I wrote about “social backup” provider Zoogmo back in 2007. At that time, they summed up their service as follows: “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.”
I wondered then about their business model. It now seems possible they didn’t have one, because I just received the following e-mail:
Valued Zoogmo Customer,
We would like to thank you for your loyal support.
Since we launched our backup service in August 2006 we have enjoyed serving you but the time has come for us to close our doors.
We plan to shut down our servers on 31st December 2009 at which point your backed-up data will no longer be available. We suggest that you check out www.mozy.com for unlimited online backup for just US$5/month. If you have any queries about our shutdown, please email us at [email protected].
Thank you once again for using Zoogmo,
The Zoogmo Management
The online backup industry has become overpopulated and highly competitive. Some of the players are bound to have to drop out. Re-reading my posts about Zoogmo, I wonder whether Online Backup Vault, whose representatives posted comments to both of my Zoogmo entries, will fare better. One can’t tell from their blandly glossy stock-photo website. On the other hand, their comment-spam-marketing processes certainly wouldn’t encourage me to entrust my data to them.
Does the failure of Zoogmo suggest a problem for social backup in general? Will we see similar notices from companies like Cucku and CrashPlan soon? Or will we see more social backup because we’re having more social everything?
These days, people don’t share photos or other files by sending them directly to their friends. Instead, “sharing” means uploading the file to a server somewhere “in the cloud” and then letting everyone know where they can see/hear/download it. This is a generation accustomed to entrusting everything to someone else’s servers. Only the geeks, the old-fashioned, and the slightly paranoid are likely to prefer a system where they know exactly where their files are and who has access. And only the geeks are likely to have friends with computers that are secure enough to compete with the data centers where online backup providers rent server space.
And the geeks already have the means to send the files to each other. I didn’t use Zoogmo myself, beyond the initial trial so I could write the review. And I’m a slightly paranoid, old-fashioned geek. My own experience suggests that a social backup system has to offer significant benefits over and above what the technically savvy can do for themselves.
Or else it has to re-frame itself altogether, and become something like Dropbox. Backup is a valuable part of what Dropbox provides, yet it’s almost incidental to the real function of the service, which is to make it easier to share and synchronize files. That’s a much easier sell, with a much bigger market.
Zoogmo had an interesting concept, but despite a 2008 mention in Lifehacker, it never caught fire. It just may be that most people feel safer entrusting their data to strangers than to friends.