“If something can go wrong, it will.” Although Murphy’s Law dates back to the 1800s, it’s perfectly applicable to this age of computers. Are you prepared for when your computer goes wrong? When it catches a virus or stops working, what will happen to your valuable documents, photos, and media files?
The time to answer that question is now. Once you’ve had a computer-related disaster, it’s too late. You need a backup—a second (and preferably third) copy of your data—and one of the most convenient ways of achieving that is with a cloud backup service.
IDrive is one of the best cloud backup services there is. It’s an affordable, all-around solution that will back up all of your PCs, Macs, and mobile devices to the cloud, make local backups and sync your files between computers. We named it the best online backup solution for multiple computers in our best cloud backup roundup. We also cover it in detail in this IDrive review.
Carbonite is another service that backs up your computers to the cloud. It’s a popular service, is a little more expensive, and has some limitations that IDrive doesn’t.
The question of the hour is, how do they match up? Which cloud backup service is better—IDrive or Carbonite?
Table of Contents
How They Compare
1. Supported Platforms: IDrive
IDrive runs on a wide variety of desktop operating systems, including Mac, Windows, Windows Server, and Linux/Unix. Mobile apps are also available for both iOS and Android, and these allow you to access your backed-up files from anywhere. They also back up your phone and tablet.
Carbonite has apps for Windows and Mac. However, the Mac version has some limitations. It does not allow you to use a private encryption key as you can with the Windows version, nor does it offer versioning. Their mobile apps for iOS and Android let you access your PC or Mac’s files but will not back up your devices.
Winner: IDrive. It supports more desktop operating systems and enables you to back up your mobile devices.
2. Reliability & Security: IDrive
If you’re going to store copies of your documents and photos in the cloud, you need to ensure no one else can access them. Both apps take steps to secure your files, including a secure SSL connection during file transfer, and strong encryption for storage. They also offer two-factor authentication, which ensures that someone can’t access your data using your password alone.
IDrive lets you use a private encryption key not known by the company. Their staff won’t be able to access your data, nor will they be able to help if you forget your password.
On Windows, Carbonite also allows you to use a private key, but unfortunately, their Mac app doesn’t support it. If you’re a Mac user and desire maximum security, IDrive is the better choice.
Winner: IDrive (at least on Mac). Your data is safe with either company, but if you’re a Mac user, IDrive has the edge.
3. Ease of Setup: Tie
Some cloud backup solutions prioritize the ease at which you can get started. IDrive doesn’t take this to the extreme that some other apps do—it allows you to make choices during the setup process—but is still quite straightforward.
That doesn’t mean the process is entirely manual—it does offer help along the way. For example, it selects a default set of folders to back up; if you don’t override the choice, it will start backing them up shortly afterward. Be aware that the app doesn’t check to ensure the files won’t go over the quota of your chosen subscription plan. You may inadvertently end up paying more than you expect!
Carbonite allows you to decide between automatic or manual setup during installation. I found setup easier but less configurable than IDrive.
Winner: Tie. Both apps are easy to set up. IDrive is a little more configurable, while Carbonite is a little easier for beginners.
4. Cloud Storage Limitations: IDrive
No service provider offers unlimited storage for multiple computers. You need to choose a plan where the limits work for you. Typically, that means unlimited storage for one computer or limited storage for multiple computers. IDrive offers the latter, while Carbonite gives you a choice.
IDrive Personal allows one user to back up an unlimited number of machines. The catch? Storage is limited: their entry-level plan lets you use up to 2 TB (currently increased to 5 TB for a limited time), and there’s a more expensive 5 TB plan (currently 10 TB for a limited time).
Carbonite offers two different types of plans. The Carbonite Safe Basic plan backs up a single computer with no storage limit, while their Pro plan backs up multiple computers (up to 25) but limits the amount of storage to 250 GB. You can pay more to use more.
Both providers offer 5 GB for free.
Winner: IDrive. Its basic plan allows you to store 2 TB of data (and for a limited time, 5 TB), while Carbonite’s equivalent only offers 250 GB. Also, IDrive allows you to back up an unlimited number of machines, while Carbonite is limited to 25. However, if you only need to back up a single PC or Mac, Carbonite Safe Backup offers unlimited storage, which is an excellent value.
5. Cloud Storage Performance: IDrive
Cloud backup services are not fast. It takes time to upload gigabytes or terabytes of data—weeks, possibly months. Is there a difference in performance between the two services?
I signed up for a free 5 GB IDrive account and tested it by backing up my 3.56 GB Documents folder. The entire process was completed in a single afternoon, taking about five hours.
