Mozy advertising versus user experience

A few months ago, I was interested in offsite backup, and thought I’d give Mozy a try. Their Home Backup plan intrigued me. It was only $4.95, and was billed as unlimited. Could it actually work as advertised?

Short answer is no, not by a long shot. Sure, it only costs $4.95/month. That much is accurate. The unlimited part is where Mozy starts to stretch the truth. The problem lies with bandwidth, and I’ll give them this much: uplink speeds on US broadband connections, particularly on DSL lines, are horribly inadequate in order to perform any sort of decent backups.

But Mozy also does something I dislike, something that isn’t readily advertised on their site when users sign up: they cap the bandwidth for Home users at 1 Mbps. Even if you should be blessed with faster uplink speeds (like a fiber connection), you won’t be able to take advantage of it with Mozy. You’ll still only upload to the Mozy servers at 1 Mbps or less (usually around 600-800 kbps from my experience).

I had around 150GB of data I wanted to back up on my laptop at the time. It would have taken me several weeks (I think up to 13 weeks) to back up that data from my home DSL connection (860 kbps uplink). I had to reduce that amount to about 96GB, took my laptop into work, where the uplink pipe was much fatter, and still, it would have taken over 12 days to get that data backed up, because they were capping the uplink speed.

I then reduced my backup set even more, down to 59 GB (see below), hoping this would speed things up. It would have still taken a ridiculous amount of time to back up my data, and I only ended up getting frustrated with Mozy’s software in general, because of its poor design. Every time I wanted to configure the backup set, I needed to wait for the software to finish calculating the aggregate size for all file types, and that could take half an hour or more every time I opened that panel. Couldn’t they have cached this data when the operation was performed the first time?

Isn’t it ironic how they say the “Account storage limit” is “None”, yet you can never really quite test that None unless you leave your computer on and connected to the Internet for a month or more, which is clearly not feasible in the case of a laptop? Let’s not even consider the possibility that your Internet connection might go down, in which case the backup job would fail, and you’d need to start over…

In the end, in order to get any sort of progress with the Mozy backups, I reduced my backup set to 1GB. That’s right, 1GB, which allowed me to back up my Address Book, iCal, and Application Preferences, plus some documents. Then, and only then, did Mozy manage to complete the backup jobs in time.

I’m sorry, but I’m not going to pay $5/month so I can back up my contacts, calendar, and a few docs. That’s not acceptable to me. I canceled the service.

I did write to them to complain about this, and that’s how I found out about the 1 Mbps cap on uplink bandwidth. They also offered to give me a free month, but what good would that have been? I’d have only ended up more frustrated.

Some might say I should have tried the Mozy Business plan, which doesn’t cap uplink speeds and offers more options. For one thing, I don’t care for those extra options. For another, it would have cost me roughly $80/month ($3.95 for the license and $75 for the storage at $0.50 per 150GB). That’s not counting what it’d have cost me to back up my photos offline, which is what I really wanted to do. I have roughly 500 GB of photos, and according to Mozy’s pricing, that would be $250/month in addition to the $80/month I’d already be paying to back up my laptop.

Clearly, at those prices, Mozy is no longer the cheap, easy to use $4.95/month service that they advertise so widely, and instead of paying $330/month to them, I’d rather pay it to buy hard drives, copy my data, and ship them to my parents once every few months. It’d cost me a lot less.

I suppose they’re not entirely to blame. For some reason, $4.95 has become the price point for online home backup plans. Carbonite offers a similar plan for the same amount and other competitors are crowding around the same amount, although with different offerings. The thing is, you can’t really give people unlimited backup for $4.95 a month. Your costs as a business are higher. So what do you do? You fudge. You get truthy. Well, I don’t like it. I’d much rather see them offer a $15/month Home plan where they don’t cap the bandwidth but cap the amount I can back up — say, up to 75GB or something like that. I’ll let them work out the numbers, but the point is, I appreciate honesty a lot more than some cheesy pricing gimmick.

Updated 7/2/09: A reader (M.J. from Denmark) wrote to say the upload bandwidth cap at Mozy has been raised from 1 Mbps to 5 Mbps. It’s an interesting move on Mozy’s part, but I still have questions about their customer service and the ability to properly restore customers’ data, as other people have indicated in the comments below.


