Review: MozyHome Online Backup Service

When you need to backup your files offsite, try an online service. (March 3rd, 2009)

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Product Manufacturer: Decho Corp., an EMC Company

Price: 4.95 per month or free

The Good

  • Backs up unlimited amounts of data securely off site for a set price. Helpful online tech support. Easy file restore.

The Bad

  • Slow initial backup and file restoration. Account security easy to reset. Can't backup up other users on the same Mac with same Mozy account.

Backup is one the most important tasks for any computer user, yet it is often ignored until you lose critical files. Realizing this, Apple added automatic backups in Leopard with Time Machine. However, the external hard disk that Time Machine uses is probably sitting next to your Mac, so if a disaster happens to your home, your Time Machine backup gets destroyed along with your computer. Online backup services, such as MozyHome, back up your data to a central repository over the Internet, providing additional security. MozyHome requires a monthly subscription of $4.95 for unlimited backups for home users.

Mozy isn't the only online backup service. Apple's Mobile Me (formerly known as .Mac) currently includes 10 gigabytes of online backup for $99.00 a year. When you add music and photos into the equation, many of us have more than 10 gigabytes of data MozyHome's unlimited backup is an attractive option for home users with large media collections.

Like most backup systems, Mozy does an initial backup of all your data, and then backs up any files that have changed. To prevent slowing down Internet connections, Mozy's initial backup is very slow. In tests with a cable modem, Mozy took almost a week to back up 20 gigabytes worth of information. Obviously, if you have a disaster during that initial backup, Mozy may not be able to recover the file. New Mozy users should backup their critical files first and then add files after the initial backup. If you choose an online backup service, be sure to check with your ISP to make sure they don't have limits on uploads or downloads. The first time I used Mozy, my cable company hit me with a hefty surcharge for sending too much information through my cable modem.

To begin using MozyHome, you have to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription, and then download and install the software. After installation, an icon on the right side of the menu bar accesses Mozy's features.

mozyhome-backupsets

MozyHome Menu Bar Options


Mozy uses the concept of "Backup Sets" to guess which files you want to protect. Examples include Application Preferences, Microsoft Word documents, and iTunes library. Mozy also includes other files or folders along with suggested Backup Sets.

mozyhome-backupsets

MozyHome Sample Backup Sets


Mozy's preferences can be set to backup the computer when it is idle or backup at specific time intervals, such as every day or every week. For laptop users who may miss these pre-set intervals, Mozy contains a Start Backup option under its menu bar icon, which forces an immediate backup.

mozyhome schedule screen

MozyHome Scheduling Screen
Due to the security built into Mac OS X, Mozy cannot easily backup files located in other user accounts. If your computer has multiple accounts, Mozy has to be configured for each user and only that user's files are up. If Mozy misses a backup, you are warned with a dialog box and an exclamation point in its menu bar icon. By default, the scheduling preference alerts you if Mozy hasn't backed up in a week, but you can change that warning in the preferences.

mozyhome reminder

MozyHome Reminder Dialog


Mozy uses standard encryption algorithms to protect your data while transmitting from your computer to their server. Of course, if your password is easy to guess, no security helps. If you use Mozy, be sure to pick a unique password to protect your account. Anyone can easily access your backed-up files if they guess your password. If you forget your password, Mozy allows you to reset the password using a link sent to the email address on file. Unfortunately, Mozy asks for absolutely no verification information when resetting your password. This means anyone who can access your email address, can also access personal data you've backed up to Mozy. For that reason, highly sensitive data should not be backed up with Mozy until the company modifies the password reset procedures, for example most password reset systems require additional information such as your mother's maiden name to reset a password. Lack of such a system in Mozy is a critical failure on their part in protecting your data. Other risks with backing up data online, such as the company's longevity, do not appear to be a problem because Decho, whose parent company, EMC, owns Mozy is a well-respected and well-established corporation.

Straight forward Restore

When you want to restore your files, just choose Restore Files from the Mozy menu, choose which files you want restored from backup and where you want them restored. Restoration can be slow. For example, a 1-gigabyte iTunes movie took almost an hour to restore to the same machine on a high speed Internet connection. Alternatively, if you do not have the Mozy software installed, you can restore files of up to 20 GB from their website. Larger restorations require ordering a DVD of your data for an additional cost of $29.95 plus 50 cents per gigabyte of data on the DVD. Hopefully you won't need to restore large files too often. Mozy's restore option is best in situations in which your accidentally delete a file or to replace a corrupt file on your local Mac. Using Mozy to migrate data from one computer to another is prohibitively slow and expensive.

mozyhome restore screen

MozyHome Restore Dialog


If you do have problems, MozyHome does not provide phone support for its users. They provide email and online chat session support. During the trial of Mozy, technical support was very helpful in answering configuration questions and solving problems. Mozy's help files are all online and the program has frequent updates, which occasionally force a reinstall of the program.

Overall, MozyHome is a good supplement to your local Time Machine or other backup strategy. Mozy protects your data against any on-site disaster as well as an accidental deletion or computer failure. As previously noted, Mozy protects your data en route, but the password to your account is easy to reset and thus Mozy should not be used for sensitive data. I recommend Mozy for users with large music and photo collections, or non-sensitive documents who would have to buy large external drives to protect their data. Decho Corp. also offers MozyHome Free if you only need 2-GB of storage and MozyPro for business users that need backups across multiple computers.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Dave Greenbaum


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