Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


[Updated] Calling for backup

I'm very good about backing up my laptop (I regularly use Norton Ghost to do full and incremental image backups to removable hard drives). At home, I tried a similar routine to back up my wife's computer using a SimpleTech NAS drive attached to my wireless router. The drive is awesome, and I still use it to store data, but I just couldn't seem to keep a consistent backup routine going.

My wife takes a lot of pictures, and also stores a lot of important data on her computer relating to her very active involvement in Girl Scouts. She would wring my neck if her computer crashed and her data was lost.

Mozy to the rescue

For the last couple of months, I can tell you without hesitation that her computer is backed up every day no matter where I am.

You see, I discovered an online backup solution called Mozy that automatically backs up her entire computer to a remote backup facility every day. Mozy is very simple - you install it on your computer, select the files you want to backup (there are some presets, or you can select them yourself). Mozy then begins to back up the fill set of files you've selected.

One thing you need to know up front: Mozy is designed for users with broadband connections - moving large amounts of data over anything less than broadband is not practical. There are clients for Windows Vista, XP, 2000, and Mac OS X 10.4.

Mozy is efficient and secure

Mozy has built-in bandwidth throttling and uses secure transport and storage (128-bit SSL for data transfers, and your data is encrypted with 448-bit Blowfish encryption before it's sent over the wire).

As efficient as Mozy is, the first backup can still take a while - our first backup of around 13 Gigabytes of data took 4 days to complete over our broadband connection. However, once the first complete backup is done, Mozy performs an incremental backup each day (incremental backups back up everything that is new or changed since the last backup). My incremental backups only take a few minutes each day.

Mozy also handles file versioning (it can store multiple iterations of frequently-changing files), and can back up open files.

Restoring is easy, too

A backup is only as good as your ability to get your files back if you really need to. Mozy shines in this department. You have quite a few options - here are some of them:

  • You can right-click a file and select "Restore Previous Version" and Mozy will show you a list of the previous versions available so you can pick the one you want to restore.
  • You can right-click anywhere in a folder and select "Restore Files in Folder" and you'll get a list of the files in the folder that are available for restore and you can select any combination of them for restore.
  • You can log into the Mozy site and restore from there using their web UI (this allows you to restore to the original location or another location).
  • You can use the Mozy web site to create a ZIP file of selected files so you can download the file and unzip them wherever you want.

Free or fee, depending on your needs

For personal use, Mozy offers a free subscription option, as well as a fee one - here are the differences:

  • Mozy's free option is limited to 2 gigabytes of data storage, but is otherwise fully functional.
  • Mozy's fee option runs $4.95 per month for unlimited data storage - this is the option I chose, and I recommend it for most people. It doesn't take much for your data to grow larger than 2 gigabytes. Incidentally, you can go month-to-month, but a 1- or 2-year subscription is a better deal since you get 1 or 2 months free.

    • Note: I bought my copy at my local CompUSA in a box and it only cost $50 for the product with an activation key for unlimited backup for one year. That's a sweet deal since that comes in at $4.16 per month since Oregon has no sales tax.

For business, there is a "MozyPro" option with different pricing plans (along with additional features and broader platform support).

Outsourcing your backups

In summary, if you're one of those procrastinators that doesn't ever seem to get around to backing up your computer, why not outsource the task to Mozy?

I, for one, am quite pleased with this service.

Updates: Some additional thoughts

Since I posted this yesterday, a few questions have come up in comments - I'll address them here, as well as in the comments.

  • I had a typo in the monthly price - I've corrected it above.
  • Restore speed - will it be too slow?

    • My broadband ISP (and most others from my informal research) provides me with much faster speeds for downloads than uploads. This means that the restores will be several times faster than the backups.

  • Can I trust an online backup service?

    • There is, of course, always the possibility of a problem. However, I have used online backup services in the past (Connected Online Backup - I used it for business) and never had a problem.
    • For many reasons (don't put all your eggs in one basket, etc.), I suggest you have a mix of backup methods - a periodic local backup (I use Norton Ghost for this - I got a copy as part of Norton Systemworks), along with the online backup for more frequent data backups.
    • Mozy has gotten some good reviews from some people I trust (like Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal, and a lot of leading computer tech publications)

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