The agony of data loss is a terrible thing, whether from a failed hard drive or from a lost or stolen computer. Online backup service Carbonite should be part of your defense plan that can save you from the heartache of, “Oh, #%&@*! Now what?”

Carbonite is a leading online backup service for Windows computers as well as Macs.  For $55 per year, customers may back up an unlimited amount of data for ONE computer.But if you can find some valid carbonite offer codes online then you can get it cheaper.  Then, in the event of catastrophe, the backed up files can be downloaded to a new computer or to a new hard drive in the old computer.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it.

It IS simple but I want you to know the rest of the story.

With consumers holding on to their computers longer, the hard drives are getting even more of a workout through the added time in service.  Though the technology continues to improve, the longer a drive is in service the more likely is the possibility that it will fail. I would not trust any drive in daily service for more than five years.  The cost of replacing a five-year-old hard drive will be a fraction of its cost when new if replacing with approximately the same capacity.  If there is no failure, terrific! If there is a failure and you are not backed up properly, then this could be a very big problem, among your worst days ever.  Do you know what backing up means?  Do you know what to back up and what not to back up?  Do you know what to do to put your data back from whence it came on a new hard drive or a new computer?

Answers to these questions are why I recommend Carbonite as part of your overall data protection strategy.

Carbonite works in the background any time you are Internet connected with your subscribed computer.  Right now, as I prepare this article, Carbonite is humming along in the background uploading data to the Carbonite servers, protecting me from what could otherwise be a terrible problem.

If you have never had a hard drive failure or never suffered the loss of a computer, you are most fortunate.  As it is said, “S#*@ happens!”  I hope you never have to experience this calamity.

I don’t want you to become paranoid about the idea of losing your data, but I want you to be realistic.  If you are a computer user with nothing sacred that resides on your computer, you have little need for concern.  If you you’re your data, it’s no biggie.  However, if you have important saved email, photos, music, videos, documents or even your Internet favorites bookmarked, you should do something.

In the least intensive scenario, if you have a small amount of data, perhaps nothing more important than occasional documents and random other bits of info, you could simply email the docs to yourself IF you have a free Gmail account.  They will store more than seven gigabytes of info for you.  That is a huge amount of documents.

However, if you have been at computing for a while, or even if you are fairly new, you may have a huge cache of photos, videos and music too precious to lose.  This is an extreme that is generally beyond what is recommended for any online backup service, even for Carbonite.

While you may occupy unlimited storage online at Carbonite, users must consider just how that data will get from you to them and then back, should the need arise.  Your upload speed is likely at a relative snail’s pace as compared to your download speed.  In other words, it could take days, weeks or months, many months to upload ALL your stuff, and this does not include your computer’s operating system or related files.

So, first learn your Internet up and down speeds online.  One way to get a relatively good look at your online speeds is to check it on services that do such things.  I use  If need be, choose your nearest server city location.

If you play or work online, the speed of your data upload is going to be slower than if this is the only job your computer does when you are online. If you have a VoIP phone, such as Vonage, Skype or magicJack, when you are on a call, either the call quality may suffer OR you can set Carbonite to Low Priority mode that tells the service to use speeds that will not interfere with your normal abilities to use your upstream speed.  Most users will never need to fiddle at all with settings.  Carbonite is designed to sleep when you are using your computer, however, if others sharing your home network are taxing its bandwidth, this is when it helps to know you can set Low Priority mode or even choose to pause Carbonite for 24 hours.

Again, I don’t want any of you to become paranoid.  I DO want you to be informed and to understand just a bit about how all this works, what are realistic expectations and what are not.

So, once set up, and the setup is easy to do, Carbonite starts backing up your stuff.

As I indicated that online backup is not ideal for your large cache of music, etc., say over 20 or 30 GB, what do you do with the rest of it?  I know users with well over 200 GB of accumulated music and huge files of photos and videos.  You know, it’s insidious.  We get more, keep more and then have to think about protecting it from loss.  It is a really big deal!  I’ll address this in a while, after continuing about Carbonite.

I like Carbonite for a few very good reasons. First, but maybe not the most important, is the price.  It’s very reasonable at just $55 per year.  Were it of poor quality, that price would be inconsequential, however. At its price and from what I have seen of its service, I have to say it is also a good value, and this is very important.  You really do get what you pay for with Carbonite. Their mission is simple, and that is to help protect your data so you will not be in a position to require the services of a fine company such as my friends at DriveSavers, which I recommend without reservation to anyone with a bum hard drive on which is data that MUST be extracted.  They are my go-to company for data recovery.  But, friends, this is an avoidable expense that may range from as “little” as $800 up to $2500 or more if you simply create proper, usable backups for your data.  Then if a drive crashes or you otherwise lose that data, you are protected.

Feeling protected and being protected are not one in the same!  Keep this thought in mind as we continue.

When you sign up with Carbonite, you may choose to let their software manange your backup.  The software looks into your computer and goes right to what is most important first, your Documents folder.  Then it backs up according to its own priority your other data.  Users may select to include or exclude other folders or to completely, manually manage what it is that is or is not backed up.  I like this!

Once you are backed up, Carbonite looks for changes in these files and updates things on their end on the fly constantly in the background.

Let’s address safety concerns about your data floating around in cyberspace.  No worries here.  Carbonite takes your privacy and security seriously.  All your data, your files, are encrypted twice before leaving your computer.  Without your password, no one, not even Carbonite in an emergency if you forget your password, can unlock or decrypt your data.  This is a very good thing, so you can feel confident that your data is safe from harm or from anyone else but YOU getting it.

