Carbonite is an easy-to-use online backup provider with great security, privacy and customer support. Although it’s a bit spare on features, Carbonite offers unlimited storage for a single computer for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, speeds are terrible, and you don’t get a whole lot of control over the backup process. Keep reading this Carbonite review to learn more.
Depending on what plan you go for, you can backup your computer, external hard drives and servers. Setting up your backup and restoring your files is incredibly easy to do and requires little effort on the user’s part. That said, this also makes the cloud backup process very rigid, with little in the way of customization.
The speed, especially for downloads, is also terrible, so if you require quick access to the files that you backup to cloud storage, Carbonite probably isn’t the service for you.
If these drawbacks sound like dealbreakers to you, be sure to check out our list of the best online backup and best cloud storage services to find an alternative that suits you. If you’re not clear on the difference between these two categories, you can read our guide to cloud storage vs online backup.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Easy to use
- Unlimited storage space
- Reasonable pricing
- Great security & privacy
- No manual backup
- Sparse features
- Very basic user interface
- Doesn’t offer a lot of control
- Terrible download speed
Alternatives for Carbonite
Carbonite is not a backup solution that focuses on providing a wealth of features. The client is fairly bare bones without too many bells and whistles, which is great from an ease-of-use perspective but perhaps less so if you’re looking for backup software with a lot of functionality. That said, the necessities are there, so basic users will probably be more than satisfied.
The client is available on both Windows and Mac, but not Linux. If you’re looking for a backup service for the latter, check out our list of the best online backup for Linux. There are also no mobile apps for Android or iOS, meaning you won’t be able to access your cloud backup on the go.
Carbonite supports both continuous and scheduled backups, and you can set the client to exclude certain hours of the day. This is useful if you don’t want it to gobble up your bandwidth at a certain time when you know you will need it.
Backups are performed using a block-level algorithm, which means that Carbonite won’t waste time and resources reuploading entire files when only parts of them have been changed.
Unfortunately, there’s no multithreading, meaning that the client will only upload one file at a time. There’s also no hybrid backup support, so your only choice is to upload your files exclusively to Carbonite’s data centers. If these are features you’re looking for, you can consider Zoolz Home Backup instead.
There’s also no proper throttling included in Carbonite. There is a setting called “reduce Carbonite’s internet usage,” but it doesn’t let you decide how much bandwidth the application is allowed to use.
Carbonite supports versioning, letting you retrieve older versions of files you’ve changed. However, this feature isn’t unlimited; only the 12 most recent versions of your files are kept on the server. Files you delete from your computer are retained for 30 days, but they are removed after that period.
There’s a courier recovery service, which means that — for a fee –Carbonite will mail you an external hard drive with your data, provided that you’re located in the U.S.
Carbonite does not have an option for image-based backups, so you can’t create a copy of your entire system using the service. Both IDrive and Acronis support this feature, so head over to our Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office and IDrive reviews to learn more about these, if you’re looking for a way to backup an image of your entire system.
There is also no mobile backup functionality with Carbonite. If this is something you’re looking for, we can recommend Degoo, which makes it onto our list of the best online backup for mobile, despite it having many issues when it comes to backing up your computer.
Carbonite Features Overview
|External Drive Backup||Yes but not on Basic plan (all other plans)|
|NAS Backup||Yes but only on Safe Backup Pro plan|
|Server Backup||Yes but only on Server plans|
|Mobile Device Backup|
|Block-Level File Copying|
|Courier Recovery Service|
|Mobile App Access|
|Deleted File Retention|
|Encryption Protocol||AES 256-bit|
|Hardened Data Centers|
|Proxy Server Settings|
|HIPPA Compliant||Yes but only on Safe Pro and Server plans|
|Live Chat Support|
The Carbonite pricing structure is somewhat complex, with multiple plans all providing different levels of functionality. That said, the prices themselves are reasonable, offering unlimited storage at a similar price to that of other providers, such as Backblaze (read our Backblaze vs Carbonite comparison).
