Review of Mozy: Free Online Backup

MozylogoSo I recently reviewed Carbonite, a $5 per month online backup service for unlimited data backups from one computer. But the last few days I’ve been playing with Mozy, another online backup service with a different offering. In a nutshell, Mozy offers more control, more features, and is completely free for two gigabytes of online storage. The down side is that for $5 per month, you only get a maximum of 30 gigs (see update at end of article). And though the interface gives power users more control, it may be less inviting to the average user. But free is free. There is no reason why any of us shouldn’t take advantage of backing up our most important two gigabytes of data.

Mozy requires no credit card and is quick and easy to install. It automatically detects what it thinks are your most important files needing backup and compiles them into “backup sets,” such as Favorites, My Documents, Music, Photos & Images, Videos, etc. But if you’d rather backup your data from a typical Windows Explorer kind of view, that option is easily accessible by just clicking on the “File System” tab.

When putting a check mark by each folder or file you’re interested in backing up, you have several options. For instance, you can backup all the content of a folder including any new files created later or you can backup files in a folder but not include new files created later (only monitor and backup changes to existing files). This is an example of a feature / distinction which is handy to a few (I like it) but may be confusing. To check the status of a particular folder, simply hover over it and a pop up window will give you details on how it will be backed up. Alternatively, you can tell when new files in the folder will be backed up because the folder will have two check marks, one in the box to the left and one right on top of the folder itself.

But what can be frustrating (and what happened to me) is that you can start playing with which sub folders and files will be backed up in a particular folder (in my case, My Documents) only to find that fifteen minutes later, when you think you have a perfect backup set, you forgot to make the change so that any new files created in the My Documents root folder will be backed up as well. And the only way to make that change at the folder level is to undue any changes or setup you did to any sub folder.

If this isn’t making sense, just remember that the backup process is simple if you decide to backup all files or folders in a particular location. But once you want to take advantage of the advanced options of picking and choosing which files and which folders, be sure to refer to Mozy’s excellent user guide before assuming that you know what you’re doing.

And that’s really my only real complaint with the software itself, the interface could be a little more user friendly. Oh, and one other suggestion for the next release: it’d sure be nice if I could see a preview (thumbnail or whatever) of a picture or document and have the ability to open it right there from within Mozy before deciding if I want to back it up. As it is, I have to open My Computer or Windows Explorer separately to have those options. I’d love it if I could get all that from within Mozy.

Now for the good stuff: Mozy’s Schedule page gives some nice and flexible options. You can tell it to backup only if your computer’s CPU is working at X percentage or less. And you can specify how long the computer has to be idle before a backup is attempted. That’s if you want it to backup your files automatically. If you’re one who likes your backup on a set schedule, you can tell Mozy to backup at the same time daily or weekly, etc. And lastly, you can specify how many days can go by without a backup before Mozy reminds you to backup (in case your computer is never idle and never gets a chance to backup). While the defaults on a lot of these features may be just fine for most, I personally like the customization factor (something lacking in Carbonite, which does everything behind the scenes in an arbitrary sort of way in the name of simplicity).

The Options tab also has some additional features for even more tweaking for those interested. But the feature I think is the most valuable is the History tab, which gives you an overview of every attempt, success, or failure of any backup performed. Clicking on any backup will populate the lower window with the details of which files were backed up during that particular backup. This is a really nice feature for those of us who like to double check backups quickly. Mozy also adds a new “virtual drive” to My Computer that allows you to browse your online folders and files. While this is a nice way to browse your backup, I like the fact that the History tab exists to give you the more detailed explanation behind each and every backup.

Restoring is easy, of course. Either navigate to your virtual drive in My Documents and right click on a folder or file and then click restore. Or if your computer crashes and you need to restore all your files to a new computer, you can do it easily through logging into Mozy’s website on a new computer.

Mozy also allows you to keep your own private encryption key (a feature that Carbonite claims is coming soon for its software). Alternatively, you can have the company keep it safely so that you only have to remember your password to get to your encrypted data in case of a restore being needed. Mozy really shines in its ability to backup files while they’re still open. So you don’t necessarily have to close your email for Mozy to be backing it up in the background.

