Mozy Review: Backing Up PC & Mac Data to the Cloud

by Ted Needleman Reads (4,981)

TG Rating

Rating 1 to 10, top score 10.
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7.50

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Design
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.50
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Easy to use
    • Can be set to back up automatically
    • Includes SkyDrive-like 'Stash' feature
  • Cons

    • No progress indicator
    • Does not back up application files
    • Documentation is online only

Mozy is one of the best known alternatives for backing up Windows PC and Macintosh data to the cloud. How does it compare with competing solutions such as Carbonite? Where does it fit in relation to file sharing services like SkyDrive and iCloud, and to media-based backup approaches like portable hard drives and NAS? We’ll explore those questions in this review.

Overview

Everyone knows that you need to back up the data on your PC or Mac. What people don’t know any more is the best way to do it. Traditional recommendations were to make a major backup of an entire drive every few days or weekly, with an incremental backup daily of just those files that were changed or added. The method of doing this was left up in the air, however. As hard drive capacity has climbed into multiple terabytes, backing up onto DVD media, or even Blu-Ray discs, has become impractical. These days, the most common backup media are either portable hard drives or network attached storage (NAS) drives.

If you’re backing up to a portable drive, or to a drive on your network (an NAS drive), nothing could be easier. You just specify a backup schedule. The backup software provided with the drive, or one from a third-party that you select, takes care of the rest.

That approach is better than nothing, but it has one serious flaw. It assumes that the physical location where the backup is stored or located is safe. The severe weather that much of the United States has experienced over the past few years has demonstrated horribly that this assumption is simply not valid. Whole cities and towns have found themselves underwater due to floods or swept away by tornados.

My Data Is Somewhere Around Here? Maybe

An alternative approach that’s becoming very popular is to store your files far, far away from where they might suffer damage — so far that they are up in the cloud somewhere. Of course, up in the cloud doesn’t mean over the rainbow. Your files are actually residing in a secure server farm, location undetermined. A recent news story mentioned that a former nuclear bunker somewhere in Norway was being turned into a secure server farm, the logic being that if the site was originally designed to withstand an atomic bomb, it should be a pretty safe place to store data files.

Keeping a copy of your files in the cloud is a good solution, even if you maintain a more typical backup to network or removable media. In addition to not being affected by local hazards and disasters, files stored in the cloud can usually be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection. This includes many tablets and smartphones.

There are a number of services that allow you to do just that, some for free, but others for a fee. For example, Microsoft offers SkyDrive, and Apple has iCloud. These and others give you a relatively small amount of storage for free before starting to charge you.

Yet SkyDrive, iCloud, and others of their ilk are primarily meant for sharing files and photos, as opposed to backup. If you have a limited number of critical files, services such as these certainly provide a safe haven, but for backup en masse, you are probably going to be better off with a cloud-based service specifically designed for the purpose. Two of the best known of these are Carbonite, which we’ve covered in a separate review, and Mozy.

Mozy for Consumers & SMBs

Mozy, which is owned by EMC, is one of the most well known names in enterprise level storage and backup, However, it is also offered for consumers and small businesses. MozyHome is the version we tested, and it is available in both free and paid editions with the only differentiation being the amount of storage that you receive. MozyPro adds features like network and server support for both Windows and Mac, as well as 24 hour U.S. based technical support. MozyEnterprise adds support for Active Directory, user groups (in a company), and more administrator control over user rights.

The free and paid versions of MozyHome are identical except for capacity. You can back up to 2GB in total with the free version. The paid version starts at $5.99 a month for up to 50GB per month or $9.99 a month for 125GB monthly. (For expanded views of the screenshots at right, please click on the images.)

That doesn’t sound like all that much capacity, especially with laptop hard drives now topping a half-terabyte and desktop drives hitting 3TB. But Mozy is very selective in what it actually backs up. When we tested Carbonite, we used the default settings and everything on the drive, including applications and system files, was backed up. This amounted to a bit over 30GB and 10,000 plus files. The default settings on Mozy does not backup applications or system files, so a complete initial backup totaled 875 files and 10GB of the 50GB space that our subscription supported. Mozy can be set to provide automatic backup, as well.

