It’s the nightmare that all PC users dread, either through a particularly vicious virus or an unexpected power surge, or just the final gasp of your computer as it’s about to die. Suddenly your screen has gone blank, all the data on your hard drive has vanished in a nano-second and, despite all your frantic efforts at resuscitation, you realise that none of it is ever coming back.
It’s at that moment that all those dire warnings about backing up your data on an hourly/daily/weekly basis come flooding into your mind. The trouble for most of us is that backup is usually a long-winded affair involving several disks, frequently complex software and sometimes linking PCs together. Carbonite’s Online PC Backup, by complete contrast, is designed to be understood by a child and to utilise the minimum number of steps to be totally effective.
Once you install the software, you are immediately offered three choices: just to back up your Desktop and “My Documents” folder; to back up everything except system files, executables and temporary files; or don’t back up anything, which means that Carbonite will not back anything up automatically and you have to do it yourself manually. If you change your mind at any point and want to add other types of file for backup, then you simply right-click on that file and select “Back this up” from the menu.
It’s worth bearing in mind that Carbonite won’t back up files larger than 2GB in size, removable hard drives (e.g. USB drives) or mapped network drives. In theory you can store any amount of data on your hard drive but you’re warned that anything over 40-50 GB is going to take a long time. We tested just 2GB of data from the basic setting and that took 12 hours to complete, but all future backups take much less time as they simply add updated, changed material to what’s already stored.
Fortunately Internet connections and other computer operations are designed to take precedence over any backup by Carbonite, so you shouldn’t notice any significant slow-down in your normal working. In terms of security, the data is encrypted before it leaves your PC, is password protected by you and then re-encrypted as it’s being stored on the server at the other end. Your data can then be restored to the original PC or any other one you nominate just by using your password on Carbonite’s site.
A colour-code system tells you the status of every file: green means the file is backed up, yellow means the file is queued for backup and no dot means “not selected for backup”. The Carbonite logo in your system tray remains green if all is well, turns yellow if it’s actively backing up and red if there’s a problem. Your e-mail is also backed up by default and Carbonite will continue to back up your selected file types every time you add to them.
The other good news is the cost – a mere £2.50 per month – but Online PC backup only works on PCs running Windows XP and Vista.