The truth is that for a cheapskate like me, I’ll probably end up using both Mozy and Carbonite. I have two computers, my main laptop which has less data (but it changes daily) and my second computer, which has the bulk of my pictures/musics/videos/games, etc. So I’m backing up my laptop using Mozy’s free service while backing up my 50+ gigs on my other computer with Carbonite’s unlimited backup service.

Though it’s difficult to ignore Carbonite’s unlimited feature and its slick and glossy “Backup for Everyone” look, Mozy is a great place to start if you want a free, smaller backup with more control.

*Update* Mozy strikes back with unlimited backups and new options. Check out the latest article on the service.

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  • Jeff

    For complete list of online backup companies, news, articles, and general info, see:

    http://www.BackupReview.info

    This site also ranks the top 25 online backup companies on a monthly basis.

    Cheers

  • http://remote-backup.com online backup

    Interesting. We are launching a service based on the remote backup software from Remote Backup Systems, Inc. http://remote-backup.com which will cater mostly to businesses. It has most of the features you mention above, but also supports (natively) open SQL and Exchange databases, with mail folder-level restore capabilities.

  • http://bravetechies.blogspot.com Martin

    Hi folks, it’s better that you try a pioneer service like IBackup to safely and securely backup and store all your important files online. With the help of their flagship application, IBackup for Windows, you can easily backup files and folders and restore them whenever you want. The application’s interface has a similar look and feel to that of Windows explorer. So newbies don’t have to worry about anything at all.

    All data transfer with IBackup enjoys 128-bit SSL encryption on transmission. Besides immediate backups of selected files and folders, you can schedule backups and restores based on your needs. IBackup for Windows takes less bandwidth as it transfers only modified portions of your files to ensure a quick backup. Also download and install IDrive that maps your online IBackup account as a local drive on your computer. You can then drag-and-drop, open, edit and save files stored in your online account, as if they are on your local computer. If you want to safely store your music and video collection and play them whenever you want, you can use ‘IDrive Multimedia’.

    Besides all these, you can share data with others using Web-Manager. Sharing is done by creating sharable links and emailing them to your friends and colleagues. You can lock the files/folders, view the images stored in your IBackup account, play music files and even ‘private share’ data instantly with another IBackup user

  • jlip123

    I suggest you to try DriveHQ.com before reviewing any other online backup services. Their service is awesome, the best I have seen in the last 5 years. I rate their features, usability and reliabilty the best. The company has existed since 2003, so maybe that’s why it has more time to polish detailed features/usability. If you don’t believe me, check this page for more info. They have excellent flash demo about the service:
    http://www.drivehq.com/help/features/Backup.aspx

  • http://www.idrive.com jason

    While this news has been quiet interesting, there has been another new entrant to the online backup scenario and this ones offers 2 GB of free remote backup IDrive-E. This application performs ‘totally hands-free automated backups’ of files and folders. There is absolutely no limit on the upload or download size for backup and restore as that of the reviewed service.

    IDrive-E does incremental backups that transfer only portions of file that have been modified or changed since the last backup. This user-friendly application allows you to restore large number of files with a simple drag-and-drop using the Windows Explorer like interface. All data transfer is encrypted with 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. IDrive-E also has 256-bit AES encryption on storage with an encryption password key provided by the user while installing the application. This ensures that only you have access to the data.

    IDrive-E has automatic schedule backup that will be continued even during machine logoff state (NT service mode). There is an option ‘Automatic Power off after scheduled backup’ with which you can automatically shut down the machine after the completion of scheduled task off-peak hours. IDrive-E retains 30 versions of backed up data and you can restore any version from these 30 versions. You can also restore latest versions of all your files or versions of files as of a specific backup set.

  • winstone

    I have been using DriveHQ Online backup:
    http://www.drivehq.com/backup/

    The service is awesome. I have tried several other backup services before, not satisfied; but this time I am very happy with DriveHQ online storage and backup service. I have now started using DriveHQ’s POP3 email service! Yes, they support Outlook email and can backup my Outlook email as well. Complete features and nice features, period!

  • http://titanmiller.no-ip.org/publog/?p=26 Titan

    Mozy is also my application of choice for backing up my data. I currently have about 100GB backed up with them and that will only increase each time I press the shutter on my camera.

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