Archive for the 'Backup' CategoryMarch 29, 2009
Moving from one office computer to several office computers is a big jump. Plenty of solutions will work well on one computer, but not so well on multiple computers (see, e.g., Bento). You don’t even need a large office to move into multi-computer territory. For a long time my wife was a true solo, but still wanted to be able to work from her desktop and her laptop.
There are a couple of solutions for accessing files in the multi-computer environment. One solution is to have a central server to which all the computers connect to access work files. This simplifies administration somewhat, but it doesn’t work well in an offline environment (such as the aforementioned laptop). Another solution is to store the files on each computer but use software to keep the two or more computers in sync. This is the solution my wife uses in her practice.
I have been quite skeptical of syncing software for a long time. I don’t have a horror story from my youth that has scared me away from it. But it just sounds dangerous – running a program every few minutes that deletes and updates files based on its own internal calculations. So if we were going to use syncing software, it would need to be bulletproof (or at least make me feel like it is bulletproof).
The first syncing application my wife investigated was DropBox. DropBox seems like a very capable solution, but it has some limitations for the Mac law office. First, DropBox seems to sync a single folder and it has to be the “DropBox” folder. It’s a little clumsy to have a folder named “DropBox” be the primary repository for business documents. I didn’t investigate whether the folder could be renamed because of the second problem: DropBox doesn’t play well with FileVault. Depending upon the kind of law you practice and which state you practice in, FileVault (or something like it) is somewhere between strongly recommended and mandatory. So DropBox was out.
Coming along at exactly the right time was Syncplicity. This little application works great. It supports FileVault without any hitches. You can synchronize any number of folders – named anything you want. This is especially useful in an estate planning practice. Many estate planning attorneys use Windows drafting software. Using Syncplicity, my wife can draft an estate plan in Windows (under VMware Fusion) and have it sync over to the Mac folder almost instantly. Because the drafting folder is a different folder, the entire collection of business documents doesn’t need to be synced onto Windows (which would mean storing two copies of each document on the computer, one copy for Mac OS X and one copy for Windows.
It hasn’t all been roses. A few times, for no reason my wife can ascertain, multiple copies will appear as if someone was editing a file even though the file wasn’t open on any other computers. This is a minor quibble, though, because it only happens about once every couple of months and no data has been lost. The real complaint we have is that Syncplicity won’t sync empty folders to other computers. Empty folders do appear in the online view of your files. But they won’t be synced to other computers (I even asked, and this is the way Syncplicity is intended to work). So, alas, Syncplicity isn’t perfect. But it has helped my wife be productive and kept her documents complete across different offices.
The Apple Blog reviewed Jungle Disk 2 today. Jungle Disk is an online backup system built on top of the Amazon S3 Storage Service. It’s quite similar to Mozy, which I previously reviewed, and serves much the same purpose.
I haven’t had a chance to try Jungle Disk, but one difference jumps out at me. Mozy charges a flat fee of $0.50 / GB per month (assuming you need more space than their free 2GB MozyHome account. Jungle Disk, on the other hand, charges only $0.15 / GB per month. The catch is that Jungle Disk also charges $0.10 / GB of data uploaded and $0.17 / GB of data downloaded.
If you upload only 3GB per month for each GB stored on Jungle Disk, you will come out ahead of Mozy. My Mozy backups are usually pretty small, but sometimes they spike up to 50-100MB (I have the free Mozy Home account and so I only backup a small part of my system). People with large static files or databases (e.g. Daylite databases, video files) that change frequently will probably be better off with Mozy. Others might find Jungle Disk cheaper. I’ll have to do some number crunching to see which way this one will play out for my system.
Data integrity is pretty important to lawyers. We need to make sure our client’s data is available and protected. Failure to do so could even be an ethics violation. With that in mind, I have been looking for a backup solution for my wife’s estate planning practice. I may have found what I am looking for in Mozy.
Mozy is a company (which is part of the EMC family) offering secure online backups of your computer files. Mozy offers three levels of service: MozyHome, MozyPro, and MozyEnterprise. Currently, on MozyHome supports Mac OS X. You’ll need to be running Windows 2000, Windows Server 2000, or any newer versions of Windows to take advantage of MozyPro or MozyEnterprise. In this article, I will talk about MozyHome, but much of the information will apply equally well to MozyPro and MozyEnterprise (take a look at the Mozy product feature comparison chart). I signed up for a free 2GB MozyHome account. MozyHome accounts with unlimited storage are also available for $4.95 per month.
Using MozyHome requires installing the Mozy backup software. The Mozy software works similarly to Apple’s .Mac Backup application when choosing which files to backup. You can choose one or more backup sets to be included in the Mozy backup. A backup set can be an entire folder or a spotlight search that is run against a folder (or even your entire computer). The software also supports a simpler backup mode where you can choose a single directory or file to be backed up.
Your files are transmitted securely to Mozy’s servers using 128-bit SSL encryption. This is the same kind of security you will find on many banking websites and other websites which ask for or display your personal or financial information. Once on Mozy’s servers, your data is protected with 448-bit Blowfish encryption. You can choose to either use Mozy’s encryption key (which the software lists as “recommended”) or use your own key. Using Mozy’s key might mean less strain on their servers, but it’s not going to mean better protection for you. If anything it will mean the opposite: if someone breaks into Mozy’s servers and gets the Mozy key, all of your data is vulnerable. If you’re using your own key, the attacker will have an extra hurdle to getting at your data.
Setting up was quick and very straightforward. Backing up? Not so much. A trip to the dictionary might help us understand.
intr.v. mo·seyed, mo·sey·ing, mo·seys Informal
1. To move in a leisurely, relaxed way; saunter.
Ok, that list part wasn’t in the dictionary – but it should be. Mozy was quite leisurely and it didn’t appear to be in any hurry to backup my files. The initial backup of 1.5GB involved many false starts (broken connections) and finally finished 3 days after it started. Upload speeds ranged from 1.6 to 114.5 KB/s. That first number might help explain why the initial backup took so long. Even that second number, though, could be troubling for people who have 10-20GB or more of data to backup. Backups seem to happen pretty infrequently also. Mozy seems to only perform a backup about once a day, and I can’t find a way to alter that frequency.
Using the Mozy software you can view your backed up files and traverse the directories in the same manner as the Finder’s column view mode. Unfortunately, there is no preview ability, so you just have to know what you’re looking for. Prior to Leopard, this wouldn’t have been an issue because that’s the way it’s always worked. Quick Look changed expectations – it’s the new baseline for required features. You can choose which backup to restore a particular file from by choosing a date from the Backup Date menu. It’s not clear whether multiple versions of changed files are retained or whether it simply allows you to filter the list and find what you are looking for more quickly. In either case, it’s of limited usefulness without the ability to preview files.
Mozy also makes you choose where the restored file will appear (the default restore location is the Desktop). Having the flexibility to make it appear anywhere is nice. The restore location should default, though, to the folder the file came from.
Pros: Easy to setup; flexible backups using backup sets; solid encryption (if not quite top-of-the-line); free 2GB backup.
Cons: Only backs up files every day or two; no ability to preview files before restoring; slow backups.
Bottom Line: I’ll probably start using MozyHome to make offsite backups of critical client files. That is the kind of backup where you never plan to restore, unless your office is destroyed in a flood and all of your computer equipment is swept away. For everyday backups – the kind where you need to restore a file you accidentally deleted – Time Machine is a far superior solution. If you’re a lawyer or run any other kind of business that involves valuable or private data, you probably need both. Mozy provides a good second layer of backup behind Time Machine.