Why Carbonite on a Mac does not work for me

04 Nov

Off-site backup is important. Your place might burn down or your external hard drives might get stolen.

There are a variety of services out there, which claim to provide affordable external backup through your broadband connection. I am using Dropbox for all my file syncing tasks, but Dropbox still lacks large storage sizes beyond 100 GB.

As a frequent listener to Leo Laporte’s TWiT netcasts, I thought I’d give Carbonite a try. Carbonite is a TWiT sponsor and Leo’s recommendations usually are a pretty safe bet.

Unfortunately, not so with Carbonite.

The first things that come into mind for the most of us, when thinking about off-site backups, are the digital assets we care about most.

Documents, digital photos and videos covering important periods of our lives and our music, movie and TV show libraries. If you are like me, you’ve collected tons of files over the past few years.

Now, these assets usually come with a larger file size and with HD video coming to a smartphone near you, file sizes constantly increase. That’s why most of us keep those files on external hard drives.

For example, my iTunes library is roughly 900 GB in size. My photo collection requires some 50 GB. I keep both on a NAS device shared between all machines in my house. Dropbox selectively syncs the stuff I want to take with me to my MacBook Pro(s).

Unfortunately, Carbonite does not provide support for network drives and not even for external drives connected via USB.

Instead, the Carbonite help page blondly states:

“If you have files on these external storage devices that you want Carbonite to back up, they should be moved to the internal hard disk of your computer.”

Frankly, that is complete nonsense. For a company claiming to be a leader in online backup, it’s ridiculous to ask us to move externally stored data to the internal hard disk just because the dumb software can’t handle external drives!

Even worse: Carbonite also fails to use symbolic links on Mac OS X Snow Leopard.

While it does see folders symlinked to the internal hard disk, it does not grab their contents. You end up having your directory structure backed up, but not your files.

Carbonite Pro, the product targeted at small businesses supposedly includes support for external data – but that version of the software is not available on the Mac.

So I guess, Leo either produces all of his shows on Windows machines, or keeps the tons of TWiT multimedia content on an internal drive – that must be one gigantic disk!

I ended up using IDrive for Mac.

Admittedly, IDrive hasn’t got the most unobtrusive user interface in the market. But it handles external drives (USB & NAS) seamlessly. It also gives me a fair amount of control of what gets backed up and it drops me an automated email in case anything went wrong.

Finally with only 79,95 US$/month for 1 TB it has the most aggressive pricing in the market.

I liked Carbonite’s approach to off-site backup a lot. It’s a shame they haven’t fixed their software, yet.

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2 replies
  1. Roger Brown says:

    excellent post Ralf…at the high-end of the online backup market, Carbonite is a great idea, poorly executed.

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