In the event you need to get your backed up files to repopulate a replaced hard drive or on a new computer, you get your files back with just a few clicks, plus the time it takes for you to download all of it.  That may be a substantial amount of time, but at least you get it all back. So, don’t be in a panic and don’t be in a hurry if you have a substantial amount backed up with Carbonite.  Carbonite is also a good resource if you accidentally delete files or simply cannot find them.  Carbonite not only backs things up all the time in the background, they also store previous old files for you for a time so you can go back in time to when you may have had the missing file and there it may be on Carbonite.  The service also allows users to log in from a browser and to look at individual files in the backup.  Your password and account name grants your access to your online data.

As I indicated that Carbonite should be a part of your strategy, allow me to explain.  While Carbonite is a safe, off-site storage locker for some of your important files, what about the rest, the files that are too voluminous to be sent packing off into cyperspace?  In my world, Carbonite, though a vital cog in the overall wheel, off-site partial data backups are secondary security.  Again, make no mistake, this element is vital.

In my world, seeking simplicity wherever possible, I would want to take the path of least time and effort consumed coupled with the most complete solution possible.  Play along with me as we traverse the following path.

Your computer is lost, stolen and you buy a new one OR your internal hard drive ceases to do its job.  Either way, you’re stopped dead.

In my world, I back up locally to an external hard drive.  First, I’ll go over the Mac scenario I use, recommend to others and have sufficient experience with to call this the best possible way to go. I use a piece of commercial software called Personal Backup X5 from  This $50 software allows total automation of a backup process called cloning.  Cloning creates a perfect, externally bootable copy of everything, and I mean everything on your Mac’s internal hard drive.  With a few clicks it is set up and set to remind you, perhaps weekly, or as often as you like manually, to plug in your external drive and to click “Clone” to do your incremental backup. The two drives are compared and what is changed on the internal since the last backup is changed on the external so it becomes an exact mirror of the internal.  When the backup is completed, the software checks the external drive, performs some minor maintenance, electronically ejects that drive from the computer and quits itself, that is, shuts itself down.  The user should then physically disconnect the external drive, the backup drive and put it away until the next backup.

In the event of an “event” necessitating use of that backup drive it’s ready to go, as current as the last time it was used to back up the main drive inside the computer.  If the internal hard drive has failed and the Mac cannot start as normal from its internal hard drive, then shut it down. Connect that external, the “clone” and restart the computer with the Option key depressed.  The screen will show the attached external drive.  Release the Option key.  Double-clicking on the external drive’s icon will start that computer from the external drive as if nothing has happened.  Everything will be there, in its place exactly, precisely as you remembered your computer before the problem.  Now, go on with your business or fun uninterrupted for now.  Quickly, get the hard drive replaced or do it yourself, usually pretty easy on modern Macs.  The new hard drive does not need to be formatted.  Nothing.  Restart the computer from the Clone outside and then follow the easy procedure of cloning the external back to the new Internal drive and, like magic, really like magic, all is right with the world.  It will take some time, perhaps a few hours, three or four or more if your hard drive is a biggie and loaded with hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of data, but rest assured, everything will be there as you left it and as expected.  That, my friends, is amazing!  Further, with this method, users may replace the old drive with a new and larger one or with a replacement computer, the larger drive works fine, as well.  It will be formatted at its maximum size as it should be and all the old data will be transferred.  Not only is this amazing, but it is ONLY possible on a Mac.  It is only this easy on a Mac.

So, barring a catastrophe of loss or failure, Carbonite becomes the good secondary backup it needs to be, without your massive amount of music, photos, videos, if that is what you have.

If you are loaded with these BIG folders of media, then you may wish to think about making a backup of ONLY your media onto another hard drive and sending it away, out of your house, perhaps out of your city or state to a trustworthy relative or lifelong friend who will hold and protect the drive for you, even in a safe deposit box.  Then, perhaps twice a year you could swap that drive for another with another complete backup of those media files.  You get the idea, don’t you?

For Windows users, you are not so fortunate. Isn’t this itself a great reason to consider a switch to Mac???????  But, I digress. The fact is that today, through Windows Vista, Windows computer cannot be booted from an external drive.  I do not know if this is “fixed” in the upcoming release of Windows 7.  Let us hope so!

For now, Windows users have a problem in this regard, as far as doing things easily are concerned.  Geeks have solutions, but they are geeky and, therefore not simple, so the solutions do not pass the test for everyone.

If a Windows computer’s hard drive fails and the consumer wishes to have replace the drive with one at least as large, there is an easy solution I recently tested.  Seagate sells what they call Replica drives.  For drives up to 500 GB and priced at $130 for the 250 GB version and $200 for the 500 GB version, Seagate Replica works as follows.

Plug in the drive to the computer’s USB port and the software launches.  So long as the computer’s drive is the same or smaller, you are good to go.  In no time the connected Replica drive begins backing up everything.  It creates a time line of incremental backups from the first time to current times.  When the drive fills with these backups starting at day one, it dumps the oldest and continues, continuously.  Let us say the computer’s internal drive fails.

Now, replace the non-operating hard drive, doing nothing to it, no formatting, nothing.  Press the power button on the computer with its unformatted hard drive long enough to open the DVD drive. Take the included DVD that came with Replica and place it in the drive, closing it as needed.  Now, shut off the computer.  Connect the Replica drive via USB and restart the computer. If it is a model within the last three years or so, it should automatically boot from the installed DVD.  The Replica software will guide you through some screens wherein you can select to transfer the latest complete backup on the Replica drive to the newly installed blank hard drive. In a few clicks you are on your way.

When the progress bar indicates the job is at 100%, it’s finished and you can click to restart.  Now, the computer starts from the NEW internal drive and in a few minutes, it’s all working again with all your data, settings and all as you remembered it back as you before.  However, if the new drive is larger than the old one, it will still be formatted only for the size of the original, leaving unformatted all the remaining storage capacity.

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