By contrast, Carbonite took over 19 hours to upload a comparable amount of data, 4.56 GB. That’s 380% longer to upload just 128% more data—about three times slower!
Winner: IDrive. In my testing, Carbonite was significantly slower at backing up to the cloud.
6. Restore Options: Tie
Fast and secure backups are essential. But the rubber hits the road when you lose your data and need it back. How effective are these cloud backup providers at restoring your data?
IDrive allows you to restore some or all of your data over the internet. The downloaded files will overwrite those (if any) that are still on your hard drive. Restoring my 3.56 GB backup only took half an hour.
You can also opt to have them ship you a hard drive. IDrive Express typically takes less than a week and costs $99.50, including shipping within the United States. Users outside of the US need to pay for shipping both ways.
Carbonite also allows you to download your files over the internet and gives you the choice of overwriting files or saving them elsewhere.
You can also have your data shipped to you. Rather than being a one-off fee, though, you need to have a more expensive plan. You’d pay at least $78 more each year whether you have your data shipped or not. You also need to have the foresight to subscribe to the right plan in advance.
Winner: Tie. Both companies give you the option of restoring your data over the internet or having it shipped at an additional charge.
7. File Synchronization: IDrive
IDrive wins here by default—Carbonite Backup can’t sync between computers. Since IDrive stores all your data on its servers and your computers access those servers every day, it makes total sense for them to allow you to sync between devices. I wish more cloud backup providers did this.
That makes IDrive a Dropbox competitor. You can even share your files with others by sending an invitation over email. It already stores your data on their servers; there are no extra storage quotas to pay for.
Winner: IDrive. They give you the option of syncing your cloud backup files to all your computers and devices, while Carbonite doesn’t.
8. Pricing & Value: IDrive
IDrive Personal allows one user to backup an unlimited number of computers, and they offer two pricing tiers:
- 2 TB of storage (currently 5 TB for a limited time): $52.12 for the first year, then $69.50/year after that
- 5 TB of storage (currently 10 TB for a limited time): $74.62 for the first year, then $99.50/year after that
They also have a range of business plans that allow an unlimited number of users to back up an unlimited number of computers and servers:
- 250 GB: $74.62 for the first year then $99.50/year
- 500 GB: $149.62 for the first year then $199.50/year
- 1.25 TB: $374.62 for the first year then $499.50/year
- Additional plans offer even more storage
Carbonite’s pricing structure is a little more complicated:
- One computer: Basic $71.99/year, Plus $111.99/year, Prime $149.99/year
- Multiple computers (Pro): Core $287.99/year for 250 GB, additional storage $99/100 GB/year
- Computers + servers: Power $599.99/year, Ultimate $999.99/year
IDrive is more affordable and offers more value. As an example, let’s look at their least expensive plan, which costs $69.50/year (after the first year). This plan allows you to back up an unlimited number of computers and use up to 2 TB of server space.
Carbonite’s closest plan is Carbonite Safe Backup Pro and costs far more: $287.99/year. It allows you to back up 25 computers and use only 250 GB of storage. Updating the plan to 2 TB brings the total to an eye-watering $2087.81/year!
When you’re backing up multiple computers, IDrive offers the better value by far. And that disregards the fact they currently provide 5 TB on that same plan.
But what about backing up a single computer? Carbonite’s most affordable plan is Carbonite Safe, which costs $71.99/year and allows you to back up a single computer using an unlimited amount of storage.
None of IDrive’s plans offer unlimited storage. Their closest option provides 5 TB of storage (10 TB for a limited time); it costs $74.62 for the first year and $99.50/year after that. That’s a reasonable amount of storage. But if you can cope with the slower backup times, Carbonite offers better value.
Winner: IDrive. In most cases, it offers far more value for less money, though if you only need to back up one computer, Carbonite is competitive.
The Final Verdict
IDrive and Carbonite are two excellent cloud backup providers. They both offer affordable, easy-to-use services that keep your files safe by copying them over the internet to a secure server. They both make it easy to get those files back when you need them. But in most cases, IDrive has the upper hand.
According to my tests, IDrive backs up your files about three times faster than Carbonite. It runs on more platforms (including mobile devices), provides more storage space, and is cheaper in most cases. It can also synchronize files to all your computers and devices as an alternative to services like Dropbox.
Carbonite offers a broader range of plans than IDrive. Though they tend to be more expensive while offering less storage, there’s one notable exception: Carbonite Safe allows you to inexpensively back up a single computer with no storage limits. If that’s your situation, Carbonite may be a better choice. If you’re unsure about these two services, take a look at Backblaze, which offers even better value.
Superb and fair assessment of these two choices. Easy to understand and broke it down so well.