20 thoughts on “Mozy advertising versus user experience

  1. I have been using Mozy for a couple of months now. A very dissapointing experience.
    – it runs very slow ( i had 80 gb of photos took 7 days to complete a backup.)
    – I forgot to run a back for 2 months – meaning my 80 gb are gone from mozy, get a life !!! ( they did not forget to charge $5 every month – and for what ??

    – Crucks now runing Crashplan same price (but its a real backup)

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  2. Hi Raoul,

    I have been a Backblaze customer for over a year now and I have to say I think it’s a good service.

    I tried free trials/version of CrashPlan and Mozy before Backblaze and found that they did not really fit me. I am not saying that they did not work which they both did. I just had a problem with the way they were implemented.

    On my MacBook Pro CrashPlan caused the fan the run constantly. It took me a couple of hours to figure out what was causing this, but it seemed to be the Java runtime required by CrashPlan. This was enough to cause me to uninstall CrashPlan the day after I installed it.

    Mozy was different, no extra fan noise. I just did’t warm to it.

    Backblaze is nice in that is sits in System Preferences and just carries on in the background. I cannot comment on data rate capping as I don’t know any of the details. For the initial upload of 100GB of data I left my machine at home and went on holiday for a week. When I came back it was all uploaded. Since then I have done a full reinstall of my MacBook and used the information Backblaze provided on their blog about copying the Backblaze config files to the clean machine which meant I did not have to re-upload everything again.

    Sometimes I find that streaming video can slow down while Backblaze is uploading in the background, but in these instances I can just pause it and it automatically sets itself to resume after a few hours so I don’t have to remember to switch it back on.

    One thing that you have to consider though is moving files around. If you decide to move your 30GB music/photo collection to a different directory then Backblaze has to re-upload it all. Also if you have a session of cleaning up your music meta data in iTunes then every file you change will be re-uploaded.

    Still it seems to work well for me and I would recommend it.

    David.

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  3. Good read.

    It’s true. It will take awhile to do the initial backup. My initial backup took about a week.

    But it’s in the background and does it when you let it. I found the interface quite easy to navigate. Subsequent backups are zippy. It’s the encryption that adds to the time. But encryption’s a good thing. There’s piece of mind too – I know it’s backing up whenever it catches my laptop idle – way more often than I’d do manually. Until the initial backup is complete, you’d just maintain your current method of manual backing up. At $4.95, I think that’s a bargain. (I don’t work for Mozy, and I no longer worry about losing my data!)

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  4. Jonathan, Blackblaze looks pretty good, but I’m worried about that $5/month price. Seems too low to me, for the reasons already stated in the article. Try them out and do let me know how they work out for you, but I have a feeling they’ve got some hidden strings attached as well. They have to, at that price.

    Good to hear about the Drobo! Hope it keeps working for you for a long time to come!

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  5. I should show you some of the email thread that I had with Mozy’s “support” a while back. Two machines, both saying they were backed up successfully, but they had in fact failed. Mozy strung me along for *months* and kept asking me to send in log files and to reinstall the software/etc. I also ran into that upstream bandwidth limit that was not advertised. I finally gave up when I wrote back to them to say “Hey, any updates on this?” and someone asked me to send my C:/Windows/Mozy..bla bla bla. Clearly they did not even bother to read any of the tickets where I kept having to tell them that I had Mac OS X and not Windows. They were very uninterested in resolving my issue, so I cancelled my Mozy accounts.

    I’m considering Blackblaze now. I have had a couple chats with their support folks and I have been satisfied. (Note: I don’t work for them either.)

    I’m also a very happy Drobo owner now too!

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  6. Raoul, it’s amazing and scary at the same time. I set out much like you did to try online backup and had pretty much the same experience with one exception: I decided to try Carbonite. (You can read my story on Carbonite here http://silvexis.com/blog/?p=131).

    I also got a response from David Friend, CEO at Carbonite but he didn’t quite answer any of my concerns.

