The Carbonite Solution to Online Backups

We’ve been tracking online storage for nearly a year, and for good reason. As the PC becomes the center of our digital lives, having backups of email, photos, videos and music becomes increasingly important. Solutions like Foldershare and USB hard drives help with the problem, but what consumers really need is a dead simple service that backs up your entire hard drive to the Internet regularly.

Boston based Carbonite is the closest to perfection we’ve seen so far. It requires a simple installation, and users choose to back up their entire hard drive or just parts of it. Carbonite then begins the backup process, uploading 2 GB per day over broadband until finished. Files are encrypted, and there is no limit on total storage. If you delete a file, Carbonite keeps it stored for 30 days in case you change your mind. Carbonite monitors files that are changed and backs them up right away.

And if you have a problem and need to get the data downloaded to a reformatted hard drive or new computer, Carbonite will download at up to 15GB per day over broadband until your system is restored.

Carbonite says that one in eight computers have some sort of data failure. The number one reason is user error, although crashes, fires, floods, theft and viruses all play a part as well. The 30 day cache solves the user-error problem and the fact that data is stored on the Internet solves the fire/flood/theft issue (where USB or network drives may also be affected).

Carbonite has a free 15 day trial (with no credit card required). The service costs $5 per month, with discounts if you pre-pay for a year or two.

The next best solution we’ve found is Mozy, which has a 60GB limit on total storage and costs $5 per month for 30 GB of storage or $10 per month for 60GB. The fact that Carbonite has no limit on total storage makes it significantly more attractive than Mozy.

The downside? It only works on Windows PCs (as does Mozy). Mac users are out of luck for now.

It’s clear that Google is thinking along the same lines with Platypus, their online storage solution. There are fewer details on Microsoft Live Drive, but we can expect a compelling offering from them as well. The holy grail for these services is to be built into PCs and offered to users out of the box. It’s a natural revenue stream for Dell, HP, etc., and they could either build it themselves of partner with a company like Carbonite.

Carbonite has received $7 million in venture capital. Until May 2006 they were focused on photo storage, and launched the current service in May.