Mac Mozy Online Backup Update

This software and the information is obsolete. Images have been deleted.

I’ve still been using the Mac client for Mozy backup and it’s a good time for an update. To recap, the Mac client is still a early limited beta. In this case limited means it was offered to anyone who asked to be notified when the Mac client was available. There’s no Mac documentation yet so I’m kind of winging it.

Mozy sends files to the server in an intelligent manner. If you have multiple copies of the exact same file it only sends the file once, although it is in all locations when you look at the restore window. For example, I have three programs from the same software publisher and they all use a file called “MyTime.jpg” in all three programs (this was the first time any of those programs were backed up). Mozy sent one to the server and didn’t send the other two but did list them in their proper locations in the restore window.

Actually the second screen shot shows one file going to the server, one flagged as already on the server and no status for the third one (more on that later). All three files were in fact available for restore from the server. I also have several other directory trees where most of the files are identical among them. I these cases only one file was sent to the server. It’s nice to see that the files aren’t going out over my internet connection when they don’t have to. Saves both time and bandwidth.

The quota is based upon the size of the files on the local disk, so even though Mozy saves space and performance by only sending one copy of the file all the copies count against the quota. Since the quota only applies to the free service, and it’s a logical calculation that you can verify, it makes sense to do it this way.

There’s three processes that show in Activity Monitor for Mozy (although not all three run all the time) and all are native Intel programs. There’s one called “Mozy Backup” which is what actually does the backups. There’s one called “Mozy” which appears when “Configure Mozy…” is selected. There’s another called “Mozy Status” which displays the Mozy icon in the menu bar. When clicked, the icon displays the following options:

I have Mozy set to backup after thirty minutes of computer inactivity but this doesn’t seem to work exactly as it sounds. Mozy checks for a backup every two hours and then waits for inactivity. The inactivity timer seems retroactive, if the computer has been idle for 30 minutes when the two hours is up the backup will start. Once a backup starts it doesn’t stop, even if the computer becomes active. I checked the Mozy windows documentation and it does state that the windows client waits two hours between backups even if the computer is inactive. Even if no files are actually backed up the fact that the backup process ran is show in the history window.

There’s little impact on my Mac’s performance when the backup is running, CPU usage on my dual-core iMac barely hit 3%. The screen shot below shows the Mozy status window. This window only displays when you want it to, typically backups occur in the background.

The Mac client doesn’t have any bandwidth throttling (the Windows client allows you to limit bandwidth usage). This is really only a serious issue for the first backup or any very large backup. Most internet usage is downloading and this is upload bandwidth. I didn’t notice any performance hit in typical browsing. If I was uploading to my website or other servers I might notice some degredation. There are also significant delays at times (when watching the status screen) where nothing seems to be happening and it appears to be hung up. I monitored the Mozy logs during this time and it was in fact doing a verify at this time. This also does act as a bit of a bandwidth throttle so maybe Mozy does this on purpose. I added directories and backup sets to my backup a few at a time so that the new files could be backed up overnight or when I was at work. This way the “initial” backup was spread out over time and I wouldn’t feel it.

It took awhile to get used to the way Mozy reports file sizes and counts. It’s probably not something most people would do but I was trying to verify the backups. Here’s the history window:

 

The “Files” is the total number of files backed up and the size is their size on your hard disk. The files sent is the number of individual files sent and they’re listed in another window. The size sent is how much data was sent to the server after the files are encoded (encrypted) and I suspect compressed. The size won’t correlate to the size on your hard disk. For example, in a backup that sent 9 files and sent 5.1MB the two largest files totaled 6.1MB.

The other thing to keep in mind is that OS X reports “packages” as one file in finder. When Mozy backs it up it only sees the individual files in the package. In the web interface for restores these “packages” are listed as directories and the contents as sub-directories and files.

Now on to the problems I’ve encountered. It’s worth mentioning again that this is beta software and problems are expected and the notification e-mail warned us of that fact.

