A couple of weeks ago a representative of Dmailer contacted me with information about their forthcoming, still-under-embargo release of a free version of their software that would also include 2 GB of free online storage. Because I have a bit of editorial backlog on this blog, it was not difficult to keep this news under wraps until after the official March 23rd announcement.
Dmailer is a French company (though the name is pronounced “Dee-mailer,” at least by English-speaking users), and the only person I know who uses their software is my colleague Lee Hopkins in Australia. When I posted a request for someone to write about it, quite some time back, no one responded, and by this time I’d stopped ever expecting to hear anything from Dmailer themselves. But with this push into the crowded online backup market, they clearly want as much coverage as they can get, in as many markets as possible.
Like Mozy, Dmailer gives you 2 GB free online backup. Unlike Mozy, Dmailer also gives you a full-featured offline backup product, Dmailer Backup v3.
There are definitely advantages to being able to use the same software for your online and offline backups. Fewer programs to install and manage. Less space taken up on your hard drive by those programs. Just one interface to get to know. Less likelihood that the two will interfere with one another. And, perhaps the most important for the “set it and forget it” generation (which is most of us, given the option)—no extra steps to take to make sure you have both local and online backups covered, at least not once you’ve signed up for your online backup account.
In theory, anyway.
Installing Dmailer Backup v3 was easy. The user interface is attractive and easy to understand, and leads you through each of the steps, giving you several options along the way.
First, you choose your installation location: “Dmailer Backup must be installed on an external storage drive.” The program recognizes both USB and network storage as well as secondary internal disks. I chose the USB drive with the most available space on it for the test.
Next, Dmailer asks whether you want automatic, continuous backup of certain folders, or to choose what to back up. I chose to customize, but novice users will find that automatic option extremely comforting and convenient.
If you’re customizing your backups, you can do so both by file location and by file type. Personally, I don’t need my desktop backed up (nothing there but a very few shortcuts; I don’t know why people clutter their desktops with folders), but I do want my Outlook data copied. (Note that “e-mail messages” is not an option under “file types”—if you want your e-mail backed up, you have to back up the folder where it gets stored.)
Then there are the Backup Settings. The one to watch out for here is “Live Backup” That means Dmailer runs in the background and backs files up continuously as you change them. For some types of files and some people, this is great. It’s the essence of continuous data protection.
For me, on the other hand, it’s trouble. There are some kinds of files you can’t back up while they’re open, notably Quicken data files and Outlook data files. And then there’s what happens if you’re running a continuous backup program while you’re recording audio or video. The computer overloads and freezes, or at least that’s what happened to me with Memeo Instant Backup. So I turn that feature off, because I can’t count on remembering to turn the backup program off when I need to record something, and I can put a shortcut to the program in the Startup folder so I get a backup whenever I boot my system, which is often enough for me.
Once I’d been through all these options, I saved the backup job and started backing up.
The program works pretty quickly; it copied my 12.7 GB of files over in an hour.
Despite offering versioning and password protection, Dmailer doesn’t use any kind of proprietary format to store your backups, so you can just drag a file back from the backup folder to restore it. Or you can use the restore wizard to restore as many or as few of those files as you want.
The next step after local backup is online backup, but for some reason I ran into trouble here. E
ven though I filled in all the fields, read the EULA and clicked the button to say I had, I kept getting an error when I tried to create an account.
I tried with a different e-mail account; same result. Tried logging in on the website in case the error message was a mistake; no luck. I figured it would take forever to hear back from support, because it’s Easter Weekend.
When I re-started Dmailer a bit later and filled in the product registration information, however, I was suddenly able to create an online account. Maybe that was the missing link, or maybe whatever was glitching got fixed.
Success bred its own problems, however. Dmailer suddenly sucked up all my CPU cycles as it began running the online backup—before I had even configured it. Which was a big oops, since I needed to specify a much smaller subset of folders to back up online in order to stay within that 2 GB limit. But unless you click “Advanced Settings,” Dmailer will use the same backup definitions for your online backup as for your offline backup.
I eventually managed to fight my way through to the settings I wanted, apply them, turn off the “start online backups automatically” option, stop the backup that was in process, and start over again. I then clicked the “Go Online” button to see whether I could remove anything that I hadn’t wanted backed up.
This, fortunately, is perfectly possible. Just click those little blue drop-down arrows and select “Delete” if you want to get rid of something. (You also have the option to download it, so you can restore the file to a computer without the Dmailer software installed, or to share it.)
Upload speeds are not what I’d call record-setting, but they’re certainly no slower than Mozy. It wouldn’t hurt Dmailer to add in an option that let you determine how much of the computer’s resources to dedicate to the backup, however. I know Enna is getting on in years and her RAM and processor aren’t impressive by 2010 standards, but given the length of time any online backup usually takes, it’s a good idea to be able to relegate it to the background and get on with other things, unless you plan to run it overnight.
Minor issues aside, however, Dmailer Online Backup looks like a viable alternative to Mozy Home Free, combined with a solid offline backup tool. Whether it will scale as well as the EMC-owned Mozy remains to be seen, but if you don’t have an online backup solution yet, this is a good place to start.