Backup Your Important Files Online For Free

Everyone hears this sage advice: back up your files regularly. I am horrible at this, except for occasionally e-mailing files to myself. One solution is Mozy:

Mozy is a secure, automatic remote backup service for any PC in any home or office. It’s simple to install and configure. No external hard drive, expensive subscription services, CD’s or DVD’s to burn. All you need is a broadband connection and you are ready to go!

I’ve been trying out Mozy for the past week or so, and I must say that overall I like it. It tries hard to be stupid-proof and lazy-proof, and mostly succeeds by backing up your files on its own when your computer is idle so you don’t have to do anything.

I like the fact that you can pick “all Word documents” or just to back up one folder. You only get 2 GB for the free version, so you can’t back up everything, but that should be enough for the critical things like your address book or e-mail database. Supposedly your data is encrypted upon transport and upon storage, but I don’t know if that means the Mozy folk can’t still decipher it and look at your resume or vacation pictures. They let you choose your own security key upon install, I don’t know if that makes any difference. You also have to submit to receiving occassional promotional e-mails, so you might want to sign up with a spam address.

I first downloaded this when I saw it on Lifehacker, but only installed it after being reminded by reader Sri. Thanks to both!

Comments

  1. Looks like a good service. Though it would be a good idea to back up encrypted data, rather than relying on them to encrypt it. That way no one else can read your confidential data.

    Thanks!

  2. Buy an external hard drive or USB to back everything up with software like Nero or Ghost…

    Backing up online…. You can never trust that…

  3. I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up on two different places. Just last week my boyfriend tripped over the cable and nocked over my hard drive while it was plugge din and working and it went dead. I lost all my data from the last 4 years. BACK UP! Either have two different hadr drives or use a remote service plus your own back up in cas esomething happens with one or the other. Now this brings up the question of Who can recover the lost data. I tried two different places in New York city and they were helpless with the mechanical failure. Everybody seems to recommend DriveSavers. They might be the best but they also charge $ 1400 to $ 2500. Any other suggestions?

  4. What about privacy? Can I trust Mozy to hold my files in 100% confidence?

  5. Charles,

    Can you trust gmail or hotmail with your personal emails?

  6. I think you guys missed a point here. It’s not Mozy that may steel your identity, it’s those heckers who may get into Mozy’s database and start to pulling stuff out. I would try store non-critical and yet still important stuff in there though.

  7. If you use gmail, notice when you open your email, the ad’s around the email account are related to the content of your email. So basically, there is a sniffer that reads the content of your email so that the advertisments are targetted towards the contents of your email.

    Dont believe me? Here is an example. Try sending yourself a UPS/FEDEX tracking number to your gmail acc and then open your gmail account.

  8. With Firfox and an entension called GSpace, you can effectively turn your Gmail account into an online storage. GSpace allows you to upload your file as using a FTP server. The file uploaded can be accessed like an email through email account. I have been using GSpace for a while and it works very well. I would choose Gmail over Mozy for this matter.

  9. I backup my files on a password protected flash drive. $10 for half a gig of portable storage.

  10. As Rahul says, use encrypted files to backup on your own HD and then backup this file on line.
    I use Genie Backup to backup my files to on my USB drive.
    I do not have much faith CD ROM as backup since many ofa these become unreadable over time.

  11. In fact, I do not trust gmail or hotmail (or anyone) to hold my e-mails in 100% confidence… that is why I won’t send anything I consider confidential via e-mail, you see?

    I think Rahul offers a reasonable alternative… encrypt your stuff before you upload it for backup… and even then, be prudent.

  12. My only comment is that with all the other methods, you actually have to remember to do it. You have to remember to connect the USB drive, find the files you want to save, compress something, move it over, whatever. I know coworkers with free 80 gig USB hardrives that still don’t backup. With this, I do nothing and I get daily automated backups. So for the super lazy folk, that’s a plus.

  13. One thing to note in onlne backup is the time it takes to backup since most ISP provide much slower upload speed than download speed that you normally use.

  14. i agree with charles and would not trust online backup of personal data

  15. I just installed the program and I noticed that it is not only slow but also uploading many files that I did not want to backup.

    I wanted to backup just one file but I am afraid it is playing some dirty game with my computer.

  16. I’m glad to see that people raised the issue before I even read the comments. I think backing up your data online is a very risky thing to do and I don’t think it’s smart. From what I understand, there are programs out there that can do it for you, so all you need is an external hard drive. Who knows what this company can do to your files, who knows what would happen if someone were to hack their servers/databases. I don’t think the lazy argument quite works here. If you’re on top of things, you should be using an external drive, because you know better and are always backing them up. If you are lazy, however, you’re only be lazy in protecting yourself too. I have an MS money file that has all my balances, what banks they are, I think the account numbers, etc. It’s password protected with MSN. However, were I to lose that file, I’d lose all my financial history. Would I want to back that up on a random site that has access to my computer daily? Absolutely NOT. If I really value it, I will back it up to an external drive (which I do). If I’m too lazy to do it myself, then I’m too lazy to bother with my own personal security by using an online service.

