So, if your drive fails and you need to restore to another Mac, you can simply walk through this wizard and wait patiently for your files to download.

Restore WizardCarbonite Restore Wizard

Summary

Carbonite has done a reasonable job providing a simple Mac client for users who want offsite backup. The product is easy to set up and is competitively priced. However…

If given the choice between Backblaze, Carbonite, or Mozy, the answer appears to be simple: Backblaze. For the money (each service is approximately $50/year), you get more coverage with Backblaze and more recovery options as well. Mozy is a great alternative if you want some free storage (2GB) and then decide to add more.

In the end, what Carbonite is offering for the Mac is decent. You get roughly a two-week trial, so if it fits your needs, then please give it a shot. If you’re a small office and have been running Carbonite on your Windows PCs, then to maintain consistency it makes sense to use Carbonite with your Macs.

However if you are looking at all of the options available to Mac users for online backup, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

  1. Another thing to note about carbonite is that you are not able to backup any external hard drives. This can be a major bummer for those of us who don’t like to overfill out boot disk.

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  2. Brandon, that is certainly something to consider.

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  3. @Brandon, @Alex – completely agree. This is why I am sticking with BackBlaze.

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  4. I recommend Mozy wholeheartedly. It’s $5 per month and has all of the features you mentioned above.

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  5. SpaceFlightOrange Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    @Brandon

    Wow! this is a complete deal breaker for me, I have over 200gb of Raw Images on an external drive that i want to back up, and nothing else

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  6. Strange … the list of backup items shown in the image captioned “Carbonite Backup UI” above strongly resmbles the UI of JungleDisk. JD wasn’t mentioned though I feel it’s a decent alternative to all the above. JD is basically a front end for backing stuff up to an amazon S3 account. We have two Macs that we need to have backups for and the Jungledisk Workgroup lets both Macs use the same S3 “bucket” for offsite storage. I haven’t tried backing up an external volume so I can’t address that issue. JD also mounts a disk icon on the desktop so you can access files at any time. JD offers versioned backups as well, letting the user define how deep you want them (1 backup, five backups, whatever) and it will delete backups based on the time that they’ve been in the bucket. JD is also very flexible in letting the user control what they want to back up, much more that you describe either Backblaze or Carbonite. The cost of JD is less than $10/month for both Macs and is based on the amount of storage space used and a bit on the bandwidth used. I suggest checking it out and writing a “shootout” review of Carbonite, Backblaze, Mozy and Jungledisk.

    @spaceflightorange: With so much to back up, cloud backups will be a royal PITA for you as it will take months to upload the initial backup unless you’ve got a T-3 line! :-) You might consider this: Get a hard drive docking station from NewerTech (sold at OWC). Get a couple of 500GB or 1TB SATA drives (bare drives). 500GB laptop drives are now available and affordable. Back up to one of those drives and take it to your bank and stick it in your safe deposit box (or give it to a trusted friend – the idea is to store it off site). A week or two later, repeat the above and retrieve the original backup. Keep repeating and you’ll always have a fairly current backup away from your office/home.

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    1. Try CrashPlan – it’s less expensive, faster, and recently won in a macworld shootout.

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  7. @The Eck – it took about two weeks to upload 400GB of data to Backblaze. I have a decent connection via Comcast (16 down/2 up).

    the problem I have with Mozy, Carbonite, JD is the restore options. With Backblaze, I can request a drive with all of my data (for a fee) so that I am not waiting forever to restore the data, even with fast download speeds. This alone is worth it to me.

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    1. Matthew,
      I accidentally deleted my Carbonite Preference Pane in System Preferences. Is there any way I can get it back? In the icon bar, when I click “Open Carbonite Preferences” nothing happens. I’ve looked for help online but can’t find anything.

      Help, please?

      Thanks,
      Claire Pang

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  8. @ #7 Matthew: I understand the limitation (you call it a problem) of restoration – in your case the whole 400GB. I don’t know what the fee is for your getting a drive with everything on it, but it certainly must be more than simply following my advice to @spaceflightorange above. Perhaps your needs are more critical than the every 7 or 14 days I suggest above. Maybe you do it every two or three days. Doing incrementals on a tight schedule isn’t that time-consuming.

    I had a single catastrophic drive failure and I immediately restored everything to a new drive using one of my on-site backups. I’ve occasionally lost files by accidentally trashing or overwriting, and it’s a snap to retrieve them from my mounted Jungledisk.

    My basic thought about cloud backups is that they’re meant for the occasional misstep rather than being a total solution such as you’re looking for.

    I’ve tried Mozy and it’s reasonably acceptable. I haven’t tried BB and Carbonite doesn’t sound like an improvement over my current backup strategies.

    One other thought about your BB scenario: How fast will BB be able to make a copy and get it delivered to your door? How fast do you need all that data? I’d bet that keeping a bare drive with all your stuff over at a friend’s house or in the bank is a lot cheaper and accessible faster than waiting for BB to process your order and get it delivered. Please note that even FedEx et al don’t deliver on Sundays but chances are your chosen friend will be home.

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  9. My sole reason for not using Backblaze is the inability to backup what they call “system” files. With doing a lot of PHP and Rails development, I’ve got things like all my MySQL databases stored in /usr/local…which Backblaze won’t backup.

    If they’d allow me to back that sort of data up, I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

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    1. CrashPlan allow those files – and is less expensive. Recently reviewed in Macworld beating out backblaze –

      http://www.macworld.com/article/142606/2009/09/online_backup.html

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    2. Just use hard links and link those files to your home folder (or a subfolder in your home folder).

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  10. I’m using Carbonite for Mac at the moment, used to use Mozy since 2007 but hated the UI. A few of my colleagues also had some of their restores actually not work. So I moved. The big downside with Carbonite, like “Brandon” stated, is not being able to back up data stored on external drives. I haven’t really found an official “carbonite for mac” forum on the net where we could start a thread on this issue

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