I get emails from people trying to recover files from a computer crash several times a week. The emails generally start with something like, ‘my hard drive failed…’ and end with, ‘…how can I get the photos of my kids back? these were the only copy I have.’ I empathize with these emailers because even with a backup plan, I’ve suffered data loss from a failed computer. After providing a few data recovery suggestions, my first question is always, ‘where was your backup plan?’ This is followed by, ‘what are you going to do to prevent something like this in the future?’ I often feel like I’d see blank stares if I could watch someone open my replies.
We insure our homes against loss. We insure our cars against loss. Insurance against data loss is making a back up copy – very few people do it; don’t be one of them.
UPDATE: Roxio BackOnTrack Online was a white label version of Carbonite. Roxio has since ended it’s BackOnTrack product and now directs new customers to use Carbonite directly. To that end, I’ve updated this article to reflect Roxio’s change.
The best second copy you can make is one that’s offsite and automatic. That’s where a service like Carbonite comes in. You install Carbonite software once, choose which files and folders you want to back up, and it takes care of the rest.
Your files are backed up over your Internet connection to a secure server, covering the offsite portion of back up process. The software on your computer automatically watches for new items in the folders you protect, or changes to files, backing up as necessary. If you delete a file, the online backup keeps a copy for 30 days, so you can even change your mind and recover a deleted file.
After testing Carbonite for about a week, I’m impressed. The software provides visual indicators on my desktop when something is being backed up, is backed up, or is scheduled to be backed up. You can right click a file or folder to tell Carbonite you want it backed up. Deleting a file on your desktop does not permanently remove it from your world – recovery via Carbonite is easy. I currently have 1GB of files backed up, which is certainly not a huge number, but I consider it a large enough number to feel like an accurate test. If your computer crashes, you can recover your files to any computer via the recovery mode.
The video demo below was created to demonstrate BackOnTrack Online, but the functionality of Carbonite is very similar.
I originally reviewed Carbonite in May of 2006. One of the things that originally drew me to BackOnTrack versus going straight to Carbonite was having the Roxio brand behind it. Roxio and Sonic have been around for a long time. At the time I felt backing files up to a service run by Roxio would mean your backup would remain available for a long time. While I was correct about it being available, I was wrong about which brand would win. Carbonite continues to be a great backup service, though I personally use my own custom solution for backing up files.