  • There’s been a few times where Mozy has lost communication to the server or appeared to hang up. For example, in once case the backup ran for 9 hours (overnight) without any activity and I cancelled it. The history has also logged a few cases where server communication was lost during the backup.
  • Sometimes the backup history shows the file was not copied to the server but doesn’t note that the file was already there. (See the screen shot example near the top). In each case that I’ve checked the latest version of the file has in fact been on the server so this appears to be an issue with the history. The first beta release didn’t have any history so this is an improvement.
  • The Mozy status process and icon vanished one time. But backups were still starting every two hours. Nothing was actually backed up but this could have been because the PC was idle and nothing changed.

The biggest problem I have is shown in the following screen shot:

 

Trust me, I don’t have than many gigabits of Thunderbird and Apple mail. I do have contacts, Firefox booksmarks and other items showing as 0 bytes. The backup itself seems to be working OK. The display issue comes and goes and there are times when it appears to be accurate.

I’ve also had several issues with the web based restore:

  • The option to restore based on backup sets is empty. (It wasn’t empty for my Windows machine)
  • On the Windows side it’s possible to restore previous versions of a file and it’s promoted as a feature. This does seem to be a feature they want to include but it’s not working for me. I can only restore the latest file. For example, Mozy tells me two version of a file are available:

    But there’s no way to restore the older file. In fact technically the only date/time I can pick is the latest backup although it does include the last version of every file, no matter when it was backed up.

    I came across another issue as I was writing this update which I suspect may be a “by design” thing. I added some directories to my Spotlight exclusions so they wouldn’t be indexed. At this time Mozy also stopped backing up changed to these directories.

I back up my websites to this PC so I always have the files locally. I wanted these directories backed up by Mozy and selected them from the directory tree under “Files and Folders” in Mozy. When I was installing Google Desktop I realized I didn’t need them indexed, so I added them to the Spotlight privacy settings to be excluded from indexing. I then noticed that these directories stopped being backed up by Mozy. (Actually I noticed a significant change wasn’t backed up and went through my changes to tray and find what the problem was.) I removed the directories from the spotlight exclusions and the files were backed up. I can (kind of) see excluding these files from the Backup Sets which are based upon a search (and I think a Spotlight search) but the files and folders are specifically picked. It’s possible this is a coincidence so I’ve added the directory back to the spotlight exclusions and we’ll see what happens.

Summary

The “web only” restore method has me a little concerned if a large restore is needed. It appears the restore downloads are bundled in DVD sized segments (I’m guessing, since there’s an option to have DVD’s shipped.) Files are deleted as soon as they are downloaded. My concern would be that the download fails mid file and then gets deleted by Mozy. I think this could lead to some frustrating restores. With the free account there’s a 2GB limit so that’s as large as the file will get. Then it’s a second step to decrypt the contents of the downloaded file. This is similar to the web download on the Windows side, except Windows restores can be done through the Explorer interface or through a Mozy virtual drive. This is simpler and has the added benefit that you can restore the files you really need before any others if you want.

I look forward to Mozy’s public beta since that likely means a new version with some things fixed. I continue to use my free account. While I’ll be waiting for the final Mac release before upgrading to the paid, unlimited account, I’m optimistic that Mozy will turn out to be a good online backup solution for the mac.

If you want to try Mozy you can get a free 2GB account by going to Mozy. The Mac client is not yet available for download. They say the public beta will begin in a few weeks but their faq says you can apply for the Mac private beta by sending them an e-mail. If you want to try Mozy I’d appreciate you clicking on this link to sign up and use Mozy as it will add 256MB to both our free accounts. You can also use refer code E62DWM when registering.

2 thoughts on “Mac Mozy Online Backup Update”

  1. I may have found a workaround for the crazy size estimates bug. Try entering 'kMDItemFSSize > 0' (in other words, "give me every file with a size greater than zero) into the search query field in the backup set. Make sure to hit enter after you've copied it in.

    Fixed it for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

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