Carbonite pushes data restore upgrades, ease of use in v4.0

It also adds a remote session tool for helping users with restore

Carbonite Inc. released a new version of its online backup service that has several new tools, including one designed to make it easier for users to find and recover single files and one that gives users control over the order in which data should be restored.

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

"If someone can't get their data back, we've failed," said David Friend, CEO of Boston-based Carbonite. "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. The service keeps up to three months worth of file versions.

The user interface for restoring individual files
The user interface for restoring individual files.

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

"Carbonite has always been easy to backup. There isn't a whole lot to do," Friend said. "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 a new internal call center system that allows service representatives to handle incoming e-mails according to their urgency. "We still offer e-mail support, but anytime someone e-mails us with a problem that seems like there's a high anxiety level, rather than just go back and forth with e-mail, 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 is designed to allow service representatives to initiate remote desktop sessions with customers; it gives the reps the ability to try to resolve problems by accessing customer PCs through a secure connection.

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
An example of Carbonite's restore user interface.

Friend said Carbonite plans to round out its mobile access product line later this year. Carbonite currently offers a smartphone application for iPhones and BlackBerries. That application allows a user to access files backed up to the Carbonite service. Once the Carbonite screen is up, it's possible to access any computer being backed up, view any files and forward it via e-mail.

Molly Thompson, a Carbonite user who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, used the service to restore her Toshiba laptop, which had problems 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 1MB/sec.," she said.

Thompson said the customer service was "wonderful," but noted that 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 user interface for its InfoCenter feature. 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 e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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