  17. But your data is already at the mercy of so many people. In your example, MSN could also be hacked. Or your ISP mail server, or ING Direct, or like today, AT&T. Mozy encrypts your data on their server, so even if they were hacked, they’d have to decrypt it as well.

    I can agree that giving transfer control of your computer files over to a program could be a bad idea. I’ll have to think about that. Currently I’m backing up things like my bookmarks, address book, some webpages, and e-mails.

  18. “Users can opt to have their data automatically encrypted with their own private 448-bit symmetric key on their PC before transferring them to the Mozy servers.”

    So, actually, your data is encrypted before even being sent to Mozy, and you can choose the key.

  19. Actually your data is hacked on your computer by their program before it is sent to their computer.
    I unistalled the program when I noticed it was uploading several files that I had not even asked to be backed up.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  20. I applaud Jonathan for at least advocating and finding a solution that works best for him. Many people currently do not even have any solution in place to back up their information. Though storing your sensitive data with an outsourced provider like Mozy may not seem like the most secure way to back up your data, it is still sufficient for his needs.

    In regards to outsourced storage, what about the usage of firms like Quantum or EMC that house huge servers for other businesses? Although there are probably much more thorough contracts in place that address the security of the data stored, this is very much a similar scenario. There is no 100% guarantee in terms of security. CDs and DVDs can get corrupted, hard drives can crash and/or get corrupted. This is the method that works for Jonathan and fits his needs.

    I personally back my data up to DVDs on a monthly basis and to an old college ftp server.

  21. RE: Sri’s comment about gmail.
    I have 2 gmail addresses but I never visit their web site.
    All my mail is delivered to my mail reader, Outlook Express and it has no advertisements at all.
    I am fed up with yahoo groups and Google which is full of advertisements.

  22. Good point on the encryption Jonathon. I was thinking about whether I’d want to risk uploading any critical files to a service like this. I think I decided I’ll try some non-critical stuff for awhile.

    I’ve got 20gigs of space at Dreamhost, but since it isn’t encrypted, I won’t be putting anything there.

  23. I seriously doubt Mozy is ‘hacking’ anyone’s computer right now. My only worry would be maybe later on if they lose all their VC capital, start losing money, and get desperate :)

  24. I would suggest backing up all critical data on hardwares such as: cd’s/dvd’s/flashdrive/ removable HD’s. I personally save all my very personal data on a flashdrive and p-hd(shock resistant). All other files are backed on a portable HD that is shock resistance. All general files are also backed up on my P-HD.

    I don’t like the fact that a 2nd party has access to my personal data. I have 3-email accounts, who like Aditya, filter them all through Outlook Express (much more efficient).

  25. Backing up data online is a tricky decision. You have no idea what a website is going to do with your data. However, how much of your data is sensitive? Maybe your contacts, some docs, or a quicken or money file? Online storage works great for everything else — for instance — your ripped MP3s or photos. Imagine having to re-rip your entire CD collection — or losing all of your photos files. For me, my mp3s (and lossless ripped CDs) and my photos take up 95% of my data. Do I really care if somebody gets access to my Rage CD? Or my pictures of my friends wedding? As for my quicken file, I would rather lose it in a hard drive crash than have somebody hack into it online.

  26. I use a combination of SyncBackSE and TrueCrypt. Basically, I create an encrypted volume using TrueCrypt. Then I use SyncBack to launch a script that mounts the encrypted volume, copies my files to the encrypted volume. You can then backup the encrypted volume to the online service (mozy, carbonite, etc). I use Carbonite.com, however I like mozy b/c you can define your own encryption key which is a plus.

  27. Hey Wujimon, that sounds great. Exactly what I’m trying to set up right now: encrypt => compress => upload. And then schedule them every week or so.

  28. thanks for the link!

  29. If you understand encryption, you know that the current encryption algorithms are not going to be hacked. As long as you choose a very long and strong encryption key, and keep it in a safe where nobody can access it, how is anyone going to get your data? Many of the online backup services support AES 256 bit encryption (what the government uses for classified data), but if you don’t trust the software, then encrypt the data yourself before it’s backed up. That way, nobody at the online service or on the web can possibly read your files.

    I’d much rather use online backup than hard drives, flash, or DVD. Those things can easily be ruined and if you don’t keep them somewhere offsite and secure, then a fire or hurricane can wipe you out. And online backups can automatically keep multiple versions, so if data gets corrupted you can go to an earlier date. Plus, there are so many data breaches reported due to backups being stolen or lost, but I?ve never heard of a breach of an online backup. And backups that aren?t scheduled and automated probably will get skipped.

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