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited GB
The standard version of the backup service, called Carbonite Safe, has three separate tiers: Basic, Plus and Prime. All the plans are billed for one year at a time, so we are including the monthly prices only to make it easier to compare Carbonite’s pricing to other services.
The Basic tier is the cheapest, costing $6 per month or $71.99 per year. With this tier, you get unlimited storage for a single computer, but it doesn’t have all of the extra features included in the more expensive tiers.
Next up is the Plus tier, which also includes unlimited storage for one computer, but it gives you the option to backup external hard drives and automatically select video files for upload. This plan will run you $9.34 per month or $111.99 per year.
Finally, the Prime tier includes everything you get with the Plus tier, but it also gives you a discount on the courier delivery service. This would normally run you $99.99 each time you have an external hard drive shipped to you, but drops to just $9.99 for Prime users, which is extraordinarily cheap when compared to other providers like IDrive that offer the same service.
For all three of these tiers, you can add additional licenses if you need to backup more than one computer, but there’s no discount for your second or third license.
The next plan is Carbonite Safe Backup Pro, which has a price tag of $24 per month or $287.99 per year. Instead of offering unlimited storage, this version of Carbonite lets you backup up to 25 computers and comes with 250GB of storage space by default. If you require more space, you can purchase more at a price of $99 per 100GB of extra online storage per year.
Carbonite Server Backup
Rounding out the plans that Carbonite offers are the ones intended for server backup. These are called Carbonite Safe Server Backup and Carbonite Safe Server Backup Ultimate. The former costs $50 per month or $599.99 per year, and it lets you backup one server and up to 25 computers, with 500GB of storage included by default.
Meanwhile, the Ultimate server plan lets you perform backups on an unlimited number of servers and up to 25 computers, and it comes with the same 500GB of included storage space.
Like with the Carbonite Safe Backup Pro plan, you can purchase additional storage for the server plans at $99 per 100GB per year. In addition, the server plans also let you upgrade your encryption from 128-bit to 256-bit.
If you’re willing to sign up for more than one year, Carbonite offers a five-percent discount if you pay for two years up front, and 10 percent if you commit to a full three years.
Although there’s no free version of Carbonite available, the company does offer a 15-day trial of the Basic tier so that you can try it out before committing to spending any of your money on the service.
As mentioned at the beginning of this section, we think these prices are pretty reasonable. However, we’re not big fans of parceling out the features like this, especially for arbitrarily chosen functionality, such as the automatic video uploads.
Ease of Use
It’s very clear that ease of use and simplicity were the primary concerns when Carbonite was being designed. The client is incredibly simple, so using Carbonite to backup and restore your data is a very straightforward process.
The Carbonite client essentially boils down to just three panels: one for your backup, one for restoring your files and one for your online backup settings.
The first panel, called “status,” shows you how many files you currently have backed up and their total size. There are several links to the web dashboard, including to your account information and a detailed overview of your files.
By clicking on “settings & controls” in the status panel, you’re brought to the settings where you can change the schedule of your backup. There are a small number of other options located here, as well, such as pausing your backup, reducing Carbonite’s internet usage and disabling the colored dots on files and folders marked for storage.
Although it’s minor, one thing we found quite annoying is that there is no way to completely shut down the Carbonite application, short of manually killing the process in the task manager. You can minimize it to the system tray, but there’s no way to actually close the client.
In addition to the client, Carbonite creates a virtual drive on your computer called “Carbonite Backup Drive,” which you’ll be able to see in the “this PC” section of file explorer. Here, you can see your backed up and pending files, as well as restore them or remove them from your cloud backup entirely.
The web interface is similarly basic. The front page lists each computer you’ve added to Carbonite, as well as information about how many files have been backed up and their total size.
For each computer, you can click on a button labelled “view my files” to bring up a tree structure of everything you’ve uploaded to the cloud backup from that device.
Along the left-hand side of the dashboard are various menus for account management, including payment options and history, subscription information and support.
File Backup & Restoration
One of Carbonite’s greatest strengths is how easy it is to perform backups and restores. Although the service doesn’t provide a whole lot in terms of control over the process, users looking for a streamlined and simple system will get exactly what they’re looking for.
