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Carbonite vs. Dropbox


At one time comparing Carbonite and Dropbox would have been pointless since they both solved different problems. Carbonite solved the backup problem and Dropbox solved a storage and sync problem. Previously if you needed a backup solution Carbonite would have been a clear winner between the two and if you needed a storage or sync solution clearly Dropbox was your winner. If you needed both you were looking at getting both services but with the rise of mobile and the recent release of Carbonite Currents this is not nearly as clear.


The comparison has changed between Carbonite and Dropbox for several reasons, first is how important mobile is becoming. Both services offer mobile apps on Android, iOS and even Blackberry. Carbonite offers a mobile app that was an access only app. You could browse the files of your backup from your desktop, but the latest version of the Carbonite mobile app lets you automatically backup photos and videos, access your backed up data, locate your device on a map, sound the ringer in case you have misplaced your phone, lock the screen on your device using a pin, remotely activate the camera and remotely wipe your device if you have lost it. The update to the latest Carbonite app is only the start.

If you look at some of the other Carbonite apps available on Android and iOS there is also Currents which extends Carbonite to syncing files between your desktop/laptop and all your devices including your mobile, allows you to share files with others and even collaborate with others on the same file. The last mobile app from Carbonite, SnapSync allows you to keep your photos and videos in sync between your mobile devices.

The downside is you need to install multiple apps on your mobile and or desktop to get the extra features. You would need the Carbonite backup client to backup your files and the Currents client to sync files between your desktop and other computers and your mobile devices. While not a huge issue it does add extra applications to your machines. With the Carbonite backup client all your files should be available in the mobile app so you don’t need to remember to copy it to one specific folder. Need to edit the file you can download it, edit it and it will be added to Currents to sync back to your computer.

The Dropbox mobile app allows you to access the files in your Dropbox folder, upload your photos and videos from your mobile, easily share your photos and docs, save email attachments straight to your Dropbox on you device and edit docs in your Dropbox. What the Dropbox app does not actually do it sync your files from your desktop to your device unless you favorite the files then it will download them to your device. The app will upload a file back to your Dropbox on your mobile if you edit it, depending on the type of file. The biggest downside to Dropbox is you only have access to the files in your Dropbox folder. Forget to add a file you need to your Dropbox folder you will not be able to access it.

Carbonite has continually added new features and options to their mobile lineup and they have moved from just backup to also offering storage and sync with the new apps. When Dropbox first released their mobile app they would have been in the lead but Carbonite has over taken Dropbox as far as mobile access and sync goes. If you use Carbonite for your backup solution there is simply no need for Dropbox anymore.

The second reason it is now more practical to compare Carbonite vs Dropbox is because of the release of Carbonite Currents. Carbonite Currents is not just about syncing files to mobile, it syncs files between your computers similar to Dropbox with some differences of course. Currents does not sync a specific folder it syncs files that have been modified within 30 days so you have access to all of your current working files. This is a different approach to file sync and could be very useful for certain people. Why sync all your files if you don’t need them.

Thanks to, Cloud Storage Buzz sister site, I grabbed the comparison table between Carbonite and Dropbox.

Feature Carbonite Dropbox
Free No Yes – 2GB With Referral Plan To Get More
Trial Yes – 15 Days No
Windows Yes Yes
Mac Yes Yes
Linux No Yes
Unix No No
File Sharing Yes – With Currents Yes
Locked Files Yes No
Size Unlimited 100GB and Up
Restore Options Client, Web, USB HD (HomePremier Account Only) Web
External Drives Yes – HomePlus And HomePremier Plans Support External Hard Drives. No
Local Backup Yes – HomePlus And HomePremier Plans Support Local Backup. No
Network Drives No No
Webaccess Yes Yes
Encryption Yes Yes
Private Encryption Keys Yes – Private Encryption Key On Windows Only. No
Multiple Computers No Yes
Support Options Email, Chat, Phone Web
File Size Limit 4GB – Larger Files Can Be Manually Selected. No – Must Be Smaller Than Your Storage Limit.
File Sync Yes – With New Carbonite Currents. Yes
Bandwidth Throttling Yes No – User Adjustable.
Backup Scheduling Yes No
Backup Continuously Yes Yes
File Versioning 12 Versions Yes
File Archiving 30 Days Yes
iOS App Yes Yes
Android App Yes Yes
Windows Mobile App No No
Blackberry App Yes Yes
Nokia App No No
Price Month NA $9.99
Price Year $59.99 $99.00
Price Two Year $109.99 NA
Price Three Year $149.99 NA
Promo Code Yes – Click To Save 10%
Review Read Carbonite Review Read Dropbox Review
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I know that there are many Dropbox users that have paid Dropbox accounts that use it to keep all of their files on the cloud storage service but Carbonite offers a better feature set than Dropbox and at a better price. There is simply no need for Dropbox if you have Carbonite any longer. At one time that would have been different but with all of the new features Carbonite offers Dropbox has become just an extra feature that you already get with Carbonite. The exception is if you need to sync or store a small amount of files then Dropbox wins with their 2GB free account or if you need to sync files to or from a Linux based desktop.

It is interesting to see how Carbonite has transformed itself from just a cloud backup service to a cloud backup and storage service. As mobile and tablets become more a part of our regular daily computing lives it will be even more important for cloud backup to transform into backup and storage to help customers have access and protect all of their files independent of what type of device they are using.

