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Mozying along

Posted by Preston on 2009-06-14

For my own personal data, I use a variety of backup and archival methods depending on the data I wish to protect. Frequent visitors to this blog will know I’m a particular fan of Time Machine – at least for my Mac OS X system drive backups. For other data drives, particularly multimedia data, I tend to stick to DVD due to relative cost vs importance of recovering quickly. I.e., burning to DVD is cheaper than maintaining backup hard drives, and I don’t need to recover such data quickly enough to justify not doing the disk swapping associated with DVD-recovery.

Then there’s the critical data – the data whose backups I want offsite for maximum protection. Source code, manuscripts, financial data, etc.

For that, I’ve been using Mozy for the last 6 months or so, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with it. For the most part, I’m not a fan of cloud based backups – this however is a geographic decision. Compared to other countries, such as the United States, Australian ISPs charge an exorbitant amount of money for bandwidth. Admittedly at the higher end of the price scale, my ISP charges me $160 per month for a fixed IP address with 60GB/month transfer. Thus, doing large scale backup or recovery “to/from the cloud” for me, personally, is financially insane.

For key files and data though, it’s perfect.

From the perspective of getting your backup done, Mozy is:

  • Set and forget/fully automated
  • Easily controlled
  • Permits scheduled and user-initiated backups

Now, Mozy is an inclusive rather than exclusive backup program – meaning you have to tell it what you want backed up, rather than what you don’t want backed up. In enterprise software, this would be utterly unacceptable; for something that uses up your download/upload limits though, this is entirely appropriate. It makes you think about what you really need to protect via immediate offsite backups, and what you can protect other ways.

Recoveries – the most important factor – can be facilitated in one of three ways:

  • Client (i.e., local machine) user initiated GUI;
  • Account (web-login) initiated recovery, with notification when an archive of your requested files are ready to download;
  • Mail-out of media for larger recoveries (separate charge).

The obvious advantage of this is that if your systems are completely wiped out, you don’t even need to install Mozy on any temporary machine to restore your data – you can kick it off from your web login to the site. You could even, if you want to, use Mozy online to retrieve files backed up in one location simply because you need to access them elsewhere. While it’s not really designed as a sync-to-cloud service, it can be useful in a pinch.

Files are compressed, then encrypted during the backup process, making for a reasonably secure backup process that attempts to use as little bandwidth as possible.

I have to say, the level of support is pretty good, too. While still on the trial account (limited to 2GB of data), I encountered a problem where I could restore data via the web service, but not through the local GUI. The case was held open until a solution was found, even though that took about a month, with quite a few emails back and forth. The staff I dealt with were all pretty knowledgeable – something that’s a nice plus.

Is it for everyone? Probably not – I’d never say that any backup product, regardless of whether it’s enterprise, workgroup or personal, is out of the box suitable for every single person or company’s needs. However, it’s certainly solid, and thus if you’re looking for a cloud based backup for your personal data, I’d recommend you give Mozy a go.

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2 Responses to “Mozying along”

  1. Fozzy said

    Thanks for the review. Two outstanding questions I have with these products?

    1. What happens if the company goes bust? I can envisage in the future there is going to be some big corporate failure when people discover that their data was no longer owned by them once it went into the cloud. At that time we might see improvements to bankruptcy laws to ensure your data isn’t used to pay creditors.

    2. I’m concerned about cross border privacy laws. I haven’t looked into Mosy, but if it’s hosting servers are in the USA, I’m sure the NSA would have permission to view my data.

    What’s your take on these questions?

    [Note: I’m not meaning to cast any aspersions on Mosy, et.al. they were only used as the example as that was what was being talking about]

    • Preston said

      Hi Fozzy,

      Both questions are pretty important things to consider, thanks for bringing them up. Answering them in order:

      1. If the backup hosting company goes bust, that is a concern – however, I don’t see legally how the data could be misused; after all, they don’t actually in any way assume ownership of the data as a result of them hosting it, and therefore the limits on what they can do with it, or what a creditor can do with it, would be fairly well defined. Just on a general backup strategy, I also don’t have it as a single point of failure, so if something does happen I can still backup/recover my data through other means anyway.

      2. It may sound terribly fatalistic, but I’ve long since given up worrying about whether the NSA can/has read my data. In fact, as a foreign entity to the US, I work on the assumption that any data outside my head is reasonably open to probing by the NSA. (My understanding of the NSA charter, FWIW, is that it’s open slather for any non-US citizen, regardless of where their data is, if they’re interested.) Interestingly – and I’m not suggesting you’re one of these people – but I often find people suggest these sorts of privacy concerns to me while happily using RIM/Blackberry devices with the full hosted-through-a-Canadian-datacentre service. I.e., everyone has a different take on privacy. Obviously, if privacy and the potential for prying eyes is a major concern, then cloud based backups, no matter where they are hosted, are a glaring security issue.

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