For the system backups I recommended Acronis True Image and an external hard drive. When I arrived, however, my client hadn’t yet purchased the drive, so we had to postpone that part of the setup.
There was, however, no need to postpone getting the most important data backed up; it was just a matter of deciding on the best method.
The client had intermittently made CD backups before. The computer, which is about a year old, had a good CD/DVD burner, and the critical data would easily fit onto a CD. The only problem is that things like Quicken’s automatic backup won’t write to a CD, so it’s not possible to use optical media for set-it-and-forget-it backup.
As I’ve said before, I use a freeware program called Karen’s Replicator to back up my most important files to my external drive every time I boot up my machine (and sometimes in between, if I’m working on a really critical project and feeling paranoid). But without an external drive, or even a second internal drive, that wasn’t a good option either.
That left online backup systems, and I’d just gotten several new notices about Mozy, which offers 2 GB free online backup in exchange for receiving a bit of spam. One thing I like about this service is that its creators have a sense of humor. I believe I’ve quoted their list of alternatives to Mozy before:
- Burn a new CD or DVD every Sunday night and store them at your brother-in-law’s office.
- Pay $200/year for an online backup service that uses old, mediocre software.
- Buy a $200 external hard drive and hope your office doesn’t burn down.
- Do nothing and don’t worry about backup. (We suggest closing your eyes, plugging your ears and repeating “I’m in my happy place, I’m in my happy place.”)
- Run a cron job of rsync, gzip and mcrypt piped over ssh to your friend’s server over his DSL line.
The program did a pretty good job of locating and identifying important data, including the Thunderbird mail profile. The only thing it missed were the FileMaker Pro databases, which we added in another panel. Then we just had to decide what time of day Mozy should run the automatic backup.
Once we’d selected all the right files, we had about 100 MB to back up. We hit the start button and got a progress screen with an estimate of 90 minutes to completion, though that dropped down to about 60 minutes very quickly. The program encrypts the data (using 448-bit Blowfish, which is several times as secure as any online shopping transaction you make) before sending it out to Mozy’s backup services, which adds a bit to the time.
Though Mozy claims to have open/locked file support, I’ve always been wary of trying to back up open files. There’s just more room for error. It’s better to close out all programs and just let the backup run. Since watching backup programs run is up there with waiting for paint to dry in the excitement department, it’s a good idea to schedule automatic backups for times when you aren’t normally using the machine (say, during your lunch break), or start manual backups just before you go out.
100 MB is not very much data, but with an upload speed of 300 kilobits per second over standard DSL, it still takes a while. Mozy has a Plus service which offers 30 GB storage for only $4.95 a month—but think a bit about just how long it would take to get that much data onto their servers. Downloading it again is much faster, but the maximum download speed most of us in the US are going to get is 6 megabits per second. (Over in Europe, the Ur-Guru gets 20 megabits per second download speed, but still only about 3 megabits upload speed.) With 100 MB of data, that’s reasonable; with even 2 GB, you’re in for a very long wait if you back it up all at once.
Once you’ve gotten backed up, you can log into your account at Mozy through your web browser and see how much space is used and when your last backup was. This is also where you go to restore files, either by folder or by backup set. (Backup sets are things like “IE favorites,” “Financial Data,” and “Email and Contacts.”)
So far, Mozy Free looks good to me as a solution for those who want something simple, automated, and off-site—and whose critical data is compact enough to travel upstream in a reasonable period of time.