Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Carbonite Safe Basic Computer Backup

Carbonite is a well-known name among business cloud backup solutions, and its Safe for Small Business product does fairly well in this latest incarnation. Some limiting factors is that it works only on Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows 10 computers, and that it’s intended to backup only organizations comprising 25 endpoints or less. Those limits, as well as no backup support for mobile devices, means it trails our Editors Choice winner in this space, Acronis Cyber Protect.

Still, Carbonite Safe for Small Business, even within those constraints, does offer some surprising flexibility and feature depth. For one thing, it can backup not only physical machines but also virtual machines (VMs) provided they’re running on the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor. Carbonite can also handle external hard drives and network attached storage (NAS) devices, though these are only accessible as extra-cost options.

Carbonite is well suited to remote workers and distributed teams requiring basic and reliable cloud backup with the exception of its 25 device limit. Carbonite Safe is more similar to Backblaze Business Backup and, to a certain extent, CrashPlan for Small Business, because all these products forego more advanced features in order to deliver slick and easy-to-use client and management software. Carbonite likely has more advanced features than the other two, but accessing them will mean spanning product tiers.

Plans and Features

Carbonite Safe consists of two distinct product classes: (1) endpoint backup for desktops and laptops and (2) server backup. The endpoint product, which is called Basic Computer Backup, is the product we’ve reviewed here. This costs $24 per month for up to 25 computers billed on an annual basis. Included in this tier are automatic cloud backups, 7-day-per-week customer support, a paid option for external hard drive backups, remote file access to computer files, and 128-bit encryption. Also bundled in this tier is ransomware recovery, remote file access, as well as FERPA, GLBA, and HIPAA compliance. This plan has centralized management and admin controls, though a downside is that Carbonite doesn’t have agents for Apple iOS or Google Android devices. That might be an issue for small businesses who don’t want to purchase yet another app to protect their smartphones and tablets, especially now that so many home workers are switching between business and personal devices. 

An Advanced Endpoint Protection tier can be applied to desktops or laptops and costs $34 per month, billed annually. This adds 256-bit encryption and optional local backup capability in the event that you want to backup to a hard drive or NAS box. This also adds deployment options for Carbonite Cloud, public cloud (Microsoft Azure), and on-premises storage options. Other important features are global deduplication, remote data wipe, and global location tracking. If you’re integrating with your company’s user directory, Carbonite supports Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP directories for account synching and single sign-on (SSO), as well as legal hold. This list of features was actually a little deeper than what we found in direct competitors, Backblaze and CrashPlan, but then this is a different pricing tier aimed at different users.

For businesses that need to backup servers, the Basic Server Backup tier costs $50 a month, billed annually. You can use it to back up PCs as well as servers if its capabilities better match your needs. This tier can handle up to 5TB of data and up to five servers. It also adds image backup and bare-metal restore capability as well as dedicated backup features for Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint, and MySQL databases. Again, not features you’ll find in every competitor, especially those focused more on client backup rather than servers.

Larger businesses, or those with more specific demands, like mixed environments that blend virtual and legacy systems, can opt for the Advanced Server Protection tier. This subscription will run you $147 a month, billed annually. It offers capacities between 0.5TB to 50TB or more (cost dependent), five or more servers, and it provides backup support for Microsoft Windows and Windows Server, Linux (Red Hat and SuSE), VMWare and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines, and more.

While we didn’t test these higher-end features, based on our endpoint backup experience, Carbonite has done very well with its focus on simplicity. This extends to most aspects of the system, from mainstream features to pricing. If you’re figuring out how much this solution will cost you, the website has an easy cost calculator that’s based on the number of clients and the different platforms you’re looking to protect.

And while its more advanced capabilities do cost extra, it’s very nice to know they’re available, though a menu-style pricing structure would be more convenient than having to switch between so many different kinds of account types. The need for bare metal image backup is particularly nice, since we didn’t find that even in Arcserve UDP Cloud Direct, our other Editors’ Choice selection for this segment. However, that 25-device limit will be painful for many businesses these days, though you can get around it by setting up multiple Carbonite accounts.

Setup and User Interface 

Carbonite Safe Basic Computer Backup  Process Page

As with many cloud backup solutions, you initiate your Carbonite account from the company’s website, which is divided between its home and business editions. Installing the agent on our Windows-based test machine was quick and straightforward. Once installation was finished, Carbonite began a complete backup of our files (a total of 100GB spread across various folders). Still, our initial backup took roughly eleven hours using a standard home network internet connection.

Unlike some of the other cloud backup solutions, which use a web browser as the sole user interface, Carbonite relies on its locally-installed agent application, This runs in the background on your PC, though there is a companion web-based dashboard. We prefer this approach because it helps keep our browser focused on all the other business tools using that platform.  

The Carbonite app is super transparent and easy to decipher. You have an instant-read status on your backup, including how many files are being backed up, the percentage of backup completion, quick links to settings and controls, as well as a link to look at your backup dashboard. This opens up to a plain-looking but easy to navigate webpage.  

This web interface gives a wider range of controls and options than the desktop client. You can toggle between Account Summary, Backup Dashboard, Manage Backup Policies, Notifications, and Personal Information. Navigating the web interface is generally snappy, but we did experience delays in getting the latest status of our backups. You can set up SMS-based two-factor verification (2FA) and specify the security questions you’ll need to answer when you need to change your password. 

Backup options are a little binary. You can set Carbonite Safe for continuous backup (which is recommended if you want to revert to the latest data restore), or set it to backup once a day at a specified time, presumably when your network or PCs aren’t that busy. 

We would have liked to see a wider selection of backup options and times, especially now that many employees and teams are working remotely and don’t adhere to traditional 9-5 office hours. Carbonite is also rather absolute in its backup plans, which means you can’t specify backups to specific folders or files at specific times. This may not be a big issue with some small businesses, but having the option to target specific files and folders for backup on their own schedule adds flexibility and can speed up backup performance, too.

Restoring Backed Up Files

Carbonite Safe restore options

Many cloud backup solutions excel at backing up, but then fall a little short when it comes time to restore. A lot of those issues stem from confusing policies or unclear instructions during the setup process. Some users will only discover an error in their data restoration in the unfortunate event of a crash when they’re restoring data for the first time. It’s very important that no matter which cloud backup system you choose, you perform regular restore tests so you not only know it’s working but also how to go about it properly.

Carbonite does well on the restore front, however. Setting your options is fairly simply and initiating one is just as easy. During our test restore, we liked that Carbonite Safe places the restoration controls on an equal footing with the backup controls when it comes to interface emphasis. Restore functions were located right next to backup functions and were built with the same level of simplicity. You can easily choose between restoring different volumes or individual folders and we found overall restore performance times satisfactory.

Cloud Backup Simplified for Small Business

Carbonite Safe Options

Ease of use is, again, Carbonite Safe’s strong point. It’s easy not only to configure your backups but also perform a restore either on just a few files and folders or across a full system backup. Carbonite supports configurable version control which means those versions are stored longer than deleted files—up to three months. However, you’re limited to 12 versions of a single file, which can be constraining depending on how your company collaborates on documents.

Still, Carbonite correctly backed up all the various files, folders, and text document versions we used during our testing. Unfortunately, though it was one of the more intuitive and complete solutions we tested, that feature breadth is distributed across several different services and pricing tiers. The service we tested was actually on par feature-wise only with the rest of the easy-to-use small business products, a list that also includes Backblaze and CrashPlan. That means businesses looking for a single-pane-of-glass backup solution will have a hard time justifying Carbonite Safe Basic Computer Backup, even if it is one of the easier services. 

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