Posts Tagged ‘Mozy’

MozyHome is Not an Archive Solution

October 18, 2009
Click for a full-size view

Click for a full-size view

This is the “Welcome” screen for the MozyHome backup configuration utility. The second paragraph is instructive:

Please note that MozyHome is not a file sharing or archiving service. Because MozyHome is intended as a backup solution, as you delete files from your computer they are also deleted from the Mozy data centers after 30 days.

I understand why they say this. Especially with their paid plan that provides unlimited storage users could upload terabytes of data to their data centres and delete them from their computers.

That is a definition of archiving.

Likewise I could share my credentials with my friends or colleagues and they could all retrieve files with no extra revenue to Mozy.

But of course if I backup my files to a CD, DVD or tape (showing my age here) then they never disappear. So in that case a backup is as good as an archive.

Mozy must believe that 30 days is plenty long enough for a user to discover she’s deleted a file accidentally and get is back from Mozy. If she doesn’t, Mozy will be of no help.

My view is that Mozy should be a bit more sophisticated. They know that some users want an archive or file sharing service. So offer it to them at a reasonable cost.

I don’t know why their only choise for individuals beyond the 2GB free account is an unlimited storage option. They could offer incremental storage upgrades in, say, 1GB chunks and guarantee that they will never delete a user’s file.

Maybe the problem is that they don’t have a sophisticated billing system. I remember from my dot com days that was a huge impediment to our developing internet telephony services. Maybe things have not got better in ten years.

Mozy could go further with a file sharing service. This could include adding permissions to files denoting who can access them. Maybe that is in their plans.

MozyHome – I Was Unfair

October 14, 2009

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

They do offer several ways to restore files without having to purchase a DVD.

They have a restore capability for files in their main user interface and also they mount my backups as a remote disk that I can access from Windows Explorer.

MozyHome Restore

MozyHome Restore

MozyHome Remote Backup in Windows Explorer

MozyHome Remote Backup in Windows Explorer

I have been using MozyHome for a couple of weeks now. It works fine and I am considering upgrading to the paid version that gives me unlimited disk space.

This progress message while preparing a backup is amusing.

Reticulating Splines?

Reticulating Splines?

MozyHome Setup

October 6, 2009

I signed up for the free online backup account at Mozy.com that I mentioned yesterday.

You have to go through some sign-up steps online, solve a CAPTCHA and then respond to an email message to prove it’s really you. These steps are all pretty standard these days but it is still a pain.

Then Mozy lets you download a PC or Mac program that is a downloader for the rest of their client application. I remember when I consulted with Pagoo.com in the dot com days we agonized over the sign-up and client download process. Every step causes some users to give up and if you have too many your “conversion rate” is close to zero. Things have improved some in ten years but we didn’t worry so much about bad people fiddling with our system.

After the download – no reboot required – I had to run a configuration “wizard”. I dimly remember Microsoft introducing the wizard concept many years ago. It was a great advance at the time, but now I find them tedious. As always I checked the “I agree” button on the agreement without reading it. It could have said that Mozy owns my data. That was foolish.

I am sure it tries to protect them from legal liability if they lose the only copy of my pictures that I entrusted to them.

I was confused by their Encryption Settings step.

Encryption Settings

Encryption Settings

I had the choice to “Encrypt the data using MozyHome’s 448-bit Blowfish key” or “encrypt my data with my own personal 256-bit AES key”. The former is ‘recommended’.

  • There’s no help available. What on earth is Blowfish?
  • Somebody who knows little about encryption may think that if I use MozyHome’s key then surely they will be able to decrypt my files.
  • Does anybody have their own personal 256-bit AES key immediately to hand?
  • And of course isn’t “own personal” needlessly repetitive?

I chose the Blowfish option because I could not be bothered to do the research. I bet many users who are fearful will drop out right here.

Mozy tested my internet connection speed and announced it is fast enough.

Fast Enough

Fast Enough

It must have caught my connection at a good time. Many times I can type faster than my PC transfers bits across the Pacific Ocean.

I let it choose the files it will back up. Here I confused it because my most important data is on my TrueCrypt encrypted M: drive. It didn’t look there so I had to use its configuration tool to select my Quicken data files, TurboTax records, documents and spreadsheets manually.

I love the stock photos they select for the wizard screens. The encryption screen that confused me has a picture of an elderly gentleman looking confident. The message may be “If he can understand 448-but Blowfish keys, why can’t you?”

And on the speed screen they have a photographer using an old Polaroid camera. He does not need to back up his pictures! I guess the people who designed the wizard are not photographers.

I have the 2GB free account (with, of course, many opportunities to upgrade for consideration) so I did not try to back up all my pictures. My first pass came out at 1.9GB and Mozy said it would take two days to back up.

Long First Backup

Long First Backup

The MTBF of my internet connection is way less than two days. I reduced the size of my initial backup to a manageable 250MB.

MozyHome has a configuration tool that helps you select files and folders to back up. It also has the notion of “Backup Sets” like “Financial Data”, “Photos and Images” and so on. I don’t understand the concept for it also has a set called “My Documents” that includes the above. But in my case my financial data and my important documents aren’t where Mozy expects to find them.

I ignored Backup Sets and chose from the directory/file tree.

There are lots of other options but I decided to keep things simple for now.

My first backup went well and I now have the security of having my most vital files stored outside my apartment. This is good. One careless cook with a burning wok and I could lose it all.

I fiddled with the “Faster Computer – Quicker Backup” slider during the backup and did not see much effect in either the responsiveness of my laptop or the file transfer speed. Sometimes it stopped for 30 seconds or more but always resumed.

It hasn’t helped at all with my pictures or Lightroom catalog, but I didn’t expect it to for 2GB.

I set it up to do a single daily backup when it has the chance – after the PC’s been idle (I guess that means no user activity) for 20 minutes.

I will post more about my experience with MozyHome. I particularly want to see if it can deal with multiple revisions to a file and how the file restore process works.

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

October 5, 2009

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!

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