Secure online backup from Mozy

Mozy logoA few weeks back I was discussing backups with a couple of my colleagues. I’ve commented before that, despite nearly losing all of my digital photos and my entire iTunes library, I’m really bad at backing up my data (it’s spread across a load of PCs and I almost never have it in a consistent enough state to back up). I had thought that Windows Home Server would be my saviour, but Microsoft rejected my feedback requests for Mac and Linux client support so that won’t work for me. Besides which, I should really keep an offsite copy of the really important stuff. One of my colleagues suggested that I joined in a scheme he was setting up with remote transfers between friends (effectively a peer-to-peer network backup) but then another recommended Mozy.

Mozy? What’s that?

For those who haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t, but it does seem to be pretty well known), Mozy is an offline backup service from Berkeley Data Systems (who were purchased by EMC last week). Available as a free service with 2GB of storage (and an extra 256MB per referral – for both the referrer and the new customer – my referral code is L8FPFL if anyone would like to help out…), as a paid service with unlimited storage for $4.95 a month (per computer), or as a professional service for $3.95 a month (per computer) plus $0.50 per GB of storage, it seems there’s an option for everyone – although it is worth understanding the differences between Mozy Home and Mozy Pro.

With clients support for most Windows versions (including Vista) and Mac OS X (still in beta), data is protected by the Mozy client application using 448-bit Blowfish encryption (with a user-supplied key or one from Mozy) and then transferred to the Mozy servers over an HTTPS connection using 128-bit SSL. Upload speeds are not fast on my ADSL connection and there is some impact on performance but I can still use the web whilst I’m uploading in the background (in fact I have a a backup taking place as I’m writing this post). Also, once the first backup has taken place, Mozy only copies changed blocks so subsequent backups should be faster. The only problem that I found (with the Mac client – I haven’t tried on Windows yet) was that it uses Spotlight searches when presenting backup sets so if you have recently had a big clearout (as I did before backing up), the size of each backup set may be out of date (Apple support document 301562 offers some advice to force Spotlight to re-index a folder).

I should highlight that backup is only half the story – the Mozy client has a simple interface for browsing files and selecting those that need to be restored. There’s also a web interface with browsing based either on files or on backup sets and the Mozy FAQ suggests that Mozy can ship data for restoration using DVDs if required (for a fee).

Whilst Mozy has received almost universal acclaim, not everyone likes it. For me it’s perfect – an offline copy of my data but it doesn’t do versioning and it will assume that if I delete a file then after 30 days I won’t want it back. I think that’s fair enough – if I have a catastrophic failure I generally know about it and can restore the files within that month. As for versioning, why not have a local backup with whatever controls are considered necessary and use Mozy as the next tier in the backup model? The final criticism is about Mozy’s potential to access files – that’s purely down to the choice of key. Personally, I’m happy with the idea that they can (in theory) see the pictures of my kids and browse the music/videos in my library – and if I wasn’t, then I could always use my own private key to encrypt the data.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll be moving to the paid MozyHome product soon but I wanted to try things out using MozyFree. Based on what I’ve seen so far, using Mozy will be money well spent.

13 thoughts on “Secure online backup from Mozy


  1. When I wrote this yesterday I hadn’t used the Windows client with Mozy. I’m pleased to say that having backed up a Windows PC now, I’m still pleased with the service and the Windows client includes a bandwidth test and the opportunity to tune Mozy for either better computer performance or faster backups.


  2. Mark,

    Mozy does have versioning in the Windows client if you use the integrated explorer function. Just right-click a Mozy’d file and choose ‘Restore Previous Version’.

    Mozy rocks! I have 50gigs backed up now. It took a few weeks mind but for $5 it’s well worth it.


  3. Thanks for the comment re: versioning – there really is very little to criticise about this service – I particularly like that I no longer need to worry about when I last backed up as Mozy is handling that for me in the background.

    Another nice feature (in the Windows client only at the time of writing – and I guess the Windows and Mac clients will start to move closer to one another in terms of functionality as the Mac client matures) is the ability to view the Mozy store as a drive in Windows.


  4. @Pete – I understand whay you’re saying about retaining deleted files but wouldn’t you notice that you had accidentally deleted a file, in which case you have 30 days to get it back and then it shouldn’t really be a problem? Mozy is certainly not the answer for corporate use (but few online backup systems will be) but I can’t really see the 30 days being an issue for personal users or for small/medium businesses.


  5. Are mozzy still using a thirty day archive? Hardly in this day and age. Thirty days in nothin’
    I tested mozzy about a year ago and was not impressed one bit. Mark, have you tested any other online backup software? Mozzy are seen as the bottom of the bucket and I cant understand all the touchy feely endorsement. Is this a sponsored page or somethin?


  6. Karl, you are, of course, entitled to your opinions, but when thinking about the 30 day thing you need to consider the difference between backup and archive:

    • Backup is simply that – having a copy of my data that’s stored somewhere else in case something happens to the original.
    • Archive is storing something for a defined period (maybe years) and then (possibly) junking it.

    Mozy is a backup solution – not an archive. The fact that they will store my deleted files for 30 days in case the deletion was accidental is a bonus – and 30 days seems plenty. If I haven’t noticed by then, then the files were probably not that important.

    I can’t say that I have tested any others – this wasn’t a review of the various products on offer. In fact Mozy was recommended to me by a friend and trusted colleague, I was impressed by what I saw (and what I got for free) and passed on the information. Lots of people rave about Amazon S3 – that may well be fine for them, but it all depends on what you want to pay (fixed – as with Mozy – or variable – as with S3). Other services are available and may suit you better – I also use Windows Live SkyDrive (but not for automated backups), some people use .Mac, etc.

    As for the “touchy feely endorsement”, this is not a sponsored page – there are no sponsored posts on this site (none that I can think of anyway) – if I write about something and rate it highly, that’s because I (personally) think it has helped me and might be useful to someone else. Clearly you don’t agree with me in this case!


  7. Mark, the best service I have found is from http://www.onlinedatastore.co.uk. They offer 150GB for 4.75 per month but the best thing is their software allows you to automatically backup your data to a local hard drive as well as to their online storage facilities.

    The other neat thing is you can use their software to create a seed load, which copies all your data to a USB drive which you send to them and they then transfer to their data centres. This means you do not have the initial massive upload and you just backup your daily changes. I have used them for 6 months now and they have been great.


  8. 150 gigs for 4.75 a month! class but how is it viable! just the active store would cost that never mind thirty seperate copies!


  9. I don’t know how they make money, frankly so long as my data is safe I don’t care. Maybe they have the same model as our friends carbonite and mozy over in the states. Get better, just upgraded my account to 300GB for 9.95 per month!!!!


  10. @digger – I share your frustration – on the Windows side I’m pretty sure that you’ve needed Mozy Pro if you are using Windows Server 2003/2008 for a while now.

    I still use Mozy for some of my stuff (basically work in progress) but keeping everything up in the cloud will kill me on bandwidth so I’ve just bought a NetGear ReadyNAS Duo for on site backup and will periodically dump that to a USB disk stored offsite…


  11. Lately I’ve been using OPENRSM CloudBackup for a couple very important reasons:

    One account can backup as many systems as you want
    It works on Windows, MAC, and Linux
    I can RECOVER with the software helper, on the Web, or by mounting my online backup as a network disk

    This way I can run backups on my Linux based webserver, my PC, and even my wife’s MAC with one account. And RECOVER the data easily. And isn’t this what the subject of your article is?? Recovery!

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