Mozy Mac Backup – Beta Arrives

[Updated 3/17 to reflect that the web download files are encrypted.]
I’d asked to be notified by Mozy when they had a Mac client available, and earlier this week I got an e-mail from them that a beta was available. Although Apple’s Backup.app has done OK for me (all my test restores have worked but I’ve never truly needed it) it’s quirky, it’s backup methodology is limited and the lack of a verify concerns me. So I was happy to see another low cost backup solution becoming available for the Mac.

The notification e-mail warned that there’s no open file support and no block level differentials. (block level differentials are when only the changed “blocks” of the file are backed up.) They also warn there’s no documentation. They do promise that docs are coming soon but there’s no mention whether or not the first two limitations are beta only or will be in the final product. The software download was a 4.7MB disk image file. The disk image contains an installer, and uninstall app, a quick start guide and a decryption program.

This one had a full blown installer rather than just instructions to drag it to the Application folder. Installation was straightforward. After an intro screen there’s a warning that this is beta software and requires OS X 10.4 and Spotlight has to be activated for backup sets. Then there’s the license agreement followed by typical pick-disk and enter password screens. After the the file install there’s a prompt to start the setup assistant (which can be skipped at this time).

I ran the setup assistant which asks for your Mozy account and password (with a link if you don’t have an account). Then there’s a prompt to pick the encryption type – using either a Mozy key or providing my own key. I chose to enter my own encryption key so I’m asked to enter my key, which I do and the setup finishes.

The installation was very quick and straight-forward, taking about 5 minutes.

Then the Mozy configuration started. It “Retrieved account information” and scanned backup sets. Once this was done it displayed this screen:

Mozy Configuration screenshot

From this screen you can pick backup sets or click on “File and Folders” and select from the file system. For my first test I picked about 40MB from the backup sets. There’s a few interesting things on this screen. It says my iPhoto Library is empty, not true – but it’s not in the default location (Apple Backup has the same issue). It also mentions Excel/PowerPoint/Word which aren’t on my Mac, although I do have files with those extensions (Again, Apple Backup does the same thing). So it seems those backup sets are based on spotlight or other searches and making some assumptions rather than actually looking for the apps themselves. Probably not a huge deal as someone who moved the iPhoto library probably knows where to find it to back it up.

Backup times depend on your upload bandwidth (or which I have a meager 384kps) but my initial backup was as quick as I could expect. It kept my network connection pretty well maxed out. Unlike the Windows version there doesn’t appear to be any bandwidth throttling or connection monitoring. But since it’s almost all outbound traffic I didn’t have any issues web surfing at the same time. Activity monitor shows it using a whopping 1.1% of my CPU. Memory usage is 10MB Real/362MB Virtual. It’s running in native Intel model.

After the backup completed it was time to do a test restore so I headed out to the Mozy website. The first issue I found was that the “Backup Sets” view was empty. This allows browsing using the same backup sets used for the backup and it works for the backups done with my Windows client. But the file system view is there and I pick one 200MB file for restoration. I’m told I’ll get an e-mail when the restore is ready. I get the e-mail quickly, although Apple Mail sends it to the junk folder. There’s a link for me to click on which brings me to a page on my Mozy account where I can download the file. The Mozy page says the download will encrypted and I’ll have to unencrypt it (with Mozy Decrypt) after I unzip it since I used my own encryption key.

I pleasantly surprised at first when the download is a Apple disk image file rather than a zip file. I’ll just be able to mount the file and drag/drop or browse through it. [Upated 3/17 – see the comments – the contents of the downloaded file are individually encrypted] So I double-click the file, expecting to be prompted for the key but it opens right up. So much for security. On a whim, I copy the file download URL and go to another Mac (that never had Mozy). I’m able to download and open the file without any password or decryption key prompt. Granted, the URL is massively complex but the idea of having unencrypted data files sitting out there is a concern to me. Mozy says the files can only be downloaded once, but I was able to download a couple times since I had the URL (but the link is gone from my page). I suspected the files will vanish soon and sure enough it’s gone within a half-hour of the first download.

On Windows the restore is built into the agent (or explorer) so I never did a web restore. I tried it tonight and sure enough, the zip is unencrypted and opens on my Mac.

Web based restores are free. I’m a little concerned about the web based download along with the fact that Mozy deletes the files as soon as there downloaded. My concern would be large restores along with web downloads that fail and then get deleted by Mozy. I’m assuming (scary and usually bad) that since they’ll do DVD’s they’ll also build the restores into 4GB files. I realize if I need to restore a lot there will be a lot of data coming down, but being a person who expects the worst out of computers, a foresee a lot of file downloads failing and then being deleted by Mozy because they think I got it. And if I re-request the restore will the spans be built exactly the same? You can have DVDs shipped via Fedex at a cost of $65 plus 50 cents per additional DVD.

Security concerns aside [3/17 – see comments – security concerns were unwarranted], my first impression of the Mozy Mac client is good. Any complaints easily fall into the “well it’s beta” category. The security window is only open a bit but I’m paranoid so it concerns me. I already encrypt anything finance or identify related before it’s backed up to the internet so there’s still protection even in that window. I had been hoping to simplify things, but I guess that won’t happen. The problem there is that the encrypted files are relatively large and Mosey would have to back up the entire file each night (assuming it changed). On the other hand this is free for 2GB and $5/mth for unlimited storage.

I did send off a e-mail off to Mozy with my feedback and security concerns.

Mozy is at www.mozy.com. They offer a free account for up to 2GB of backup storage and unlimited storage for $5/mth (with discounts for longer term agreements).

2 thoughts on “Mozy Mac Backup – Beta Arrives”

  1. Ray,

    The .dmg with your restored files is not encrypted with your key, but the files within it are. If you try to open them directly from the .dmg, it should not work. (If it does, then there's a serious bug and please let us know ASAP!) This is why you need the Mozy Decrypt app – you tell it the location of the .dmg, a folder to decrypt to, and your key, and it decrypts the individual files. This process is the same on Windows – the .zip file you download has files encrypted with your key. (Clearly the process can be improved and we're definitely working on it).

    Thanks for all the feedback about the beta. Everything that you mentioned is going to be addressed in future releases.

    -E-mail address deleted by admin-

  2. Sure enough, the file in the dmg are encrypted. While they can be dragged out they can't be used until run through Mozy Decrypt.

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