For more than two years, I’ve been quite happily using the Mozy online backup service. Now owned by storage giant EMC, Mozy offers unlimited backup space for under $5 a month per computer and a slick Mac program that automatically uploads new files in the background (there’s also a Windows version but I don’t use it). You pick which folders or files for Mozy to watch and after an initial upload (one that can take literally days!), only changed files get sent to Mozy’s servers. The service has excellent security features, encrypting all data on the way to Mozy’s servers and storing it in an even more deeply encrypted format once it arrives. The truly paranoid can provide their own encryption “key” meaning no one without it — not even anyone at Mozy — can decode the files. I currently have over 150 GB stored and backed up with Mozy.
Of course, there are terrific debates and comment wars over which is the best of the various Mac-compatible online backup services. There’s also BackJack, Carbonite and BackBlaze to name just a few. Some people even prefer opening an account with Amazon’s cheap S3 online storage service and using a front-end program like Jungle Disk to backup. I have not tried most of the other options, though I did use Jungle Disk for a bit and found it too slow and unwieldly for me (plus given how much data I have, Mozy with a multi-year discount is much cheaper than S3).
I’ve positively reviewed Mozy on previous occasions but I wanted to revisit the issue because of a recent bug it caused with Apple’s Time Machine backup program and the subsequent reaction (or over-reaction in some cases) from Mozy users. It seems that after Mozy issued an upgrade (to version 1.4) on August 6, the client program began to interfere with Time Machine’s ability to backup to Apple’s Time Capsule wireless hard disk. In fact, I was among those affected but I was on vacation away from my Time Capsule so I didn’t know anything was wrong.
For about a week, the problem was driving some Time Capsule/Mozy users crazy trying to figure out what was wrong. I think it’s fair to say that the Time Machine-Time Capsule scheme has been far from problem-free. Since there have been so many problems with the two Apple bits, a lot of people didn’t realize Mozy was part of the problem at first. And some were advised (by Apple folks, I think) to reformat their Time Capsule disks, losing vast gigabytes of old backups. That’s never good.
Mozy responded quickly once the problem was revealed, posting on Apple forums, on its own blog and via Twitter.
A sample of the Twitter responses from Mozy:
To me, that’s pretty darn good customer service. The outrage from some continues however, and that’s where I’ll have to part company with the critics. The problem was the kind of thing that happens sometimes. It only affected a small minority of Mozy’s Mac users (myself included). The bug itself didn’t corrupt any data or wreck previous backups. The company got right on it and issued a revised version (1.4.3) within seven days.
Sure, you can decide that if a software company lets you down once you should move on. But I think if that’s your policy, you’ll be moving on quite frequently. There have been serious, serious bugs in at one time or another in many programs I rely on including numerous problems that corrupted data with Time capsule and Time machine. But it’s worth stepping back from the outrage and thoughtfully considering whether you should dump Mozy just because of this incident.
Despite the temporary glitch, Mozy still retains its powerful strengths, including the backing of a formidable parent company, full-featured Mac client software, excellent pricing for people with lots of data and — in my experience — responsive customer service.
If you disagree with my analysis or your experience was different than I described, please feel encouraged to post a comment below.
p.s. No matter which online backup service you use, remember that it should be only one piece of your backup strategy. Online providers can disappear, data could become corrupted or whatnot. Always have multiple, redundant, independent backups.
An update on online backup: Mozy’s still good (12/8/2008)
PCMag review misses Mozy’s greatness (4/17/2008)