Reviews

Got Backup? Try It Online

Have you backup up your files lately?
Before you have your own Carrie Bradshaw moment, give online backup a try.

I recently had one of those “Aw, nuts” moments when my PC froze and wouldn’t boot up after I powered it off. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get past the Windows Safe Mode. I had to resort to a total System Recover, which, of course, wiped my hard drive clean.

Fortunately, I had learned my lesson from a client and have backups run each night to an external drive. My client had been working on a 35-page online course in Microsoft Word. He had no backup in place and somehow overwrote the document with another one (more of an “Aw, expletive…!” moment). I tried for two hours to recover the 27 pages he had written so far, but the best I could retrieve from the temporary files were the first seven. He basically had to start all over again. Needless to say, I set him up with a backup system after that.

My recent experience got me to thinking about my own backup plan and how we all pretty much take backup for granted, if we even think about it. (Remember the Sex and The City episode where Carrie Bradshaw’s Mac laptop crashes and she loses everything? Everyone was asking her “Did you backup your files?” She said something like “Am I the only one who doesn’t know about this?”)

I’m in the process of converting old VHS videos, LPs and audio tapes to digital. The collection of files will be huge. I could get larger hard drives and back them up to an external or network drive as I have been doing, but what about theft, fire, or earthquakes (I am in earthquake alley), etc.? The best bet is to have the backup off site somewhere.

This brought on a revisit of online backup. I checked it out a few years ago when the idea was first introduced. At that time, most of us were on dial-up Internet access and it made no sense. Even if we set it up to dial in and update the backup at night, the phone was tied up and, at the speed of dial-up, the phone would probably still be tied up with it in the morning. Keeping the phone line tied up at night made me nervous. I had an alarm system that depended on dialing out and then there was the possibility of incoming emergency calls. Online backup just wasn’t for common folks yet.

With more and more broadband access, that has changed. Backing up my gigs of precious files to a secure, remote site now makes sense and Mozy makes it affordable and easy to do.

I discovered Mozy when I was looking for a simple way to backup my laptop documents. As an SEO, I generate keyword lists, feeds, blog postings, articles and a ton of e-mail. I just needed a way to keep my Word, Excel and e-mail docs backed up. I came across MozyFree, which provides 2 gigs of storage for free. That’s perfect for my laptop and it’s been running smoothly for several months.

So, I decided to take the plunge with MozyHome, their unlimited storage option for home users. At $4.95 per month, it sounded like a deal. The sign up is easy. I just entered my e-mail address, password, credit card information and so forth, and I was downloading their backup software.

Once installed, it scans your computer for typical files to backup (image below). You can expand that list in their expert mode. For instance, I have a ton of audio and video files in my “Shared Documents” folder that I share across my home network. I definitely wanted that backed up, so I added it, scheduled the backup and waited to see if they really mean “unlimited’ as far as storage. After all, my little test was only 50 gigs of audio and video files. 😉

MozyHome online backup configuration screen

Even with broadband, expect your initial backup to take a long time if you have a lot of multimedia files like I do (days in my case), so schedule it at night or when the PC isn’t being used. Future backups will be quicker as they will only add anything new to your online backup.

The downside to online backup? It’s still slow for huge amounts of data and the lengthy backups can drag down your access a bit. The same is true for restoring files. Large backups can take days to download. Even Mozy admits this. It pops up a little window on the first backup that tells you that it’s not unusual for the initial backup to take hours or even days, but that after the first one, it will be much quicker.

And, be sure you don’t have your Windows PC set for Auto Update. You can bet that it will pick the middle of your backup to reboot your PC every time!

The upside is that the data is stored safely away off-site with easy browser access. No more worries about what would happen if your backup was destroyed or stolen along with your PC.

Did Mozy balk at my 50 gig backup? Nope. It went without a hitch.

Frankly, I’ll be using a hybrid backup system for my backups. I’ll continue to backup periodically to an external backup drive while Mozy keeps the same information tucked away safely off-site. The $4.95 per month fee is pretty darn cheap insurance.

Mozy currently requires Windows Vista, XP, 2000, or Mac OS X 10.4.

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