Remote data backup service review

My sister called me last night asking for help locating some possibly deleted files on her laptop. As we went through the process of locating these possibly permanently lost files, we had a brief discussion about backup options and how to prevent this in the future. I mentioned a service I use called Mozy that has been working well for me for about a year now. I’ve never blogged about data backup solutions before, so I thought I would take a moment to give a brief review of this service. In this day and age of questionable pay per post services, the only disclosure I have to make in this review is that the link to Mozy is a referral that gives me extra storage space for everyone who signs up. Basically, I’m not getting rich off them, but I’ll take the extra space just the same.

As a free service operated by Berkeley Data Systems, Mozy is hands down the best automated backup system I’ve used for a Windows based computer. I say that for two reasons – ease of use and automation.

First, Mozy is easy to setup and doesn’t require any specialized knowledge of your file system to get started. Anyone, even a novice user, can install and operate Mozy. The option to specify specific folders and files exists (which is what I do), but the initial setup starts by asking you to select types of files you want to backup in what they call backup sets. For example, the user is given the option to select all spreadsheets and databases, word processing documents, presentations, email, music, etc. For the average person (or simply as a great time saver), this is a wonderful solution. What do I want to back up? All my photos, images, music, and movies? Done with a couple clicks off a check box.

The second area where Mozy excels is its automation. A backup solution is simply no good if it doesn’t occur automatically, in the background, so you don’t have to think about it. This is where every other solution I’ve tried has failed. They always left some element of the backup to human intervention and thus error. I never think about Mozy. The only time I notice it is when the service asks me if I want to install a new, updated version. Otherwise, the only other cue that Mozy exists is an icon on the Windows task bar.

Finally, security is important in any backup solution. Mozy takes care of this with 128-bit SLL encryption when you send data to the service and 448-bit Blowfish encryption when the data is on their servers.

So where’s the catch right? How can they offer 2GB of online storage for free? Well, the initial business model when I started using Mozy was that they would send emails with advertising to users in exchange for use of the service. They took some heat from Mashable for that, but to be honest I thought an occasional email was well worth the trade-off. I suppose some people were expecting them to spam the hell out of users, but to date I’ve never received more than a single email per month from them. It appears their new business model harks to the “freemium” approach. Mozy offers 2GB for free and you can then upgrade to their premium service for $4.95 per month that provides 30GB of storage. Their terms still reference their right to send you advertising emails, but I personally have not seen more than one per month.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

26 comments On Remote data backup service review

  • Mozy no longer states that they will send emails with advertisements. Also, the $4.95/month now gets you unlimited space.

  • Thanks Don, I wasn’t aware of that. I have noticed that they’ve increased their web advertising. Should be an interesting service to keep an eye on.

  • There’s a real divide in the consumer v. professional market here. On the consumer side, it’s advertising is expected, as intrusive as it sometimes can be. That’s how companies like Mozy & Carbonite can offer their services for free.

    Other companies (such as mine) focus on the market where security is the most important thing, and advertising (especially anything contextual) is simply not legally viable.

    Good review overall!

  • Free backup or AD supported businesses just remind me of days gone bad. I remember when everything was free – just view the ADs. Where are those businesses now? Where is the user data?

    I understand the disparity between business and consumer backups – I have used – http://www.netmass.com/ and http://www.backupright.com for online OS X backup and they are fantastic.

    I really have had no issues.

  • Check out IDrive-E. With this product you can easily backup 2GB of data absolutely free. Drive-E performs ‘totally hands-free automated backups’ of files and folders. The backed up data will always be available as ‘IDrive-E’ online drive on your computer so that it can be easily restored.

    You can backup any type of files with IDrive-E absolutely no limit on the upload or download size for backup and restore. IDrive-E retains 30 versions of backed up data. Each backup creates a new backup set that is identified by the date and time. You can restore up to 30 prior versions, including the most recent version of your data files. You can also restore latest versions of all your files or versions of files. IDrive-E does incremental backups that transfer only portions of file that have been modified or changed since the last backup.

    For ease of use, the application has two interfaces to work with. IDrive-E Classic view offers a very simple and intuitive user-friendly interface similar to the native Microsoft Windows explorer to
    backup and restore files and folders. You can also schedule your backup for a future data and time, exclude files and folders, delete entries in the backup set â?? all to suit your needs.

    IDrive-E Explorer view is a virtual drive with Windows Explorer-like view. IDrive-E Explorer view is meant for restoring files and folders and is not for backups. You can browse your IDrive-E account contents, restore files and folders with a simple drag-and-drop or copy-and-paste operation, view history of files, drag-and-drop or copy files to local drive (restore file versions) and search for files and folders backed up in your IDrive-E account. All data stored on the IDrive-E servers is encrypted using a secure key with a user supplied password known only to the end user. IDrive-E uses industry standard AES 256-bit encryption on storage.

  • Can anyone suggest me of a data backup solution that can support various OS. I have been trying out quite a few softwares like mozy, its excellent but supports only windows. I need one that can support multiple OS with ease of use.