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20 Responses to Carbonite vs. Dropbox

  1. gary says:

    There is nothing about a system restoration and what that might do to either Dropbox or Carbonite. I recently had a BSODeath but someone was able to fix it by helping me perform a system restore going back 4 days. All my files < 4 days old in my dropbox folder resorted back to 4 days prior. I assume it's because of some automatic synching…

    Few questions:
    1. Is there a difference between carbonite and dropbox for a system restore?
    2. You stated only files < 30 days old are backed up by Carbonite, does it synch first or store new + older versions?
    Thanks Gary

    • Gary,
      Sorry this comment got lost in all the comments coming in.

      To try and answer your questions:
      1. Dropbox and Carbonite have very different restore procedures. Finding deleted files in Dropbox I find easiest to do on the web and them selecting them for restore. Once that is done they will automatically sync back to the computer. Carbonite you would either do a restore in the client or online and look for the files that are available that are missing. Since I don’t run Carbonite on a regular basis I am going by memory. Both services could take some time if you have lots of files that were missing.

      2. From what I recall Carbonite really has no rhyme or reason to the order it sends files up. It does store older versions but not as many as some competitors. In theory if all files are uploaded only the newest files should be getting uploaded and synced.

      Don’t know if that helps any.

  2. Terry says:

    I record a lot of gopro videos and I’ve recently run out of room on my 500G laptop to store any more files. I’m trying to put together a cool project but I’m running out of space before I can get everything done that I need to. Just so I understand, I can transfer my files to Carbonite for $59 in year one, the second year is still $59 or does it go up? do you sign a multi year contract to save? Sounds better than going and buying a 1TB hard drive that is still at risk of failing on me . thoughts? i like the unlimited idea…that’s awesome.

    • Be careful with that plan. Most services, including Carbonite are not archive services, so if you delete a file from your computer after so many days they remove it from your backup. See this Carbonite FAQ link for more information on this.

      I believe CrashPlan and possibly Zoolz will do what you are looking for BUT please, please, please triple check with them before you do it. I would recommend you just go a buy an external hard drive and archive them locally as well as online because a local version will be much faster to recover from than the cloud.

      • Bob says:

        Also be aware the $59 Carbonite does NOT automatically backup video. You have specify in each folder you want it to backup video. I pay the rate of something like $150 to auto-backup video so I don’t screw up.

  3. G.R. says:

    What do I need 2 apps when I can do it in just one with dropbox?

    • Dropbox is not really a backup service that is the problem. It only copies with is in the one folder. While Carbonite will backup much more than that and by adding the sync app you get the benefit of a real backup with the bonus of sync. You could do the same thing by having Carbonite and Dropbox installed but if you have unlimited storage with Carbonite why use Dropbox at all.

  4. Ronald says:

    I have a women who works for me, and we use Dropbox to share files between two different computers. I wanted to be able to backup my whole laptop using Carbonite. Can we do file sharing with Carbonite using Currents, like we do with Dropbox? Is it as simple to use as Dropbox or cost anything extra than the standard fee I would pay Carbonite?

    • Looks like Carbonite has renamed it Sync and Share, and yes you should be able to do what you want. It is free to use from Carbonite so you can always download it and try it out before actually purchasing your backup subscription to make sure it does what you want. I believe both you and her would need to have it installed. I have not tested it recently so it might have changed since I tried it but it was pretty easy when I did try it before.

  5. Ralph says:

    Okay I’ve got 3 computers to sync under 100 gig – with Dropbox i’ll pay one fee of $99/yr while with Carbonite its ~$180. Isn’t Dropbox the better value then?

  6. Charles says:

    Dropbox is essential because of the many programs that integrate with it. For example if you use a signature capture product such as Sign My Pad there is an option to store the signed PDF in Dropbox. There are many other examples. You won’t get this with Carbonite alone.

    • True Dropbox does have a number of applications that work with it that Carbonite does not have. Unfortunately the reason they work well with Dropbox and not services like Carbonite, Mozy etc is because of the lack of encryption with Dropbox. If you use a tool to encrypt your Dropbox files you have the same problem. A catch 22 in some ways. For better security you lose some of the convenience that Dropbox offers.

      • Mr. Luigi says:

        Hm…I don’t know. I get your point. But, that is a pretty fast and easy dismissal of something that could be a pretty big issue for users. I have several iDevices and hundreds of Apps. Many…MANY of them have built in syncing with Dropbox. It is a great convenience. None…NONE sync with Carbonite.

  7. Chris says:

    I use Dropbox (paid account) on my Linux machine and have not experienced any issues. I’ve used it on Windows XP, Windows 7, various versions of Linux (Fedora, Ubuntu, and Mint).

  8. Carl Pham says:

    Doesn’t work under Linux? Maximum fail.

    • I don’t think this is a maximum fail on Carbonite and yes I am a Linux user. Considering how Linux is less than 2% of the desktop market it makes little sense for Carbonite to support it. In fact that is most likely why many of the cloud services do not support Linux, simply not enough market share. If they are counting on making enough money to stay open the Linux market is not where they have to focus. The bigger surprise is that Dropbox still supports Linux at all. I would not be surprised if that changed in the near future because the new features (if you want to call them that) in the latest version of Dropbox are not available to Linux users. In fact I bet Dropbox starts to release a lot of new features to Windows and Mac users that never make it to the Linux version. Not surprised really Dropbox has been extremely unreliable on my Linux machine that last few months often being the cause of the machine to lock up.

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