App review: Carbonite Access for iPad


carbonite - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

iOS 4.3 might just have been released, but there’s another update that came today that I’m much more excited about: Carbonite. They’ve had an iPhone app for a while, and finally came out with a major (!!) update that also made the app universal with iPad support.

Updated March 10, 2011

Carbonite is an awesome service that I continuously try to get people to use so I avoid phone calls from desperate people who just lost 10000 family photos in a hard drive crash. It’s a backup service where you install a program on your computer which then runs continuously in the background to upload your data. If you computer crashes, gets electrocuted, stolen, flooded or burned down (including all your external backups) you still have all your data in the cloud. It might take you a week to download everything and restore it, but if the worst happens that’s a small price to pay- and so is the $55/year subscription price in my opinion.

That’s Carbonite’s main feature though, but I’m not here to talk about that directly. Instead, I’m here to show you their iPad app. Since Carbonite puts all your data online (securely, just so that’s said, this is being used by businesses so there’s no…eh…funny business) that means you can access it from anywhere. I currently have 47GB worth of data backup up, spread across 44000 files. Every single one of those files are available on my iPad, without taking up any of the internal space.

The Difference between this and something like Dropbox is that this is fully integrated into your computer, and a one-way solution. You don’t use Carbonite to transfer files back and forth like you would with Dropbox, instead it’s a portal into your computer’s files. I mostly use it when I need to get hold of files that I don’t use often, and so I never put them on my iPad or Dropbox where I have limited space available. It might be a picture from the 80’s that I scanned and archived, a 2 year old exam paper, an old work contract or whatever- all of these are real examples of files I never thought I’d have any use for on my iPhone or iPad, but that I ended up grabbing using Carbonite. It does make your boss look at you a bit weird though when he asks you to check a detail in an old contract “if you still have it” and you give him the answer 30 seconds later.

The new improvements to the Carbonite app make it a lot easier to use for things like this, not only by adding native iPad support but also by making it faster, include photo thumbnails and shortcuts to common folders like the desktop, documents folder etc (if you have those set to back up). Part of what makes Carbonite great is that you wouldn’t normally buy this for the iOS app, which means that you’re already using it (or will be using it after reading this ;) ) to back up. Tens of gigabytes of data can take ages to back up (months, if your connection is slow- only for the initial backup though, regular backups of new and changed files are naturally faster) but because this is an iOS app second you won’t lose patience waiting days, weeks or months to get everything up and running. The price also makes this an iOS app second and a backup service first.

Unfortunately they dropped the ball big time in one area: integration with other apps. They didn’t take advantage of iOS’ “open in” feature which allows apps to send files to other applications. With Carbonite Access you’re only given the option to email files, and while you can email files to yourself to get files across this is slow and limited file-size-wise compared to “open in”. A insanely stupid decision that I cannot grasp, and when I emailed them about it they didn’t seem very willing to add it. Without this feature Carbonite Access is a file viewer with the ability to open small files in other apps via email. That’s useful too, but you can forget about using this for storing video, accessing large photo files, large documents etc. Bad Carbonite! >:(

Either way, it’s still useful, and I love being able to access any of my files on the go. I think it’s definitely worth $55 a year to never have to worry about losing data alone, so when it gives me the ability to access any file on my computer from my iPad/iPhone on top of that I guess I can’t complain too much.. If you have Carbonite or sign up, you can get the iOS app for free from here.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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8 thoughts on “App review: Carbonite Access for iPad

  • that sounds great, if you have internetconnection at home ;)
    you’ve said, you can access your files from everywhere, but i didn’t get it right, can you USE the in your apps, are their offlinepossibilities, can you access videofiles and ‘stream’ them out of the cloud?
    oh, one more… does it operates as some kind of online-hdd, or does it permanetly sync and delets parts of your back up if you delet the files from your computer?


    P.S. edit-function operates now :)

    • You can use the files if you download them (then open in the apps you want). Streaming, no, but you can download the video files and open them when they’re done

    • I’ve edited the original review after I found out they forgot a feature that I didnt even think to check for as I assumed it was there. This changes its usefulness with regards to larger files, so be sure to read the edited review

      • that was one of the points, i wantet to know… using tdropbox is cheaper and (still…) more comfortable for me. 2 gig of cache to backup some interessting files for everyone on the go, with the ability to present them on iOS. the limited capabilities are worth the 50 bucks i save :)

        • Well dropbox still can’t replace the core feature of Carbonite: computer backup. That’s why the apps aren’t really comparable, as iOS access is just a secondary feature on Carbonite

  • Not sure about this idea. My online backup is the crown jewels. Yes, it’s online so there is some inherent risk which I accept. That risk is more than cancelled out in my opinion by the risk of only having backups within the same building as the original data. Now, since this backup is everything that is important to me, financial information, family pictures, music, etc. I don’t think I want a portable device having ANY access to that whatsoever. Sure, it might be nice for some music and some pictures, but my online backup is everything. So now I would not only have to consider security and privacy implications of putting my backup online to begin with, but I must consider the steps I must take to ensure my portable device is secured as well. And while I can do all the practical things to make it “seem” secure, with iOS that is certainly not the case. Even an PIN locked iPad has had it’s whole password chain stolen recently.

    I’m not ready to make this leap of trust. But that’s just me.

    Functionality wise it seems great, maybe if I had a separate Carbonite account just for “sharing” or “access” purposes it would be a workable solution.

  • Avatar of Tari Romane

    Amazon is still better and more available than most private hosted infrastructure. Note that AWS isn’t going down worldwide, but rather regions. Within the Amazon cloud, you can make your infrastructure geographically disperse thus greatly reducing outage risk (at an increased cost of course).  Amazon has facilities in VA, CA, Ireland and around the globe.  Still having very important medical information on a thumb drive or on your phone makes sense.


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