Performance

Mozy turned out to be a cinch to install. You download the program for the operating system you are using. There’s one version for Windows, plus two versions for Macs which depend on what CPU your Mac uses. Run the install program, and sign up with billing info if you aren’t going to be limited to the 2GB overhead of the free version,

When you run the software, you are presented with a list of the types of files Mozy thinks should be backed up, and how many files of each file type and the anticipated storage space each file type (music, video, etc.) will require. If you click on the file type folder, Mozy will show you every file in the folder, and you can deselect any files that you don’t want to back up. You can also create backup sets, set up backup schedules, and view the history of what backups were performed. The Backup Set function is particularly useful if you’ll be using Stash (detailed below) to store certain file types such as music files. This prevents files that you expect to be accessed frequently (rather than restored) from being stored in two areas of your allotted storage.

Cloud backup solutions such as Carbonite and Mozy do share one glaring disadvantage, though. Because data is stored in the cloud, and the cloud is accessed through the Internet, the type of Internet connection that you have available, and its speed, are going to have a great influence on performance. With Mozy, backing up 875 files totaling 10GB took about 7.5 hours. And while Carbonite provided an erroneous progress counter, Mozy has no progress indication at all other than showing you what files have been backed up and how many still remain. Clicking on a link that states “How long will this take?” is completely useless. It just brings you to the application’s online documentation and FAQs which essentially tell you that “It depends” and warn you that the initial backup can take quite a while.

Not unexpectedly, restoring the files with Mozy was somewhat faster — a bit over five hours. That quickness partly reflects the download speed on my Optimum Online service, which is considerably faster downloading than uploading.

It’s easy to choose specific files, or kinds of files to backup or restore, with Mozy. Once the files are on Mozy’s cloud server, they can be accessed through the laptop or PC that they originated from, or from an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

Includes SkyDrive-Like ‘Stash’ Feature

Mozy also includes Stash, which is a file sharing application similar in concept to Microsoft SkyDrive and the like. You can drag and drop files into Stash folders and access these individual files from multiple devices. You can do pretty much the same thing with Mozy itself, but putting files into a Stash folder makes them easier to find and much quicker to access and download. The files stored in your Stash do eat into your overall monthly storage allowance. So if you have 10GB in backup taken up (as I did), and yout want to also store copies of your music files (which in my case was just under 4GB), you’ll use 14GB of the 50GB monthly allotment.

Mozy provides extensive documentation, but the 110-page manual is online, and even if printed out, most users won’t bother even skimming it. That’s unfortunate, as Mozy actually has many more features and settings than are visible in the screens presented during a typical hands-off backup using the defaults.

Conclusion

Is Mozy an effective approach to backup? It really depends on what you feel needs to be backed up. As with other cloud-based backup solutions, Mozy fits in as part of an overall backup strategy that includes media-based backup as well. Storing mission-critical files in multiple locations makes sense to me, and Mozy allows you to get these stored and retrieved to and from the cloud easily, if not particularly rapidly. I also like Stash, which segregates frequently accessed files so they can be remotely accessed from mobile devices with an Internet connection.

But Mozy also suffers from the very same thing that makes it attractive. It needs to be connected to the Internet to function. How well Mozy performs depends, in large part, on the performance of your Internet service.

Two questions you need to ask yourself are how much cloud storage you really need and and how much you are willing to pay. For me, the free account, even with its 2GB limit, is a no-brainer. It won’t come close to being enough to store most of my files, but it’s more than enough to provide another safe place to keep critical files that I can’t afford to lose, like my invoices and other financial records.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Can be set to back up automatically
  • Includes SkyDrive-like ‘Stash’ feature

Cons:

  • No progress indicator
  • Does not back up application files
  • Documentation is online only


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