Carbonite Is a

July 2011

I hear it all the time: "I know I should, but I don't." Look folks, we're not talking about going on a diet or exercising to lose weight. We're talking about backing up files.

What if you could pay $59 a year to lose weight and not have to do anything else — no dieting, no exercise? You'd do it, right?

That's Carbonite. You pay $59 per year and then never have to think about it again. No external storage drive, no complicated backup software. You sign up, and in a couple clicks you're good to go. It's a no-brainer. If there's anything at all on your computer that you care about, just do it.

Carbonite, like Dropbox, is astonishingly easy. These are the two leaders in cloud computing. They've succeeded where others have failed just because they make it so simple.

Heck, I use Carbonite even though I already have a local backup system in place. Let me tell you the story about Ted.

Ted had a small business and scrupulously backed up his data regularly. He also had a safe deposit box, and once a week he'd retrieve his backup hard drive from his safe deposit box, back up his data, and then return it to its very secure home in the bowels of his bank. Very smart to have offsite backup.

But you can maybe guess what happened: he gets his hard drive from the bank, takes it home, has a fire, and everything is gone: computer, local backup drive — and his remote backup drive. Bye bye data. Forever.

I'm not making this up. (Thanks, Rick, for your email narrating this anecdote.)

That's why I use Carbonite, which backs up everything to secure servers on the Internet. Plus, it has a number of other cool features.

Unlike other services I tried, Carbonite doesn't make you go through a complicated process of identifying what you want to back up. You install the software, and in a couple clicks it simply and automatically backs up everything in your home directory. If you're a Mac user, that means that it backs up all your files in your Users folder, such as documents, music, photos, and email. It also backs up all of your settings.

In short, it backs up everything that can't be replaced. It doesn't automatically back up your software, since you can reinstall that from the original disks. And it doesn't back up movies, since those are usually really big files. But you can change the setting so that it backs up these things if you want.

Also, it doesn't automatically back up files larger than 4GB. But you can change that, too. If you're an email packrat like me, and save all your messages, your email database may be larger than 4GB. Since my email database is 9GB (over 16,000 messages in my Inbox alone), I needed to change the setting. Doing so was quite easy. And they have very simple-to-follow instructions online if you need them.

For $59 per year, Carbonite gives you unlimited backup space. However, they say that if you have over 200GB of personal files, then the backup process can be a bit slow.

The first backup can take a few days (again working without notice in the background). Then after that, it just takes a few minutes each time it makes a current backup.

As you work, it's regularly backing up your changes. As you create new files, it backs them up. You don't need to set a backup schedule or anything. It just does it in the background.

A really neat feature of Carbonite is that you can access your backed-up files from any computer that's connected to the Internet. You just log in to your Carbonite account.

In addition, there are apps for devices such as my iPhone and iPad that let me access my backed up files. This is so cool. Maybe I've been working on a document at home, then go someplace. If I need to see that document, I can take out my iPad and access it. I didn't need to save it, didn't need to sync. It all just happened in the background, such that everything on my computer is available to me at all times.

Not only can I view many files types on my iPad, if the file is a music file, it actually streams the music to my iPad.

Ok, so no more, "I know I should, but…" Just do it, and enjoy peace of mind.

This month's hot tips:

YouTube now has over 3,000 full-length streaming movies, including hundreds of free ones. Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive offers 25GB of free storage, though files must be smaller than 50MB.

© 2011 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen