Mozy Remote Backup - Product Review

mozy reviewEvery once in awhile I'll get a request to review and/or promote some type of product. Most of the time these items end up as things that I don't believe are really relevant for my readers, or aren't very far along in the development cycle, or are just bad products. However, every once in a while I'll bump into something that I get genuinely excited about. This service, Mozy Remote Backup, is one of those products. And while on-line backup services are nothing new, free ones can be pretty hard to find.

Details:

  • It's in beta, so expect some bumps (although I have to say I didn't have any real problems)
  • Windows XP only, 1.5 MB client download (Mac client in development)
  • NTFS required to backup open or locked files
  • Broadband connection required (may be self evident, but uploading gigabytes of data over dialup is not feasable)
  • 2 GB storage is free, 30 GB available for $4.95USD per month
  • Referral program, 1 GB additional storage for every 4 people referred
  • Limited to 5 restores per month
  • Local drives only

First of all, I'm a big believer in backing up your computer information regularly. I've seen those terror-filled eyes too many times, when I have to tell someone "Sorry, the hard drive's gone belly up, it's toast. I hope you've been backing up your data." This is usually followed by a few moments of absolute silence, as the user performs a quick inventory of just how much information they're going to lose. Desktop users at work have the lowest risk, especially those that correctly save their valuable information on the network drives. Home users have a moderate risk, as they don't (usually) have access to network drives, and most times aren't the best about backing up their important stuff. The road warriors are at the highest risk, I'll bet 1 in 10 of ours will lose their data from those laptops for one reason or another every year. The fact that they're frequently on the road exacerbates the problem, as it isn't really feasible to take external hard drives or tape backups with them.

So an on-line backup service is a great solution for this problem. In addition, even the most dedicated of us finds it difficult to store backups off-site. In the event of a fire or flood most of us (myself included) would have some difficulties restoring all of their data. The on-line solution neatly takes care of this, as you get the data in a secure, remote location. From a development standpoint, if I was to create one I would make sure to incorporate these items:

  1. Easy to install
  2. Easy to configure
  3. Secure (SSL, encrypted data)
  4. Automated, scheduled incremental backups
  5. Inexpensive

In short, it has to be easy to install and configure, it has to run by itself so that you don't have to remember to do it, it has to be secure, and it has to be affordable. It appears that Mozy fills all of these requirements. Even though this is still in beta, I found only one scheduling issue as I went through the paces (details below).

You will need to create an account on-line, then download the 1.5 mb client. On launching the client you will get the following login screen:

 

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You can choose to use the standard open source 448-bit Blowfish encryption, or if you prefer you can use your own encryption key. If you opt to use your own key it's up to you to keep it safe, because if you lose it you will not be able to get to your data:

 

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The program will then attempt to decide what it is that you should be backing up. As you can see from the screen below it tries to guess at what it thinks should be important to you, and automatically selects those items. For the average user you could probably just accept these options, although you would want to double-check to make sure it's getting all of your important data:

 

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I found that if you double click on an item it will bring up a detailed editor, where you can define the rules and select the individual items (you can easily change these settings after you've completed the installation process):

 

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You can then decide when you want the backups performed (again easily changed later on):

 

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That's it, you're done. As I like to tinker, I decided to edit the standard settings:

 

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If you select this you will get the configuration screen. This is the same screen you will use after the installation is complete to change your configuration options. I changed which files I wanted to have backed up, opting for just a couple of the pre-configured sets to check it out:

 

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Under the Files tab you can manually select any additional files you want to pull in:

 

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Under scheduling you can decide if you want it to monitor your system and update automatically, or you can select a preferred time and day to run the backup. This is the only issue I ran into, as I tried several different settings under the automatic configuration, and have not been able to get it to run a backup after the computer's become idle. When I changed to the scheduled backup it ran fine. Mozy tells you in their support section that the automatic backup will not run within 2 hours of a previous backup, but I couldn't get it to run even after a day. For me this isn't a real issue, as I would prefer to schedule the backup for once a day anyway, but others prefer to have backup software monitor changes throughout the day. I sent an e-mail to customer support, but as of this time am still waiting for a reply:

 

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You get some additional configuration under options, most to do with minor preferences. The bandwidth throttle is a nice feature, as you may have more important processes that you would want to give preference to. VOIP comes to mind, as you wouldn't want to lose your voice call quaility if your backup kicked in. This gives you the ability to tweak your system:

 

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That's it. Once the backup starts you can choose to view a monitor screen:

 

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When it's done you can double-click the icon in the task tray to review the status, start another backup or change the settings:

 

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Logging in to your account at the Mozy website shows you your backups and how much of your allocated space is used:

 

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The restore process is equally simple. You can click on the Restore button on the client form, which will take you to your account at the Mozy website. From there you can select which files to restore, again a very simple fill-in-the-checkbox type of operation. After you select restore Mozy creates a zipped file containing the files you selected, then sends you an e-mail with a link to the files. You simply download the zipped file, then extract it and copy it to the original location.

Overall I would give the service very high marks, and I'm sure that I'm going to using it. The only concerns I have are:

  1. Customer service support - can you get someone to help you if you have a problem
  2. Company health - is the company going to make it, and will I be able to get my files if the go belly-up

I'll let you know what I find out on the customer service, and only time will tell if they're going to make if for the long term.

Additional resources

 
  • Mozy Remote Backup - find out more here
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