  • Fanatics – I read that Mozy is supposed to be releasing a Mac version, but I’m not sure on the release date. Have you looked at using Amazon S3 with Jungle Disk?

  • I’ve been using the paid version of Mozy (Windows) for just over the past month. I started off extremely enthusiastic, but now I’m less so. This is not a “don’t use Mozy” rant. More of a “I hope they fix the problems real soon” plea, because when it works, it’s great.

    My problems so far:

    1. Unless your connection is 100.000% reliable 24/7, don’t even try to back up large files (500MB+). If the connection gets lost, even momentarily, it starts over. My connection seems extremely reliable, but it spent days trying to upload a large video, during which time it didn’t upload anything else. I had to manually exclude my video edit folder to get my first backup to complete. Support told me this is a known issue they plan to fix in an upcoming release.

    2. The service has been VERY unreliable the past couple of weeks. I’ve configured it to backup whenever my computer is idle, and the overwhelming majority of backups have failed with “MozyServerError2” or “MozyServerError12”, which their online help vaguely blames on their network:

    http://mozy.com/error/MozyServerError2?ver=1.8.0.4
    http://mozy.com/error/MozyServerError12?ver=1.8.0.4

    Last Sunday was my last successful backup, and it’s had 28 consecutive failures since then.

    3. Sure, maybe those errors are due to my machine or internet connection (though email, web, and Vonage all work fine). But Mozy hasn’t responded to any tech support emails I’ve sent since last weekend! Before that they had gotten back to previous requests within a day.

    4. One of the open issues they haven’t gotten back to me on is the very random way it seems to perform backups. Once my initial backup *finally* finished (2 weeks, thanks to #1), subsequent backups continued to include lots of files that I hadn’t modified in years. As a result, I’m not 100% sure that all my files are backed up. I’ve asked if there’s any way to compare my drive with my backup, or at least the number of files the Mozy client thinks it should back up and the number of files the Mozy servers say I’ve backed up. So far, they haven’t gotten back to me. If I lose some MP3s, that would be annoying, but if I lose a few files from certain database-type apps (Visual SourceSafe, XML-based wiki, etc.) it can corrupt the whole database.

    The promise of Mozy is that it’s easy, reliable, and automatic, with tech support available when I need it. So far it hasn’t lived up to that promise. I really hope these are just temporary growing pains due to all the positive press.

    Lastly, re: Mac Mozy, a support rep told me it was due in mid-March, but obviously that slipped. You can sign up to get notified when it’s out:

    http://mozy.com/support/macmozy

  • @Joel P. – Thanks for your comments. While I’ve had decent success with Mozy’s customer support, I did have issues with some very large files (Outlook .PSTs).

    The Mac version of Mozy was released into beta in March and I’m using it right now. I actually find it works smoother than the PC version. Maybe they’re trying to do less? So, it appears they “sorta” hit the date given to you. I’m not sure when it will go public.

  • An update to my post from yesterday:

    Regarding point #3, a rep got back to me today. He sweared they’ve been responding to emails within 24 hours, so it’s possible my email, or their reply, just got lost in transit.

    In any event, he told me I should upgrade from 1.8.0.4 to 1.8.0.5 to resolve point #2. I did, and backups are working again. I did suggest strongly that a) a point release shouldn’t be a breaking change, and b) maybe if it is, they should TELL ME I’m a version behind and need to upgrade. Mozy gave me no notification of this.
    Regarding points 2 and 3, it turns out I was on Mozy 1.8.0.4 and they’re up to 1.8.0.5.

    As for point #4, the seemingly random inclusion of old files in backups after the initial one, I’m now inclined to believe this was my Netgear Media Server software being clumsy when it periodically reindexed my music collection. I found lots of old MP3s with recent modification dates, so either Mozy is doing it (unlikely, IMO), or Netgear is. Netgear’s software is pretty stupid in other ways, so I bet it’s them.

    In short, my Mozy lovefest is back on track. As long as they ship Mac Mozy by the time I switch over (come on Leopard!), I’m a believer.

  • I am also a huge fan of Mozy which has some key differentiators that I don’t believe have been mentioned here:

    1) It can back up open files
    2) It backs up outlook PST files even when open (Outlook is running)
    3) It does true incremental backups – often my 2 GB backup takes only a few minutes representing just my changed files.

    Otherwise, it is generally rock solid. I also use Xdrive and it simply cannot compare to Mozy.

  • My personal experience with Mozy has been nothing but positive. I let it backup for two months straight and now have 100GB of my data backed up.

  • Thanks for your review! I have signed up with your link.

  • If you haven’t taken the Mozy plunge yet and want to see the (Windows version) software up close, I created a Mozy screencast here:

    http://Mainstream-Guides.com/Mozy

    Most folks in here can probably skip to the “Expert” section…

  • In addition to the Mozy screencast, I added a screencast for IDrive-E, which positions itself as a direct competitor to Mozy:

    http://mainstream-guides.com/IDrive-E

    The surface differences:

    – IDrive-E will archive files indefinitely that you remove from your local hard disk; Mozy only guarantees keeping them around for 30 days after you delete.

