We like Time Machine, the friendly, zero-config backup system built into version 10.5 of the Mac operating system; it makes it easy to 'go back in time' and find an earlier version of a file, or rescue something that you've deleted. And we like options such as SuperDuper and CarbonCopyCloner, where you can copy your hard disk, system intact, to another that you can boot from if your main disk dies.

Both systems, however, are usually used locally. That is, even if you set your target volume as a network attached storage device such as a Time Capsule, you're still backing up your data to another disk that's kept at the same location as the thing you're backing up.

While this helps guard against data loss caused by failures or corruption of the hard disk inside your Mac – and that's all you're doing; the backup could fail too, so you're just reducing risk with each backup – it doesn't help if there's a flood, fire or theft…

A solution is to back everything up over the internet to a completely different location. While this is limited by your internet connection's upload speed it does mean it's safe from local disasters. The service we're reviewing here, Carbonite, has been getting very positive feedback from the PC community, so we were keen to see how the Mac version performed.

Affordable and reliable

In general, we're impressed. Unlike many companies that have developed a PC application and then gone on to make a Mac version, the developers genuinely seem to have 'got' the Mac. The installation is a breeze, and the service itself is configured from a well-behaved System Preferences pane. There's an optional menu bar icon, but all the work is done behind the scenes by a background process.

When we tested it, this daemon did cause some problems, often gobbling up half the processor of our 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro for minutes at a time for no reason we could discern. It didn't cause slowdowns on such a meaty machine; the worst side-effect was reduced battery life. Carbonite is working on an update.

Carbonite restore screen
SEE CLEARLY: The Carbonite interface is clean and Mac-like; this manual restore window is as complicated as it gets (Click here for high res version)

Picking what to back up is simple; go for the easy option and back up all user folders, or navigate through a column-view, toggling files and folders' backup status. Restoring is also easy; do the whole lot or choose individual files and folders.

The initial backup can take an age, and check to make sure you don't fall foul of your ISP's bandwidth cap, but it's still a very secure system. Data is encrypted, and the servers promise to be rock-solid.

The optional remote access system isn't that sophisticated, but at less than £40 a year for unlimited automatic backup, it's great.

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