Modern security suites have done a fairly decent job of supplementing core protection with online and local backup functionality, but few offer the kind of automated protection found in dedicated solutions such as Carbonite. Updating its software for 2010, Carbonite offers a number of improvements, all of which seem centred around convenience without compromising the main benefits of the software.
This is a well thought-out progression and, following a short install routine, Carbonite immediately gets busy working through its default parameters; namely user settings and document folders, though a custom setup mode is available to allow users to set these initial parameters manually.
The process can take a bit of time depending on the amount of content being added but the software manages its own resource usage well and we noticed no impact on general operation or Internet access. That said, it does slow down the backup process if you are performing other tasks. All files saved to online drives are encrypted using the Blowfish standard and Carbonite offers unlimited storage space for the yearly subscription fee.
The current status of the software is reflected by a colour-coded icon in the system tray, which also brings up the main interface for a more detailed description of activity. Carbonite uses a simple colour-coded dot over file icons to indicate whether backup is pending or completed, and for reassurance that a particular file or folder is included. This can be turned off it need be, but it’s a subtle yet effective way to keep tabs on operation.
Much of the functionality on offer is controlled through a context-sensitive right-click menu. Here it’s possible to view backup status, add or remove data from the backup set and open the file from the Carbonite backup drive folder.
By default the software automatically uploads files as they are changed on a system, but schedules are also available to configure uploads for a specific time or day of the week. Restoring files is straightforward and those with large collections of data can use a search tool to find specific files by full or partial filename. Backup drives can be browsed and managed in a Windows Explorer style interface and a “restore all of my files” option can recover an entire set in one go.
Existing users will find a range of tweaks to version 4.0, including an enhanced restore manager to help speed up retrieval of key files, the ability to label different computers on a network within a common backup set with individual encryption and scheduling options, as well as making it clearer exactly where files are being retrieved from, and more intuitive reports on backup progress and individual file retrieval.
Carbonite’s strength is in the way it quietly and efficiently maintains backups with little or no interaction required by the user, and in having very little impact on resource usage during operation. These factors make what can often be a rather long wait for large sets of data to be uploaded quite acceptable, and although it’s inherently quite simplistic in the degree of flexibility it offers the user, there’s enough here to make the whole process a pain-free experience.