There’s no perfect way to back up your hard drive – SiliconValley.com

There’s no perfect way to back up your hard drive – SiliconValley.com.

Here’s an article from my old home town newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News “The Newspaper of Silicon Valley”. I remember when I arrived in California in the early 1980s how huge the newspaper was – especially the Sunday edition. They’re not doing so well now and have changed ownership but I liked the Mercury News and kept a daily subscription until I left in 2006.

The article describes my situation exactly. The hard drive of my Sony laptop failed without warning in May. I had good backups and did not lose anything when I purchased the replacement Compaq laptop.

But my 500GB Seagate external drive failed soon afterwards. I’d been a bit tardy in restoring files from it to the Compaq and I lost a lot of data. I did not lose any pictures, financial data or music. The drive contained many old documents and videos that are irreplaceable but not vital to my life.

Double failures like that are hard to plan for – I’m not a data centre. Yes I should have made it my highest priority to copy the files once I knew I had only one copy. But I am human and I was learning my new laptop and getting the applications and files I use every day working again.

I could work on recovering it – it has not failed completely. I think it is the USB 2.0 interface that has failed, not the physical drive. Any recovery would be complicated that the whole drive is encrypted with TrueCrypt.

I have a theory that the humid climate here in Bangkok makes electronics more prone to failure. My SanDisk memory card reader refuses to read SD Cards and Memory Sticks – cards with “slide” contacts (I don’t know the technical term). It has no problems with CF cards which have “pin” type contacts. I think it is corrosion.

Troy Wolverton of the Mercury News had a similar experience to mine. He lost two drives in a short period. The article describes his search for another solution.

He settled upon an online backup service called Mozy.com. he paid US$54 a year for unlimited storage. This is a man who casually talks about terabyte drives. Unlimited for him is the amount of data that would have only been associated with large corporations a few years ago.

I have the same problem that my computer, backup drives and CDs are all in the apartment. If we had a fire then I would lose the lot, period. I do not have an office to store stuff.

So an online storage scheme looks appealing. But the Internet is slow here in Thailand so the initial backup could take weeks. Mozy claims that subsequent incremental backups are fast as they only backup the changes.

But Troy raised an important point:

Mozy’s nominal price can understate the service’s actual cost. In some cases, the only way to restore your data from Mozy is to have the company send it to you on DVDs, for which it charges fees that can run up to hundreds of dollars, depending on the amount of data you need to recover.

I looked at the Mozy web site and the marketing pages said nothing about restore! They talk about how easy backup is, but how do I get my files back when the disaster happens?

What’s this “in some cases”? Knowing my luck “some cases” will always be “my case”. I think Troy is lazy not to explain fully.

There are two common scenarios when I would want to restore files:

  1. I need a single file because I have screwed something up or because of a software bug.
  2. I need a whole drive’s worth because of a crash, fire or theft.

It looks like Mozy supports case #1 for no extra charge but  I’d have to pay dearly case #2 to get DVDs by mail. That would take some time in America. I don’t know how long it would take to get to Thailand.

Perhaps that is the Mozy business model – tempt users to put their files on their servers then charge them an arm and a leg to get them back. If so that is very sneaky – Write Only Memory.

The other issue is how many revisions of your files do they keep? I found with my ACDSsee Pro database that my recent backups were as corrupt as the one I was using. This subject gets complicated fast.

I worry that trusting your files to a company you only know by its URL is a bit risky. The company may go out of business or have security breaches. There have been well reported cases of hackers stealing data from financial institutions. I have not heard of thefts from backup companies “in the cloud” but I bet it has happened.

From the Mozy web site:

Founded in 2005, we’re focused on making simple things simple and complex things possible. The good folks who bring you Mozy are located in Pleasant Grove, Utah and are part of Decho Corporation.

I wonder how long their marketing team laboured over that mission statement. Mozy does not claim to make “complex things” (like backup and restore) simple, only possible.

Mozy offer a 2GB account free of charge. For research purposes I will try that for some files and see how it works.

Troy did not offer a comparison of different online backup sites. I don’t know why he chose Mozy.

I want to take pictures, not fuss over all this stuff!

[picapp src=”d/9/d/f/McClatchy_Company_To_7762.jpg?adImageId=5478709&imageId=1875646″ width=”380″ height=”264″ /]

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6 Responses to “There’s no perfect way to back up your hard drive – SiliconValley.com”

  1. BKKPhotographer Says:

    There’s a Decho Road in Bangkok. But the Decho in Decho Corporation means “Data Echo”. It would be cool if they opened their Asia-Pacific office on Decho Road Bangkok.

  2. MozyHome Setup « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] MozyHome Setup By bkkphotographer I signed up for the free online backup account at Mozy.com that I mentioned yesterday. […]

  3. James Says:

    you need to spend some cash and get yourself a Windows Home Server!

  4. BKKPhotographer Says:

    I don’t know enough about WHS to know if it would solve my problem. I guess I could use it to back up everything from my PC and then it would connect to an offline backup service to make a copy there without me havjng to watch it. That’s the protection I need. A server in the apartment is still vulnerable.

    I am nervous of another box to configure and maintain

  5. MozyHome – I Was Unfair « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] I wasn’t fair in my initial evaluation of the MozyHome online backup service. See here and […]

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