Thinking about going to online backups for your home or office? I’ve been a Mozy user since last August and recently gained a lot more (unplanned) experience with the MozyPro service as well.
What follows are some things to consider. While all my experience is via the two Mozy services — and I’ve generally been very pleased — I think a lot of this applies to other services as well. If not, you can bet their corporate representatives will drop some comments to educate us!
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Going to an online service is a big change from the traditional tape or removable hard drive type storage that most of us are used to. It also tends to be a lot cheaper (especially when you factor in secure and controlled offsite storage facilities for tapes). But, there are some things to ponder.
For instance, if you suddenly need to recover 20GB of data, you’ll pay a bit for that cost savings.
Then again, need to just grab a handful of files? Online storage will be way faster than running through a tape.
You get the idea? Look over your business continuation plans, your disaster plans, and make sure you can still meet your goals.
After noodling around the pros and cons, maybe it makes sense to mix in some hardware with the online storage? For instance, maybe pick up a large NAS unit? Have all that storage on the LAN, back up (or mirror) machines to that, then back it up to your online backup service.
Recent data is right there on the LAN, but older data is safely offsite yet still retrievable.
I thought I’d mention this as I’m currently mulling it over… Thoughts?
That First Backup is Going to Take a Long Time
Plan on it. Allow for it. You’re about to ship many gigabytes of data over the Internet. If you’re doing this from home, you might even have the added “feature” of upload caps slowing you down. From the office? You might want to have the backup client configured to throttle back on the bandwidth during business hours (no fun clobbering the office network!).
One of my recent new setups took over 5 days going full time, but throttled to 256Kbps during business hours.
Don’t setup up 10 servers all at once. Bring them on to the service in phases or waves.
Plan the Restore Carefully
Just had a disaster and need to get all the data back down? Think before you start (aka learn from my mistakes). Plan to make a few restore passes. For your first pass, just select the stuff you need the most.
Side Note: I only have experience with MozyPro. To do a restore, you select the backup set or drives/folders via their website. Once completed, they’ll bundle that up into a series of self-extracting archives and drop you an email when they’re ready.
In my case, 21GB took about 10 hours for the bundling. The final download was completed roughly 30 hours later. The final download had the files we needed first.
If I had marked that first, then went back and marked the rest for a later pass, I wouldn’t have waited nearly as long for the stuff I wanted first! Life would’ve been a bit calmer.
Don’t Set it and Forget It
The little backup client tells you it completed? Check the history or the logs. Make darned sure it completed. Look for errors. Just like any other automated process, get in the habit of checking up on it.
In my case, it said it was done. But really, it was “done” because it hit a file that caused an error so it had to stop. If I had paid closer attention (and perhaps the error was more obvious) I wouldn’t have missed several GB in my initial backup set.
As an aside, the MozyPro folks have been friendly and easy to work with — and I guess I can claim responsibility for a few new bug reports related to the whole “done isn’t really done” thing.
For home use, I couple the Mozy solution with my own patented Scattered Home Backups method. Works well for me.
For work, I think I like the MozyPro option, but am still getting the hang of it.
Anything you’d like to add to the above? Drop a comment — I’m all ears!
[image from NelgNL]