The more digital content we store on our computers, the more important reliable backup solutions become. For example, my iMac has about 50GB of music and photos on its primary disk drive. While much of the music could probably be replaced, any photo not yet uploaded to Flickr would be lost forever if that disk failed. So, like many other Mac users, I use Time Machine to maintain a secure copy of all my files, albeit on a potentially unstable portable hard disk in the same room as my Mac.
It was this potential unreliability of my Time Machine disk that got me interested in online backup options. What could be better than being able to backup to a remote server, safe in the knowledge that should any disaster befall my Time Machine disk, everything would still be OK. At least, that was the theory.
After some research and a little help from OnSoftware, I settled on Mozy for Mac – generally regarded as being a great online backup tool. I signed up for the $4.95/month unlimited backup plan: I thought (and still think) that $5 a month is a pretty good price point for total peace of mind. After setting up my account – a really simple process – and installing the Mozy desktop client – also a breeze – I let Mozy get to work on its initial backup. It was about eight hours after this that I spotted the main flaw in Mozy’s design: you have to complete an entire backup in one go right at the beginning, without any interruptions whatsoever. You can’t go restarting your Mac (not that I did), and you can’t lose connectivity for even a short time, which seems to have happened to me.
Around this time, my Mac was acting a little weird. I’d narrowed the problem down to a graphics driver error, but the truth is that my Mac was freezing from time to time. This meant that every time the driver error reared its ugly exception, I’d have to start from scratch on the Mozy backup. That’s not Mozy’s fault, nor is the occasional eccentricity of my ADSL connection. But Mozy could come up with a way of resuming backups, even for the initial backup process.
In order to be fair, I tried running Mozy after I’d fixed the driver issue and done a clean install, to see if it performed better under optimal conditions. Left overnight, I expected Mozy to be up to about 25% when I checked it in the morning. Unfortunately, Mozy had failed for some unknown reason at some point during the evening… all I could do was start it again. Then it failed again during the day. So I canceled my account, disappointed by a product that I’d been planning on loving.
Two things Mozy could do to win me back
Find a way of resuming backups. When backing up 100GB of data, it’s just ridiculous that an interruption causes the whole process to be canceled. Building a decent file index at the beginning of the backup operation should allow for Mozy to pick up where it left off, and then look for changes after the initial backup is complete.
Clearer error messages. One of the biggest problems I found was that when Mozy’s backup process failed, the information available about what had happened was very limited. More information, on the web side of the user interface, if necessary, would make it easier to diagnose and fix problems preventing the backup from working properly.