    – Mozy is available on both the Mac and Windows, whereas IDrive-E is Windows-only

    As you will see, even if you’re a Windows user, there are still some reasons to prefer Mozy.

  • iDrive-E is a farce. They claim their $4.95 plan is unlimited storage, but if you take a few minutes to read the terms and conditions, you find out that unlimited is capped at 150GB. That’s right, they actually define unlimited to mean 150GB in their T&Cs!!!! If that’s not bait and switch then I don’t know what is. How can anyone trust a backup company that plays that kind of game with their legal agreement????

  • Copied directly fromthe IDrive-E conditions of use (http://www.idrive.com/terms.htm#2)

    A note on the concept of ‘unlimited storage’ for IDrive-E-Pro
    http://www.idrive.com/pricing.htm – In addition, it is important to understand the definition of ‘Unlimited’ Storage. No storage system can really be unlimited. The concept of ‘Unlimited’ storage is to facilitate a low one-price plan to backup a PC’s critical data that meets the requirement for majority of users for personal use and not to burden users with multiple plans. Any usage of storage and bandwidth that is several multiples of average paid IDrive-E user may be considered as unfair use, this limit from storage point is currently fixed at 150GB and subject to changes. Users exceeding the 150GB limit may choose to upgrade to a business plan; In case of non-action by the users on notification of excess usage, accounts may be cancelled and data removed.

    A note on the concept of overuse over chosen/allocated quota for IDrive-E-Pro
    For usage beyond the opted plan for business plans, there may be an overuse charge at the rate of $0.50/GB/Month. While it is not necessary, we encourage users to upgrade to one of the higher storage plans from http://www.idrive.com/pricing.htm if their usage exceeds the opted plan to avoid the overuse charges.

  • Why don’t you check out http://www.perfectbackup.co.uk they are worth a look. I signed up about a month ago for a free of charge for life 1 GB account. After compression I now backup over 3GB of my data. Support open files and block leve incremental backups, I have had no problems or hassles at all. I understand it will even backup Exchange and SQL out of the box and will run on Linux and Mac op systems.

    Even though the service is free they still offer a £1,000,000 data restore guarantee.

  • I use http://www.backupanytime.com and find it excellent. The compression I get is less than the previous posters 3.1 at the setting I use but I can change the compression level settings up or down. I used this to discover my optimum setting for the normal backup window. It is an excellent idea which is available from few other online backup provicers in the UK.

  • Do be careful with iDrive-E. On the computer you use it on, it creates a short text file IDriveE.ini which contains your "encrypted" password and data encryption key (and userid).

    Unfortunately, shocking as it may seem, the "encryption" technique they use could best be described as ROT2 (although, it's possible that they pick ROTX where X may vary but is also specified in this file). So, for example, if your password is "AABBCC", IDriveE.ini will show it as "CCDDEE" – might as well just leave it in cleartext as the illusion of security just makes users more likely to be careless with this file. You MUST keep this file on an ENCRYPTED drive (so, probably, you need to make sure your C: is encrypted which can be a real pain) – especially on an office machine or laptop where theft is probably more likely. Also, don't let anyone borrow your machine as they could have this file in a few seconds and you would probably never know it until your files were mysteriously distributed on the net months later.

    Since there appears to be no way to change your encryption key once you've signed up, you're pretty much wedged if someone gets at the IDriveE.ini file even if you know it — hopefully when you cancel the service, IDriveE at least deletes your files so maybe canceling solves the problem.

  • I have had Carbonite backup for a year and my computer crashed
    early this year so I went to restore everything and it was easy but
    my most important stuff was missing so I went through the whole

    process again as they advised me to do and it seems my Outlook
    Express e-mails and my Outlook express special backup info was
    not saved. They had told me before my computer crashed that

    the e-mails were all saved where a lot of my information is saved. It
    was not true. Another thing, ever since I was hooked up to the
    Carbonite backup program that computer started to get very

    flakey. It was a 4 year old computer but I still don't trust that
    Carbonite backup.

  • Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm actually trying out the new Backblaze service for automated backups. No verdict yet, but it appears pretty slick.

  • Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'm actually trying out the new Backblaze service for automated backups. No verdict yet, but it appears pretty slick.

  • I like Idrive, because it is the fastest online backup, only Dropbox is faster but also more expensive. That every think is in the IDriveE.ini file can also be nice, when you store it on a save place you have always all parameters back and your “encrypted” password and data encryption key and userid

  • TheMeetingGuy

    I've been trying to backup 8 gig using Mozy, and it's like someone has rammed bamboo under my fingernails. It takes days, and fails somewhere in the middle. Does anyone have some pointers for me? Thanks, I need the help at this point. – David dasani25@hotmail.com

  • TheMeetingGuy

    I’ve been trying to backup 8 gig using Mozy, and it’s like someone has rammed bamboo under my fingernails. It takes days, and fails somewhere in the middle. Does anyone have some pointers for me? Thanks, I need the help at this point. – David dasani25@hotmail.com

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