    It would seem that these services are just not ready for prime time but there is clearly a demand. The only thing missing is an honest company that builds a good product and knows how to treat their customers. I’d be willing to pay 2x or maybe even 3x for that solution, but right now it seems that it’s either about $50 dollars a year or $1000. Hopefully they are listening!

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  7. I wish I had read these before I signed up with Mozy. My free space option with them was perfect.

    When I went with the home unlimited the technical problems (I have the latest iMac and OS) were time consuming and annoying in this day and age.

    I am clawing my way through some bad technical adice (the latest version has “known bugs”–that the techs didn’t know about initially. The throttled bandwidth makes the backup and ongoing daily excursion much like checking on the dog for output needs–wondering why the backup stopped unexplainedly (Mozy error 15).

    I just want backup now in the cloud world so I’m holding tight–but it is a tenuous hold.

    (I have a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems and began my career programming in BASIC and FORTRAN–I kinda understand this stuff)

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  8. Here’s my experience with Mozy. I am guessing that I have been a unlimited paying customer for about 2 years now and beyond the capacity issues I want to share my simple file restore issues I have had with Mozy. I suppose I fit their more typical customer profile with just under 17GB of data stored and when I attempted to restore my files it took about a day and half to complete the restore. Where I have had problems, and to this day have not been solved including multiple days and hours of seeking online assistance, has been the downloading of my restored files. I have consistently ran into error messages with none of my files available. Mozy support suggested it was my use of a wireless router?? Then they suggested my use IE 7 was the problem?? Finally they suggested I use Firefox and a different download manager. So I followed their instructions and two months later I still haven’t been able to download any of my files successfully. I finally ordered my files via their CD restore option for a fee of $29 but they charged me $40 for shipping that took 5 days to receive. Obviously they are marking up the shipping cost and pocketing a profit on that, a bit more expensive than the free download option they offer that hadn’t worked. Regardless, I thought ok I have my data finally. Only problem was upon viewing my files almost all of my music files were missing. Out of approx 900 music files they had restored only about 75. After more time with the support folks they suggested that two CD’s where missing and would send the corrected CD back up to me immediately. This was the final insult as the additional CD’s were essentially empty for the exception of one photo file!!

    I am still working through the convoluted mess of my files that are scattered across 5 CD’s which should have contained a 7zip file but didn’t and nor has the downloaded of it as suggested successfully merge my files together. That has been my experience not exactly the smiley face like you see on their web site.

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    1. Mark, that’s a pretty horrible experience altogether. If I were in your shoes, and I’d lost important data because of them, I’d be looking at what legal options are available to me. It’s pretty rotten of them to treat you like this after 2 years of paying them faithfully and using their backup software.

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  9. Raoul: Sorry to hear about your experience with Mozy. Whether with Mozy or another provider, we encourage everyone to back up so hopefully you find something that better suits your needs. To put it in perspective, the average Mozy customer is backing up ~30GB and is able to complete the first backup in a few days, so you are definitely a power user.

    Per your comment about unlimited storage, Mozy does indeed offer unlimited storage for $4.95/mo and we have happy customers with many terabytes backed up to prove it. Yes, the initial backup may take weeks if you are pushing hundreds of GB’s or terabytes over a broadband connection, but the bottleneck 99% of the time is the upload speed offered by the ISP meaning this will be the case with any other online backup service… whether they admit it or not. The good news with a service like Mozy, is that once you complete that first backup it’s smooth sailing as the incremental backups kick in which typically take a few minutes or less.

    Good luck – and get those 500 GB’s of photo’s backed up!
    Mozy

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  10. Greetings Raoul,

    I’m the Business Development Manager for IDrive Online Backup. First of all, I’d like to say that I appreciate and wanted to thank you for sharing your experience regarding Mozy. We have heard many similar user stories from folks who have signed up for “unlimited” storage plans. As a marketing gimmick, having “unlimited” storage sounds great, but there is always a catch, as you now know first-hand.

