I have recently been thinking a lot about how terrible it would be to lose all of the data on my computer’s hard drives if something bad ever happened to my computer (e.g., flood, fire, computer crash, etc.) As such, I began looking for cheap yet reliable online backup programs. Alas, a few good (and relatively cheap) options are finally available! They have actually been around for quite a while now, but I say they are “finally” available because they now feature unlimited storage space, their interfaces and websites are much more polished than they used to be, and they have a firm user base that they have been able to work with to iron the bugs out.
NOTE: Mozy no longer offers unlimited storage space. My review here of their service is still valid, except that they now have different price tiers for various storage sizes. This is unfortunate 🙁
UPDATE: I recently found a new alternative for unlimited online backup! The online backup service CrashPlan (http://www.crashplan.com/) Offers basically more online service than Mozy did, but at the same price. Additionally, it also offers many more free backup tools, like backing up to another computer, or remotely to a friend’s computer! If you are like me and became spoiled by Mozy’s excellent tool, then check out CrashPlan’s FAQ where they have a section specifically geared toward ex-Mozy customers: http://support.crashplan.com/doku.php/faq#faqs_for_mozy_converts.
Narrowing the Choices
The two backup services that appear to be the largest and most stable are Carbonite and Mozy (I list Carbonite first because I tried it first.) They both feature unlimited storage, sleek user interfaces, and plenty of other options. You can go to their web sites to find out more about their features, which I think lists them fairly accurately.
Other choices exist, but they tend to be limited to business-type offerings (very robust and expensive) or relatively small and new offerings (i.e., they haven’t had time to prove themselves, so I would be hesitant to trust my data with them.)
The Findings: Carbonite vs. Mozy
When I was doing my initial research, Carbonite and Mozy were definitely the top two services used. They are really cheap, too. Mozy offers a 2 GB plan for free, or an unlimited storage plan for around $60 per year. Carbonite does not have a free plan, but offer a free 15-day trial (no credit card needed) and their unlimited storage plan is $55 per year. Discounts are usually available from both companies. The pricing is almost the same, and from the research I did, it seemed that their services used to be fairly neck-and-neck. However, I tried both, and right now Mozy’s service definitely outperforms and outsmarts Carbonite. I went into this with an objective view (I just want my files backed up), and honestly I was initially drawn to Carbonite because I thought their name was really cool and hoped that would reflect the wit and and ingenuity of their service. However, after trying both, I was frustrated and could not have peace of mind with Carbonite, but it was easy to like and trust Mozy.
With both, an initial file evaluation is performed and then they run in the background very transparently, backing up files without any user interaction. My findings for both services are described below. Since both products are quite similar on the surface, I will not post a full review (you can look up their features at their respective web sites) – I will only mention the differences that I found.
- Effortless to install and get running. I was pleasantly surprised how it would immediately begin backing up data without any input from me (other than email address and password.)
- Small colored dots are overlayed on file and folder icons to show if they have been backed up (or if they will be backed up.) I found this kind of useful, but other people think it is annoying.
- Cool name (you can tell your friends you store your files in carbonite; if you don’t get this Han Solo reference, then you should go watch Star Wars.)
- It made my computer stall for 10 seconds every time I opened “My Computer.” This happened even when I had backup disabled. I think it was trying to rescan the folder for changes or something. This problem went away after uninstalling Carbonite.
- If you select a folder to back up (e.g., a folder that holds all of your camera pictures and videos, or an entire hard drive), then it actually does NOT back up everything in that folder. By default, it wont back up a lot of file types. I found a web site (http://www.tomkirkham.com/node/109) that lists the file types that aren’t backed up, but even that list was significantly incomplete. You have to manually go look at all your files, find out which file types aren’t getting backed up, right-click on one of that type of file, click properties, choose the “Carbonite” tab, and tell the program to back up that type of file. I immediately found close to 20 types of files that I would want to back up (and that were the main reason for my desire to find a backup service) that weren’t backed up unless manually selected. It left me always wondering how many more file types I had missed, but wouldn’t find out about until it was too late.
- There was no noticeable impact on my computer’s processing performance.
- The GUI allows you to adjust the internet bandwidth usage (or stop or unlimit it) on the fly.
- The status window shows how complete the current backup is, and allows you to on-the-fly increase or decrease its computer resource usage.
- My internet service provider allows me to upload at rates up to 5 Mbps, and Mozy’s backup speed was consistently over 4 Mbps (I have already backed up over 70 GB in the past 36 hours.)
- You know it is backing up all of the files in the folders you selected, no exceptions. You feel a lot better when it bars nothing from backup.
- Installation was also very easy and started working immediately; however, I would bypass the “Mozy found these types of files that should be backed up” prompt, and instead just go select the specific folders or drives that you want backed up. This takes a little more work, but isn’t too bad.
- The GUI isn’t as polished as Carbonite’s.
It seems like both companies have employees who peruse the web to find reviews about their products and submit comments that argue their case, so I imagine some of those might eventually pop up here. To stand by my choice that Mozy is the better choice, I would actually recommend that you first start by installing Carbonite’s free trial and use it for a couple days to see how it works for you. If you run into the same problems that I described above, then I’m pretty sure you will also share the constant nagging feeling about it that I had: “is it really backing up everything that I think it is?”, which is unacceptable (especially considering that the nagging feeling is probably true.) After you have experienced and uninstalled Carbonite, then try Mozy’s service. It is actually quite a stark contrast between the two in terms of performance and peace of mind. Mozy is clearly the better choice (for now.)
Both products have referral incentive programs (where you get money or free subscription time in return for referring people to the service.) So regardless of the product I could have decided was better, I would have used their referral program. So, if you want to buy the Mozy plan, then use this link to sign up:
The link will give you a 10% discount and will give me a small monetary kickback as well. If you would rather use Carbonite, then you can probably find some sort of discount for it at this site: