Remote PC Backup – New & Improved!

by Robin Harris on Thursday, 14 December, 2006

Remote PC backup made easy
Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal reviews (subscription required, I believe) two remote PC backup services, Carbonite and Mozy, this morning.

Mozy: now they have something
I wrote briefly about Berkeley Data Systems, parent of Mozy, in September and concluded

They compete with Carbonite with a twist: like a friendly pusher, the first two GB of backup are free. Cool. Now they should just do away with the 30 GB limit on their $5/mo plan and they’d have something.

As of today they’ve dropped the 30 GB limit and now they have something. But they’ve also dropped the reference to “. . . potential telekinetic security breaches.” These guys are getting serious! Darn.

Mossberg’s money quote:

Of the two products, I prefer Mozy. Carbonite is a little quicker and simpler to set up, but it’s more limited. If you want to go beyond the default backup choice — your most common documents and settings — you have to troll through your hard disk to select additional folders and files for backup. Mozy also has a default setting, but makes it much easier to alter or customize it.

Mozy offers more-versatile restoring and scheduled backups, and unlike Carbonite, will back up an external hard disk. Mozy will also send you a DVD of all your files, for a fee. Carbonite won’t. Mozy also keeps multiple versions of any file for 30 days. Carbonite doesn’t.

Still, you won’t go wrong with either of these two services, and you’ll sleep better at night.

I agree. None of the other online backup services comes close to either Mozy or Carbonite on price, ease of use, or features. Every business laptop should be backed up to one of these services so IT can focus on more important things.

The StorageMojo take
I’m glad to see Mozy took my most excellent advice and dropped the 30GB limit. Most home users will never come close to that, as I’m sure they’ve figured out. Sadly, neither company supports Macs, although Carbonite is on track for support in April. I’ve pinged Mozy for their date and if they respond, I’ll update this post.

Update: Josh Coates, the founder, says that MacMozy is in alpha right now and they “. . . hope to release it as a beta to the public in the next couple of months.” So us MacHeads may see MacMozy in April as well. Not as good as Right Now, but better than Never. Thanks, Josh.

Comments welcome, of course. Moderation turned on to defeat the banality of the Empire of Spam.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Caver December 14, 2006 at 1:32 pm

I’m hesitant…..how secure is the data on either of these systems, and thus our personal and financial information, from hacking or other theft/abuse?

Robin Harris December 14, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Caver,

They both have good security with a couple of differences that might be important to you or not. Both providers encrypt your data before shipping it over the web. Carbonite uses 1024 bit Blowfish encryption, Mozy uses 448 bit Blowfish encryption. Both send your data over a secure SSL connection so the data is further encrypted beyond the Blowfish encryption. I don’t consider the encryption bit depth terribly important, but some of my smart readers might have a different take.

The bigger difference is that Carbonite stores a copy of your key in a “secure location” so if you lose your password they can decrypt your data and send it back to you. Mozy gives you that option and they also allow you to choose your own key. If you do choose your own key and then lose it, there is no way they can recover your data for you – it is gone forever. I prefer the latter option, but I don’t trust no one, no how.

Robin

Paul December 15, 2006 at 7:48 am

I’ve been using MediaMax (Streamload) and been pleased with them. What’s the difference with Mozy. Carbonite, last time I talked to their support, seemed pretty cavalier about what they do…

Robin Harris December 15, 2006 at 10:26 am

Paul,

Thanks for the pointer to MediaMax. MM offers 25 GB of free on-line storage, with up to 1 GB per month of download bandwidth. Sweet! 100 GB for $5/mo.

What they aren’t is a dedicated and secure backup utility. They appear to have a new client on the way with backup functionality, but nary a word about encryption or security. I wouldn’t trust them with personal data at this time.

One application that is pretty cool: if you regularly ship REALLY BIG files around, use MediaMax instead to host them and send URL’s instead.

MediaMax is a cool service. Just not for personal data backup.

Robin

PJ December 15, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Not having looked at these systems, do they have some kind of good ‘bare-metal restore’ procedure? or, after my windows machine crashes, do I have to first reinstall windows and their software and then go do a restore? Ideally I’d like the ability to burn a personalized LiveCD that I can boot off of that will give me the ability to restore my backedup system onto a local disk.

