At the end of the day, people want a few key things from their online backup service: it has to store their information securely, it should run quietly in the background without slowing down your computer, and (ideally) there should be little to no risk of the company going under--and taking your data with it. Mozy delivers on all counts: it's owned by EMC, a major player in the storage business, it encrypts your data, and it lets users specify exactly when it should--and shouldn't--run, so that it doesn't get in the way. Add in affordable pricing for unlimited storage, and it's easy to see why MozyHome is our Editors' Choice pick for online storage.
Editor's Note: As of this writing, Mozy had plans to unveil a new, more streamlined user interface in the late spring. While we were able to preview the latest version, it wasn't yet available to consumers, so we chose to review the older version while comparing it to the forthcoming one.
How It Works
Mozy is designed to back up your entire computer and restore it in the event something goes wrong. To use the service, you'll have to download the MozyHome Remote Backup software (available for both Mac and PC), which will live on your desktop. Depending on how much information you want to keep in the cloud, the initial backup could take a long time--days, or even weeks. Luckily, this process runs in the background, not unlike a virus scan.
Once all of your files have made it into the cloud, Mozy will thereafter back them up incrementally, meaning it will only back up the portions of files you've changed. This translates to quicker backups, and reduced strain on your computer. Note that if you delete a file on your notebook, it will disappear from your online Mozy account. Also, older versions of files will disappear after 30 days. That's different than a service, such as Dropbox, which markets itself more as online storage than backup, meaning it's designed to hold stuff you're currently working on, and not necessarily reflect the contents of your computer at any given moment.
Mozy is one of several services that offers home users 2GB of free storage. It's unique, however, in that it doesn't offer tiered pricing for different quantities of storage. Anyone who doesn't opt for the free storage receives unlimited storage for a starting price of $4.95 per month (this price goes down as you commit to a year or even two-year subscription). Unlike other services, such as Box.net, which limits the size of files you can back up (in Box.net's case, it's 2GB), Mozy has no maximum file size.
The MozyHome Remote Backup Software, as we reviewed it, had six colorful tabs on top, including a welcome screen, one for settings, another for restoring files, and one showing backup history. However, there were two tabs for deciding which folders and files to back up, which proved to be confusing.
The first tab, Backup Sets, has two panes: frequently used preselected folders (such as My Pictures) on one side, with the individual files from that folder appearing in the right-hand pane. This let us back up an entire folder or select certain files. Annoyingly, there's no Select All or Check All option. We had to go through our music folder and check all of the songs we wanted (which was all of them). But then, under the tab called File System, there's a file tree containing all of the folders on the computer. This, too, has a right-hand pane where you can select specific files within those folders.
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We can see how novice users might appreciate being able to stick to the Backup Sets tab, where they won't see more obscure files. On the other hand, SOS, another online backup service, has shown that it's possible to provide novice and advanced options in the same pane, without having to split them between two tabs.
As of this writing, Mozy was planning on rolling out a fresh interface for its desktop software. Although users will be able to perform the same functions, the app will have a sleeker look, including larger fonts in the dialog boxes, as well as easier-to-understand language. However, the new interface doesn't add a Select All button, and still has two tabs--one basic, one advanced--for selecting files to back up.
We have one other complaint. The progress box that appears during backups doesn't display how much time is left, nor how many files are pending; it only says how many files have already been backed up. The idea, says Mozy, is that the client won't become a distraction (kind of like the old adage, "the watched pot never boils"). We suspect users would rather know how far the backup has progressed. Other solutions, such as SOS, do show a progress bar.
When you're ready to start a backup with MozyHome, you can decide whether you want to prioritize having a fast backup or keep your computer running fast using a sliding scale. As the backup takes place, you can see a progress bar, but we don't recommend dwelling on this as the initial backup is likely to take a long time (even with an emphasis on a faster backup, our initial 16.7GB backup was estimated to take six days).
Mozy also lets you schedule backups. You can set a specific time of day, but Mozy lets you suspend backups when the CPU has reached a certain threshold (say, 60 percent in use). You can also instruct Mozy to wait until you've been idle a certain number of minutes (the default is 20), or you can tell Mozy not to perform more than, say, two backups per day. Oddly, though, letting Mozy back up your files as soon as you change them isn't an option. You can, however, manually click Start Backup.
In addition to the option of throttling backup speed or computer performance, you can give Mozy permission to crank up backup speeds (at the expense of system performance) during specific hours. This can be while you're asleep, or after you've left your home office for the evening.
Online Experience and Restoring Files
From the online portal at Mozy.com, you can add other computers to your account and manage them. Because Mozy is designed more for backup as opposed to individual file storage, there's no tab for simply viewing the content you've uploaded, as you can in Google Docs. Rather, if you want to see what you've backed up, you have to select the Restore option. Then, you have a choice of restoring all the files to your computer, overwriting file names in the case of redundancies, or restoring only select files.
Users have several convenient options for restoring. If your hard drive hasn't crashed, you can right-click on the folder you want to restore and select Restore Files in Folder. You can also restore through the Mozy software you have installed on your computer or by downloading the files from Mozy.com.
The data you stored with Mozy will be encrypted at every step of the way: on your machine, before you upload it; during the upload process; and on Mozy's servers in its data centers. These locations are ISO certified, meaning they meet requirements dictating everything from the temperature of the server rooms to the levels of security on the premises (the facilities are surrounded by barbed wire fences, to name one measure).
More importantly, because Mozy, already a leader in online backup, was bought by the storage giant EMC, we're confident that this is one online service that won't just disappear into thin air, taking your precious data with it; Mozy has said that online backup is part of EMC's long-term business plan. Particularly since EMC specializes in storage, we're also inclined to believe that it's not just a pet project, as HP Upline and AOL Xdrive proved to be for their respective parent companies.
Mozy is our favorite online backup service. It offers plenty of performance and scheduling options to advanced users and, more importantly, unlimited backup (SOS offers only up to 15GB). We also like the new interface that's on the way. While SOS offers unlimited file versioning and can back up your data both locally and online, Mozy's unlimited online option--not to mention 2GB of free storage--will resonate with users even more.