Using Carbonite to backup your files is incredibly easy. Once you’ve installed and set up the application, all you need to do is find the files you want to upload in the file explorer, right-click them and select “back this up” under “Carbonite” in the context menu.
There are some notable limitations to Carbonite’s backup. First, there’s a long list of file types that can’t be backed up, and files that start with certain special characters are also ineligible. Somewhat annoyingly, if you’re on the Basic plan and want to upload a folder full of video files, you’ll have to select each file individually, rather than just right-clicking the whole folder.
There’s also no way to set Carbonite to only do backups manually, meaning you’re forced to set a schedule or enable continuous backup. This probably isn’t a big deal for most users, especially since you can set “exclusion times,” during which the upload won’t run. However, it’s still an annoyance if you like to exercise as much control as possible over the process.
Restoring your files is also simple. Provided you let Carbonite manage your encryption keys, there are two ways you can go about it. The first is through the client itself, which is the only way to restore your file if you opted for private encryption. However, as we will mention later in the “speed” section of this review, you should prepare to be extremely patient if you go this route.
To start your restore, simply click the blue button — labelled “get my files back” — in the middle of the main panel of the Carbonite app. This will give you two options. The first is “choose files,” which unsurprisingly lets you pick and choose individual files to restore. The second option is “get all of my files,” which will download everything you have backed up with the software.
The “choose files” option will take you to the web dashboard, which will function only if you upload your private key to Carbonite. We’ll cover that process later in this section.
Once you click on “get all of my files,” you’ll see a new window where you’ll need to click the button that says “let’s get started.”
Now Carbonite will show you a restore summary telling you how many files it’s about to download and their total size. If you want to download your files to a different location than where they originated, then you need to select the link saying “view details.” You can then choose what drive you want to restore and if you want to change the destination of the backed up files.
Next Carbonite will ask you to match the Windows user account from the time of backup to the one you’re currently logged in with. Once you click “continue,” you’ll be back at the restore summary you saw earlier.
Once you’re ready to restore, click on the button that says “start getting my files back” and the download will begin.
Circling back to restoring via your web browser, this process is perhaps even simpler. All you need to do is log in to your Carbonite dashboard via the website, click the button that says “get my files back” and then choose whether you want to download the files or have an external hard drive mailed to you.
Once again, you get to decide whether you want to download all of your files or pick and choose what files you want to restore. In order to not be redirected to the client, you need to choose that you want to select only some files, rather than the option for a full restore.
This will bring you to an overview of your files, and from here all you need to do is select the files you want to restore and click “download.”
Speed is a critical factor for backup services, especially when performing an initial backup, because these are often quite large. As you’ll see from our results, Carbonite’s speeds are acceptable — if a bit on the slow side — when it comes to performing your actual backup. However, if you’re hoping to have quick access to your files after that, then you’re out of luck.
To upload and download a 3.51GB test folder, we used a stable fiber connection with an upload and download speed of 50 Mbps. This means that, in theory, both the upload and download could finish in as little as 10 minutes. If we’re more realistic with our expectations, we’d like to see both operations finish in about 15 to 20 minutes.
Our tests were performed in Oslo, Norway, which means that we’re quite far away from Carbonite’s data centers in the U.S., so users located in North America should see somewhat better results.
|First Attempt:||Second Attempt:||Average:|
As you can see from the results above, Carbonite’s upload speed is within the range we expected, if slightly on the slower end. However, the download was almost shockingly slow.
It’s important to note that there are two ways you can restore your backed up files: either through the Carbonite client itself or via the website. When attempting to restore our files through the client, the speed was downright awful, estimating a completion time of around six hours.
Because of this, we opted for the web browser restore instead, which is how we got the results listed above. While a lot faster than the dedicated client, the speed still wasn’t great, coming in at around double our expectation.
Another problem with this is that the option to restore your files via a web browser is available only if you let Carbonite handle your encryption key, which means you’re left with a choice between privacy and speed.
By its very nature, backed-up data often consists of critical or even sensitive files, which makes data protection and security a crucial aspect of any backup service. Carbonite does well here, offering private and strong encryption, as well as two-factor authentication and hardened data centers.