Robin Harris December 15, 2006 at 2:36 pm

PJ,

I don’t think it is possible to perform a bare-metal (i.e. a complete system+data restore) from either Mozy or Carbonite. Nor do I think you’d ever either want or need to.

The chief difficulty is that your PC would need to have network access to get to these sites, and to do that it would need to be booted and configured for network access. Your idea to boot off of a LiveCD and go online and initiate a complete system restore could work, but if you’ve got your PC and the startup CD, why don’t you just reinstall the OS and then go online for your data? It would be a heck of a lot faster than watching data dribble in over DSL or cable.

If your PC was destroyed and you bought a new one, you probably couldn’t use the same system software anyway, so the time you spent backing up the old system would be wasted. Given the way application files in Windows are strewn around like confetti, I wouldn’t even be confident that backing up an Applications file would enable an application restore. Perhaps a reader with more experience could comment.

So for reasons of both speed and utility, I would stick to backing up my data files. Unless you have a really fast network connection, even recovering a couple of gigabytes is a lengthy process. Much faster to restore from local resources – system and application disks – and use the network for the crucial data.

Robin

adis January 11, 2007 at 9:44 pm

I use IBackup service for my data ,they are offering 128 bit ssl, 256 bit AES,SQL,Exchange(even single mail box!!!! can’t believe is it true) backup/restore, locked files backup and more important thing is I can download my data on any PC, even using wireless slow speed connections during my travel , their user interface is much friendly with 24*7 customer support ,unlike mozy where interface is complex with offering data in zip files format only. Besides this their storage is flexible enough to use beyond quota and pay later.
Now with new product IDrive-E with enchanced features like network drive and 2GB free space, I won’t leave them easily.

Quotacious January 13, 2007 at 5:12 pm

As it should be, it is impossible to do a restore of your Windows software from Carbonite. Why? In addition to all the reasons mentioned above, Carbonite simply doesn’t waste it’s time backing up your Windows files. It backs up your unique files and documents. You have the Windows install CD, recovery CD, or your new computer to restore all of your Carbonite’d files too, which it fully supports.

“Thanks for the pointer to MediaMax. MM offers 25 GB of free on-line storage, with up to 1 GB per month of download bandwidth. Sweet! 100 GB for $5/mo.”

Umm, so when your HDD crashes and you loose everything, you’re willing to wait 25 months to get all of your data (25GB max) back? Say what??

Go with Carbonite, you can get a 3 month free trial if you look closely at their website… :)

Robin Harris January 25, 2007 at 9:02 pm

Q . . .

Nah, you just upgrade for a month or two so you get the bandwidth you need when you need it.

Robin

Eric April 6, 2007 at 8:22 pm

I have asked Mozy if they have had their encryption audited by an external company (I want to make sure someone other than the company says they are encrypting securely). Their response was that they have not.

How do we know with either Mozy or Carbonite that our data is REALLY secure other than taking the companies word for it?

Graeme May 29, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Eric has the million-dollar question. How do you know anything is really secure? I’ve been checking out Elephant Drive myself, as they advertise that they perform their AES encryption BEFORE transmitting. They also advertise that they do not store your password (i.e., encryption key), so that none of their own employees can access your data. But how do we really know?

At this point, I’m leaning more toward using an independent file encryption software package I bought a while back and then using some less-secure but cheap service like MediaMax. At least I’ll know for sure that my files were encrypted before they ever went across the internet, and that no one but me knows the encryption key. Sure, it’s an extra step. But for sensitive personal data, isn’t the extra peace of mind worth it?

Roger June 25, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Here is a link to a recent forum where many complaints about Streamload/Mediamax were lodged.
http://forums.cnet.com/5208-6616_102-0.html?forumID=37&threadID=206285&start=0

Further, while “ironically”, their site is down for maintenance at the moment, so I can’t verify it exactly, I just read their Terms of Service in the last couple of days, and I believe they prohibit the sending up of self-encrypted files. So you can’t upload a TrueCrypt file, for example, if I read it right. Better check their TOS out.

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