Apologies for the late posting of this week’s reminder. I had to attend a 4-hour business meeting in the middle of writing it, and I had too many appointments this week to write it in advance. “Those pesky clients,” as I sometimes jokingly call them, remain my priority.
I’ve been popular this week: three different companies have asked me to write about their products and services. Rather than mash them all into one article, though, I’ll deal with them separately.
This week’s star is Zoogmo, “Your online backup community.” If you think that phrase sounds familiar, you’re right: I wrote about CrashPlan’s similar approach back in February. Whereas CrashPlan works for Mac, PC, and Linux, Zoogmo is Windows-only (XP and Vista).
I confess I rather like the name “Zoogmo,” which reminds me of Greek zeugma (“yoke”) and refers to a figure of speech most appealing when it connects two unrelated ideas, e.g. “She left in a huff and a carriage.”
They also get points for their series of videos about how to use the program. But I do have to add a few caveats to the claim on their home page, however well it ties in with the infinity symbol in their logo:
With Zoogmo you get FREE unlimited backup that automatically runs in the background and lets you protect your data at multiple remote locations that YOU choose.
Free? Well, Zoogmo doesn’t charge you. (Their business model? Don’t ask me. It’s not included in the FAQ.) And presumably your friends and family members won’t charge you to use storage space on their computers. But if you use Zoogmo to back up to an external drive, naturally you have to pay for the drive. And your friends paid for their computers, too.
Unlimited? Well, theoretically–if you have an unlimited number of friends with an unlimited number of space on their computers, and don’t mind your data scattered to an unlimited number of places. What “unlimited” really means in this context is that Zoogmo doesn’t put limits on how much data you can back up. (But maybe I should have the Ur-Guru test it to see how it handles multiple terabytes.)
On the other hand, being able to choose–and know–where your data goes is a good thing.
For some reason, the first time I tried to download the beta, I got the following error message: “Exception in AddUserToXmpp 50 – The operation has timed out.” The second time the download started (1.57 MB, which it doesn’t say on the download page), but my signup information was not replaced by a “Thanks for downloading, here’s what you do next” page.
I was a bit surprised that apparently you can ask any existing participant of Zoogmo whether s/he wants to be a backup partner. Though I’m not sure any of the people on the list right now are real people, or there for the sake of example. I’m not entirely sure I want to find out, either. Asking random people to be your “friend” is bad enough. Asking them to store your data strikes me as nothing short of insanity, even if Zoogmo’s claim that your backup partners “won’t even be able to tell what kind of files you are storing on your computer.” (Seems to me there could be some pretty serious liability issues between partners, even so.) But for the sake of example, since the program wants you to pick a partner, I selected the name of the Zoogmo team member who sent me the info about the product.
Once you have a partner–or several–you can move on to deciding what you want to back up. You can do this by category (My Documents, e-mail and contacts, Firefox bookmarks/IE favorites, etc) or by file. The default seems to be to check everything. For some reason, though, when I started unchecking items, I got a warning saying that I was attempting to back up more data than I had agreed with my partners.
Well, I hadn’t agreed anything with my so-called partners, because I was never prompted to enter into an agreement with them. Apparently Zoogmo makes that request to the partner for you, as a closer look at the “partners” window shows a “waiting for approval” note next to the name of the chosen partner. (Guess I should have watched the rest of those videos.)
The interface is straightforward, as the only possible activities beyond choosing partners and files/categories are “backup” and “restore.” But as with ION’s file transfer function, you have to set up port forwarding on your router in order to offer storage space to your partners. There’s a link to information about how to do this under the “advanced” tab. (And for anyone who’s curious, their proposed port for access is not the same as ION’s, so you could use the two together.)
A word on the subject of port forwarding and routers. If you have broadband Internet access (cable or DSL) and don’t have a router, get one. It will save you from thousands of automated attacks against your system, because every router builds in firewall protection. Most SOHO users don’t need separate (expensive) hardware firewalls, but there’s no point volunteering to join a botnet. And having a router is way less intrusive than using one of those irritating so-called Internet security packages. But I digress.
It’s not clear what happens if you have several backup partners. Does all your data get copied to each of them, or does Zoogmo just move on to the next after the first one is full?
So I can’t provide a live field test today, but Zoogmo certainly looks as though it would work for the right people under the right circumstances. The right people being folks who trust each other and all have high-speed connections and plenty of hard drive space. Oh, and whose computers are running most of the time, or at least likely to be running at the time any given partner needs to restore something from a backup. It might be especially worthwhile for those who don’t trust online backup services (or don’t trust the governments who can demand access to their data) but who still want some offsite backup.
If anyone starts using Zoogmo, let me know how it works for you–or doesn’t. You can comment here in the blog, or e-mail me: sallie [at] fileslinger [dot] com.
And as a bonus for waiting so long to get this, you get an extra link, this time to the CNET community newsletter, for members’ suggestions about the best way to back up and restore your computer to the same condition it was in before the crash.