    I welcome you to try our IDrive Online Backup, which offers 150GB for $4.95/mo (or $49.50/yr). The upload speed depends solely on your bandwidth… we do not artificially cap the upload speed. Also, IDrive is a proven, user-friendly, and very popular online backup service. I’m confident that your experience with IDrive will be undeniably better than other online backup services.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Haines
    Business Development Mgr.
    IDrive Online Backup

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  11. To add to Holger’s comment:

    I didn’t mention this aspect of their service at the outset, but the fact that JungleDisk is selling you a very nice client with flexible licensing at a reasonable price is still second to the fact that your data is within S3.

    JungleDisk doesn’t own those bytes, you do. If JungleDisk goes away, you have the client software and can still access your data. If you use S3-compatibility buckets, their client will even store data such that *any* S3 client can access it.

    To boot, JungleDisk provides example client code right there on their web site. So, absent their client software, you can write your own client to access JungleDisk (non-compatible) buckets.

    Bottom line is that there’s pretty much no way that any data you upload using JungleDisk could be held hostage or otherwise kept out of reach.

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  12. I’m with Keith. I’m also using JungleDisk for a while now. I also subscribe to their plus service. I tried Mozy for an article I wrote recently. I came to the conclusion that JungleDisk offers superior service. Amazons S3 is dirt cheap and JungleDisk gives you the ability to connect directly to your S3 buckets so you can access your data from your Finder.

    I don’t know if Amazon throttles your bandwidth but I highly doubt it.

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  13. Raoul: I’m the CEO of Carbonite. You’re right that any online vendor has to have some bandwidth limitations. You can’t have a situation where one guy with terabytes of data and really fast Internet connection hogs all your inbound bandwidth and makes it impossible for your other customers to get their backups done. Carbonite doesn’t throttle in the same way that Mozy does, but rather has an algorithm that distributes available data center bandwidth equitably across all users who happen to be online at that time. Sometimes it’s faster than other times, but the last test I did, I uploaded 20GB at an average rate of almost 8mbps – far faster than what you experienced with Mozy.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about the word “unlimited,” and as you point out if you have hundreds of GBs or more of data, the term may not be meaningful if you can’t get your backup done in a reasonable amount of time because of bandwidth. However, I still feel that not having a size limit at all is still beneficial to most users. A typical Carbonite customer has 20-30GB backed up initially, and then they add a little bit every day or so. Over the course of a year or two, their backups may double in size. But since they are only adding a little bit at a time, they don’t even notice that the backup is going on. The fact that you NEVER run out of space in this scenario is of great value to customers. So I still think most people would prefer it to a service where at some point your backup will stop working or you get bumped into a much higher price category.

    Regards,

    Dave Friend, CEO
    Carbonite, Inc.

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    1. Hands down, Carbonite has the better product. Unfortunately, Carbonite doesn’t seem to want additional customers. I huge portion people I know, including myself, use external drives for things like photo, video and music storage. Most laptops have way too small of hard drives to store all of this on the C: drive. Unfortunately, Carbonite will not back up anything on an external hard drive. So caps and all, Mozy is a at least a useable product and Carbonite is worthless. And Mozy gets my money every month.

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  14. I’ve always been skeptical of any all-you-can-eat storage service. They can only afford to operate as long as they have a significant number of users that use *less* storage per month than the fees cover. Not a sustainable model.

    I use the offsite disk method myself. I just rotate drives at another location whenever I find myself there (usually weekly). It works, and it only costs me the price of a USB/Firewire disk (~$100/terabyte when I last purchased one).

    I do, however, use an online service for a handful of things. I’ve been doing this via JungleDisk for almost a year, and have nothing bad to say about the service. You pay once for the client, and can install it on as many systems as you’d like. They allow you to encrypt your data before you send it, if you so choose, break data up into multiple buckets, etc.

    I pay $1/month for their premium service, and I probably save half of that (if not all of it) when I have to resume a large file upload every day (or, several times per day).

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  15. Do the math…

    Mozy CEO makes $750,000 per year
    Mozy staff with benefits (80 employees) make $700,000 per year
    Data center/bandwidth costs $250,000 per year
    Advertising costs $3,000,000 per year
    Operational costs $500,000

    Cost to acquire one free backup account $60
    Cost to acquire one paid $4.95 backup account $100

    In effect, they are paying people to store data with them.

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