Online storage provider Carbonite Aug. 28 launched a major upgrade to its PC backup service and announced plans for a Mac version.
Carbonite Release 3.0 offers unlimited online backup space for consumers and small businesses for a flat price of $49.95 per year per personal computer. The downloadable software works unobtrusively in the background, backs up all new documents as they are created, and saves incremental changes at a block level thereafter.
"We went against the conventional industry practice of giving away free-forever limited-space trial accounts of 2 or 3 gigabytes and instead adopted a limited-time unlimited-capacity trial," Carbonite co-founder and President David Friend told eWEEK.
Other online storage vendors, such as Berkeley Data Systems Mozy, Verizon and LiveVault offer various incentives to join that include a limited amount of free space.
"The cost of free-forever limited-space accounts must eventually be borne by paying customers, and Carbonite is committed to providing the best price and value for paying subscribers," Friend, a self-described "serial entrepreneur" said at the company headquarters in Boston.
"Also, the company eschews the complexity of multi-function products that offer photo-sharing, remote access, archiving, etc., believing that such features are widely available in many other online products (most of which are free) and create unacceptable security risks for users."
Carbonite 3.0 features a new interface that incorporates many refinements suggested by users, Friend said. In addition, Carbonite 3.0 is being shipped in English, French, German, Japanese and Chinese, with other languages coming soon.
"There are several hundred million PCs in the world that are not being backed up regularly, and were dedicated to being the best at solving this specific problem," Friend said.
"We made it so that the average user simply enters their email address and a password, and Carbonite does the rest. All data is backed up by default, and there is unlimited storage capacity, so theres no need to pick and choose files. Its truly a product you wont be afraid to give to your most computer-illiterate friends and colleagues."
Carbonite 3.0 also offers enhanced online help, new account management pages, and an enhanced file restore process that features a tab showing progress, a recovery log displaying pending and recently restored files, and the option to stop the restore process easily at any point, Friend said.
A Macintosh beta version is coming in October, he said.
"We get dozens of emails from Mac users every week, begging, pleading and cajoling us for a Mac version of Carbonite," Friend explained. "And we are happy to provide them with their own version soon."
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Friend said Mac beta testers are needed; those interested should send a query email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does Carbonite -- a relatively unknown brand name -- convince a small business or private individual to trust their photos, movies, and other data with them?
"Thats a challenge," Friend told eWEEK. "We can talk technical about this -- that we have heavy-duty encryption and petabyte-size server farms -- but people dont want to hear that. Instead, weve invested in having our customers endorse us in ads. Well-known people like IT radio/TV personalities Howard Stern, Bill OReilly, Leo LaPorte and Kim Komando ... We just have them tell people, We use it, we like it, and you should, too."
Plus, Friend said, Carbonite is sold at reputable retail stores such as Staples, Best Buy, CompUSA, and Frys, which have "seriously" vetted the product.
Mesabi Group analyst David Hill told eWEEK that Carbonites story can be very appealing to a large number of computer users.
"When you consider that most individuals (and probably a lot of very small businesses) have either no data protection or inadequate data protection, then the story that you can backup over the Internet smoothly, unobtrusively, and cost effectively is very appealing and compelling," Hill said.
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"You can combine the convenience of local backup and restoration with the comfort of knowing that you have a remote disaster recovery capability should a disaster (fire, flood, or hurricane) hit. You have an investment that you can now protect at a reasonable price, and you dont have to spend a lot of time thinking about backup as after you install the software and run it, because the software runs automatically in the background."
Carbonite seems to have a solid business model and appears to have a good customer base, Hill said.
"However, nothing is certain in the world and they could go away or they could lose their data center in a disaster. So what? You are back to where you were before -- unprotected -- but no worse off as you are still functioning," Hill said.
Carbonite was founded in 2005, has 42 employees and is privately held. The company has backed up more than 1 billion files and restored over 100 million files for clients, Friend said.
Carbonite is available online here and through retail stores and resellers. Subscriptions are also included in other software products, such as Microsoft Money.
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