For a home user, backing up a PC can be an inconvenient task; one that is usually not done with disaster recovery in mind. Sure you can back up important files, documents, and pictures to an external hard drive, but that doesn’t help if the data loss is caused by a fire or natural disaster.

Mozy, Inc. offers an on-line encrypted back-up service, free of charge or at a nominal fee, depending on the amount of data storage required. Mozy also offers business backup for a fee.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Setup and configuration

After visiting, signing up for either the free (2GB limit) or unlimited package, and downloading the setup file, MozyHome takes you through a simple set-up procedure similar to every other Windows program (see Figure A).

Figure A


The last screen of the setup includes a check box that will automatically launch the configuration wizard. We’ll go ahead and leave that checked.

The first configuration screen simply asks for the account information provided when the account was set up on the Web site. Filling that out and clicking next will bring up a screen that asks the user to make a choice on encryption (see Figure B).

Figure B

Encryption options

For most users, the first option will be more than sufficient (use MozyHome’s key), but the more security-minded (or those with sensitive data) may want to choose to create their own custom key. Choosing the second option and clicking Next will bring up the Self Encryption Key screen, shown in Figure C, which gives the user the option to create a private key by either typing in a sentence or paragraph or importing a key from a file.

Figure C

Self Encryption

Clicking Next will ask if you would like to save your key to a file. MozyHome does not save your key anywhere on their servers, so if you lose your key, you lose your data. Clicking Yes will prompt the user with a normal Windows Save As dialog box, while clicking No will give the user a final warning that there is no way to retrieve the custom key. If you click No here, you are returned to the Self Encryption Key screen to start the key archive process all over again.

Either saving the key file or clicking Yes on the warning dialog box will bring up the Backup Sets screen, shown in Figure D, where MozyHome has automatically grouped some of your data into back-up sets for you to choose. (Also, if you had chosen to use Mozy’s encryption key back in Figure B, you would be brought directly to this screen.)

Figure D

Backup sets

After checking any of the Backup Sets, click Next and you will be brought to a speed test screen. Running the test ensures that MozyHome can communicate with its server and properly back up your files. The speed test will return an upload speed along with a comment as to whether or not MozyHome can do its job.

The next screen allows the user to choose how much system resources to use to perform the backup; most people will be satisfied at around three-fourths. Since Mozy is configured to run during off hours, system resource usage should not be a problem. Figure E shows the Speed Selection screen.

Figure E

Speed Selection

The last step in the configuration process is to choose what to do next. Mozy can start the initial backup now, queue the backup until the system is idle, or send you into expert configuration mode. The average user would probably want to choose one of the first two options, but the more advanced user will want to go into the expert configuration to more closely define the backup selection.

Advanced configuration

The advanced configuration screen is separated into tabs. The first tab is Backup Sets. This tab is similar to Backup Sets in the configuration wizard, but it also shows which files are in the backup set on the right half of the screen (see Figure F).

Figure F

Backup Sets tab

Next to the Backup Sets tab is the File System tab. This allows a more advanced user to select individual files and folders for backup using the standard Windows folder tree to choose folders and a standard list view to choose files (see Figure G).

Figure G

File System tab

The next tab is the Schedule tab, as shown in Figure H. The Schedule tab allows the user to choose whether the backup should run automatically when the computer is idle or whether the backup should run at a set time. The scheduled time uses similar settings to the Windows Scheduled Tasks, so these options should be familiar to most advanced users.

Figure H

Schedule tab

Following the Schedule tab is the Options tab, as shown in Figure I. Here you will find an array of settings ranging from Tooltips to Bandwidth Throttling to Proxy Configuration. These options are pretty self-explanatory and are usually set in the best state for most users. Also found here is the slider seen in Figure E above in case you would like to change how Mozy uses system resources.

Figure I

Options tab

After the Options tab is the History tab, shown in Figure J. The history tab simply lists the backups that have occurred along with their results. This should be familiar to anyone who has used a backup system before.

Figure J

History tab

Finally, there is a Restore tab, shown in Figure K. Also familiar to those who have used a backup system before, the Restore tab allows the user to choose a back-up date and time (upper-right corner), select one or more files, and then choose to restore to the original location or redirect the files.

Figure K

Restore tab

Also prevalent on all the tabs is a bar showing Quota Usage (free version) as well as a button that gives the option of Increasing Quota; clicking this button will take you to the Mozy Web site to upgrade to the Unlimited version. If you made any changes on any of the tabs, don’t forget to click Save.

Back-up results

After a backup has successfully run, Mozy will automatically pop up a small box on your screen that contains the results of the last back-up process (see Figure L). A simple report, the box contains the elapsed time since the backup completed as well as the amount of quota used and the time the next backup will occur. There are also several buttons that take you into the advanced configuration section covered above and a Hide button.

Figure L


More information on Mozy

We have reviewed only the MozyHome free version for Windows. There are several slight changes in the unlimited version of Mozy (no quota limit). Mozy also offers MozyPro for business. In addition to the Windows versions, Mozy has Macintosh versions.

Although the free version is initially limited to 2GB of storage, that limit can be expanded indefinitely by inviting your friends to use Mozy. You can gain 256MB of space for each friend that signs up — and they gain 256MB as well.