Carbonite 4.0 boasts data restore upgrades, ease of use

Online backup service also adds a remote desktop session tool and redesigned InfoCenter user interface

Carbonite released a new version of its online backup service that includes several new tools and increased ability to search for and recover single files as well as control over the order in which data should be restored.

Carbonite 4.0 for Windows includes Restore Manager, a user interface that guides customers through the restore process -- whether they need to restore a single file or their entire hard drive. Restore Manager also offers a restore summary report, which tells users how many, and which, files were restored. And it can specify any files that were not restored and where they're located.

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"If someone can't get their data back, we've failed," said Carbonite CEO David Friend. "What we discovered is when someone has a successful restore experience with Carbonite, they become really strong promoters of the product, and frankly that results in a lot of word-of-mouth sales."

Carbonite 4.0 includes file versioning, which enables users to restore all previous versions of a file backed up by the service instead of just the latest version of the file. The service keeps up to three months worth of file versions.

The user interface for restoring individual files

Version 4.0 also includes a migration wizard that ensures data ends up in the proper file structure for a target operating system, according to Friend.

"Carbonite's always been easy to backup. There isn't a whole lot to do.... But we found people wanted to be able to restore a particular file, they couldn't remember the name of the file or where they'd stored it on a disk, so we put a lot of effort into the search mechanisms," Friend said. "There are all kinds of ways to find files now."

For example, users can search by file size, date, and content.

Along with a new version of its customer software, Carbonite also rolled out new internal call center software that allows service representatives to handle incoming emails according to their urgency. "We still offer email support, but anytime someone emails us with a problem that seems like there's a high anxiety level, rather than just go back and forth with email, we send them a message saying, 'Look, just give me a call and I'll walk you through this.' "

"If they're hesitant to call us, we'll call them. Or if you really don't want to talk, at least let's do a live text chat and I'll walk you through this," Friend said.

The new call center software can enable a remote desktop session with users, allowing service representatives to access a PC through a secure connection to resolve a problem.

For example, users can now see the progress of a restore at the file level. In the past, Friend said, users could track the progress of an overall restore via a thermometer-style meter, but they couldn't tell which files had been restored at any given point.

An example of Carbonite's restore user interface

Friend also said Carbonite plans to round out its mobile access product line later this year. Carbonite has an iPhone and BlackBerry smartphone application out today, which allows a user to access files backed up to the service. Once the Carbonite screen is up, it's possible to access any computer being backed up, view any files, and forward it via email.

Molly Thompson, a Carbonite user who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, used the service to restore her Toshiba laptop, which had probelms last April. "The recovery process was very easy. I just clicked recover and it just took a while. It took five days. The connection I had at the time was less than 1MBps," she said.

Thompson said the customer service was "wonderful," but said she'd like the process to be more automated so she wouldn't have to right-click her mouse to choose files to be backed up. "The PC interface is also not as much a favorite of mine as my iPhone interface. I use my iPhone interface much more frequently than the one on my laptop."

Friend said Carbonite addressed user concerns like Thompson's with a redesigned InfoCenter user interface. InfoCenter is the tool that communicates backup and restore status, scheduling options, and customer service information.

"We think from a user standpoint this is a pretty huge improvement from what we had before," Friend said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His email address is

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