Carbonite uses SSL to protect your data while it’s in transit, which means it’s protected from things like man-in-the-middle attacks.
When sitting on the server, your files are encrypted using AES 128-bit, which — although not as strong as AES 256-bit — is still more than capable of keeping your information out of the wrong hands. If you opt for one of the server plans, AES 256-bit encryption is also available.
When you install Carbonite, you’re given the option of managing your encryption key yourself or trusting Carbonite to do it for you. If you choose to do it yourself, your encryption is entirely private, meaning Carbonite wouldn’t be able to decrypt your files even if it wanted to. If all this terminology confuses you, be sure to read our description of encryption for a crash course.
As mentioned, Carbonite also lets you set up two-factor authentication, which provides an additional layer of security to make sure that no one can access your files by obtaining just your password.
As for the actual data centers, Carbonite goes a long way to ensure that everything stored on them is safe and secure. Measures are taken to prevent data loss in the event of a disaster, such as on-site generators for backup power and climate control. Physical security is also top-notch, featuring biometric scanners, CCTV and 24/7 monitoring.
As we mentioned briefly in the previous section, Carbonite gives you the option of managing your own encryption key. If you do, Carbonite won’t be able to hand over your files, even if the authorities order it to.
However, this also means that, if you misplace the key or forget your password, you’ll lose access to your data. To avoid this happening, you can check out our list of the best password managers.
In terms of official regulations, Carbonite complies with the GDPR in Europe, and if you sign up for the Safe Pro plan or one of the Server plans, it also complies with HIPAA in the U.S.
Unfortunately, Carbonite’s data centers are located in the U.S., which is a country infamous for its awful digital privacy laws, including legislation like the PATRIOT Act. The U.S. also participates in covert programs like PRISM, as well as intelligence-sharing organizations, such as the Five Eyes.
Ultimately, though, most cloud backup services host some or all of their data in the U.S. However, if you’re looking for one that doesn’t, we recommend Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office, which lets you choose between a variety of storage locations.
We did some research and couldn’t find any evidence of a privacy scandal involving Carbonite, which is more than you can say about a lot of tech companies.
Cloud backup services are entrusted with potentially sensitive and critical data, so it’s important that they provide adequate customer support in the event of a problem. Carbonite knocks it out of the park here, with support available over the phone as well as through email and chat.
Reaching out to the Carbonite support department is easy. You can either fill out the detailed support form, or you can contact them via chat or phone, if you’re within the opening hours.
If you prefer talking to the support team in real time, you have to do so between 2:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST on Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. EST on Saturdays, and 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST on Sundays.
We sent the Carbonite support department an email to test how long it took them to get back to us. Despite this review being written in the middle of a global pandemic (which Carbonite warns could lead to increased support response times), we got a reply within 24 hours, which is more than adequate. Unfortunately, we had to email them a few times before we got a response to our actual question.
Although there’s no official user forum, there is an extensive and searchable knowledgebase that should be sufficient to help you with most basic problems that you may encounter.
That’s it for our Carbonite review. All in all, Carbonite is a good cloud backup service for users looking for a simple way to secure their data without the need for a host of advanced features. Security, privacy and customer service are all great, but the speed — especially for downloads — leaves a lot to be desired.
If all you’re looking for is a quick and easy way to backup your files, then Carbonite is a decent option, provided you don’t need quick access to your files once they’re backed up. However, for more advanced users who prefer a greater degree of control over the process, Carbonite won’t have what they’re looking for (check out our Carbonite alternatives list).
If you’d like to learn more about how Carbonite’s cloud backup stacks up to the competition, be sure to read our IDrive vs Carbonite comparison.
What did you think of our review? Do you agree that Carbonite is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a streamlined backup solution with unlimited cloud storage, but that it will leave a lot to be desired for power users? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.
- Yes, Carbonite boasts excellent security and privacy, owing to its solid encryption and it giving users the ability to manage their own private key.
- If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to backup files and don’t care too much about speed, then yes.