Time Machine isn’t without problems or shortcomings, however. Its most heinous offense is that it simply stopped working about two weeks ago. After months of successful backups, I now get an error telling me that a backup folder cannot be created. The hard drive is far from full, so what’s going on here? I looked online only to find all sorts of bizarre speculation as to what the problem might be, and every so-called solution seems to involve erasing the drive and starting from scratch. I’d like to avoid doing that, so I called Apple. After making me feel like I’d committed a sin for using a Western Digital drive instead of Apple’s own Time Capsule, the Apple tech wanted to charge me 50 bucks to diagnose the problem. Really? I have to pay Apple to fix its own broken software? Well, I’d like to avoid that, too, so if anyone reading this has had the same problem and figured out the solution, do share.
My other beef with Time Machine and all other local backup utilities is that they’re vulnerable to things like floods, fires, break-ins, spontaneous combustion and whatever other disasters your paranoid mind can fathom. Local backups can help when something goes screwy on your PC, but what if your whole town is blown away by a hurricane?
Having my hard drive backed up on an off-site server definitely calms my nerves. My apartment building could be sucked into a supermassive black hole and I’d still have my data. After my problematic experience with Apple’s Time Machine, I decided to go with a third-party utility instead using the backup component of the company’s famously troubled MobileMe service. There are plenty of options out there, all which do pretty much the same thing and I chose MozyHome since it’s the only one I could find with a Mac client.
Mozy costs $5 a month for unlimited backup space and is a cinch to use. Like my experience with Time Machine, I had my first backup running just minutes after installation. Mozy lets me pick which folders and files I want to back up. It also has nice little feature that groups files together logically for easy backup. So, for instance, I can choose to backup all Microsoft Word docs on my system no matter which folders they reside in. Mozy also encrypts my data while it’s uploading and keeps it encrypted while it lives on Mozy servers. As a test run, I backed up my Desktop, trashed it and then rescued it via my online copy, which restored all 100MB within minutes.
Of course, Mozy has its problems, too. First there were some weird technical glitches. After restoring my Desktop, I was greeted with an error telling me that the process had failed to complete. But, after examining my rescued files one by one, I still can’t tell you what exactly failed. I experienced further weirdness this morning when I awoke to find a backup in progress on files I’d told Mozy not to bother with.
My other gripes with Mozy could be applicable to all online backup services, the most egregious peccadillo being the time it takes to backup and restore. 100MB of my stuff took an hour to backup, while 1GB took 8 hours. I have more than 100GB of data I need looking after, and Mozy tells me that could take days or even weeks to complete. With Time Machine, my initial backup of 100GB took only a few hours.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.