Carbonite vs Crashplan – Which Cloud Backup Solution is Better for You?

By Conner Sinclair | Data Backup

Carbonite and Crashplan are two of the leading cloud backup solutions in the industry, and they keep up with other quality providers like iDrive and SpiderOak One. But one of the largest problems in the cloud backup industry is that there are so many options. One the one hand, having a lot of different services competing for customers means competitive pricing and the need for them to improve their features.

On the other hand, a myriad of options could be too much of a good thing. You can’t simply subscribe to the first service you see online and hope to select the provider that will suit your needs the best.

Today, we’re going to be comparing Carbonite vs Crashplan by dissecting their services piece by piece, so you can make an informed decision before committing to a subscription. First off, we need to look at their respective pricing models.

First: Comparing the Prices

First off, I’d like to point out that both services are extremely affordable and reasonable in their pricing – especially for individual users. I should also mention the basic plan for each provider is only able to backup a single computer, which is a tradeoff between price and functionality.

The following describes Carbonite’s pricing model:

Conversely, Crashplan’s pricing is a little different. They only have to different subscription options that are determined by the number of computers you wish to backup as follows:

  • 1 computer for 1 year: $60.00 per year ($5.00 per month)
  • 2-10 computers for 1 year: $1500.00 per year ($12.50 per month)

Furthermore, Crashplan does have a 30-day trial of their service. I think an entire month is more than enough time to decide whether or not you’re pleased with their service. But pricing and free trials are only one consideration – we also need to take a look at their features.

Key Features Examined and Compared

Both services have admirable and robust features, but there’s one thing that irks me a little. With either service, if you want to backup more than one computer or mobile device, you’re going to have to purchase the upgraded version of their service. The basic versions only allow one computer backup.

Similar Core Offering: Nevertheless, they do include just about every backup feature you could think of or would ever need. Both Crashplan and Carbonite include backup features including incremental, continuous, automatic, manual, and scheduled backups. Personally, I favor the automatic backups because it eliminates the hassle of having to take time out of your busy day to safeguard the latest versions of your files.

Both Allow NAS and External Backups: Furthermore, Carbonite and Crashplan allow you to backup NAS devices and external hard drives. I’ll warn you, though: if you have a massive storage device (let’s say 500GB of an external HDD’s data to backup), it’s going to take a long time to upload all the data to the cloud. Even if you have a gigabit ISP Internet connection, there are finite limits to individual TCP sessions and encrypted tunnels – so you may have to babysit your upload for a while. Also consider that encryption (as we’ll discuss in the next section) adds a significant amount of overhead to the backup process.

For extremely large backup jobs, you may even want to just make a few redundant copies on local storage mediums such as a NAS or external HDD. Both providers include this feature, though they don’t have the ability to send backups to advanced media like Blu-Ray. However, you can always create a backup on your local drive and use Blu-Ray burning software to transfer the backup files to a Blu-Ray disc.

Carbonite Tiers: I should also point out that the external hard drive and NAS backup feature isn’t included in the basic version of Carbonite. Instead, you’ll have to upgrade to at least the Premium plan (their level-2 service). Note that the Carbonite Prime plan (their highest level plan) includes all of the features of the Premium plan, but adds two key tools. First, it adds an automatic video backup feature. So if you download a lot videos or tinker around with video editing, that might be a perfect fit for you.

Courier Service Option for Carbonite: Secondly, Prime subscribers get a courier service, whereby Carbonite will mail hard copies of your cloud backups for an extra layer of protection against data loss. This is handy because it saves the time, trouble, and headaches of having to make hard copies on your own.

Carbonite vs Crashplan: Security Features Contrasted

Security should be one of your top priorities when selecting a cloud storage or online backup provider. Though it may sound like something out of a spy movie, there really are hackers and governmental wiretapping schemes eavesdropping on your communications and data every day. I think most of you have heard what Edward Snowden had to say about the domestic wiretapping scandals by the United States NSA – which brings us to each provider’s encryption features.

  • Encryption Comparison: The bottom line is that encryption is crucial to your privacy and safety, so you should be aware of two types of cloud encryption. The first is simply called transport encryption. Providers usually provide transport encryption as a bare minimum, and encrypt data as it is transmitted through the public Internet until it reaches their network. Then, the data is usually decrypted and encrypted once more with a stronger algorithm for storage.
  • Client Side vs User Encryption: On the other hand, the much preferred and stronger encryption method is called client-side encryption. It is more secure because you – the user – manages the encryption key. No one other than you can decrypt it since they don’t have the key. It should be noted that Crashplan is an extremely secure provider because they provide client-side encryption, making them a zero-knowledge provider.
  • How Encryption Effects Speed: However, client-side encryption does have overhead, and can slow down data transfers to the cloud. Fortunately, Crashplan offers a choice of whether or not you want to use a private encryption key. If you don’t want to use a private key (perhaps the data you’re uploading isn’t that sensitive, such as a music library), they’ll encrypt it using a 448-bit key for transport to their servers.

Likewise, Carbonite gives Crashplan a run for their money, because they too provide client-side encryption with private keys using AES-256. But using a private encryption key with Carbonite means that you’ll lose two features. I found it odd that they recommended that users abstain from local encryption, even though it’s the strongest type of cloud security. They had the following to say on their website:

“Customers who choose to manage their own encryption key will not have the ability to use Anytime Anywhere Access, nor can they request Courier Recovery.” Anytime Anywhere Access is simply a hyped up restore feature, and the Courier Recovery is the act of recovering files from a hard copy mailed to you by Carbonite. If you don’t want to use local encryption, you can use transport encryption which uses AES-128.

The bottom line is that both providers give you the option of using extremely strong client-side encryption or the less secure alternative of transport encryption. So, by and large, these providers are evenly matched in the realm of security.

Final Thoughts: Crashplan or Carbonite?

I was very surprised to see just how similar these two services are, especially with regards to their features and security.

With exception to minor secondary features, both Carbonite and Crashplan do a phenomenal job of providing just about every backup feature you would need, without being as complicated and intimidating as highly customizable backup solutions like SpiderOak One.

“So, when it’s all said and done, who wins? I think it was extremely close, but I’d have to say that Carbonite wins, and I’ll tell you why.”

They simply have a more granular packaging and pricing system that makes it easier for you to find the right plan for you. Usually when comparing two backup providers, one or the other will blow me away with better features and/or security, but it hardly ever comes down to price.

In this case, however, I see more value in being able to select the plan that’s right for you. If you’re still not sure, my advice is to take advantage of their free trial. There may be details like interface design that sway you one way or the other. The bottom line is that these are two competent, well-designed, and high quality backup services that will safeguard your data without issue.

Bottom Line: I’d recommend signing up for Carbonite here, over Crashplan.

Follow

About the Author

Conner is a self-professed tech nerd, obsessed with digital security and privacy. He loves debugging "lost causes" and thwarting hackers. When not in his depressing cubicle in Corporate America, he's blogging here.