Mozy: Great, Until You Need to Restore

This is the second and final part of my account of my experiences with the on-line backup service offered by Mozy. The first part is here.

As I related in my last Mozy-related post, I started using the on-line backup service in late 2007, and all went reasonably well at first. The initial backup took well over a month, but – once it was complete – it was a great load off my mind to know that I had 30 gigabytes worth of photos, music, personal and work-related documents, and applications and settings saved remotely. My data was protected against both machine failure and – because my data was spread out all over Mozy’s servers – theft, fire, or tsunamis.

Then my hard drive failed. I had Computer ER, a computer-repair shop here in Missoula, replace it with a new one, and looked ahead to restoring my files quickly and easily from my Mozy backup.

There are several methods of restoring from a Mozy backup, but the company’s tech support told me that the ideal method for my situation was what is called a “web restore” (i.e., downloads, as opposed to using the Mozy application on the desktop, which didn’t seem able to find all of the files I had specified for backup).

I signed onto the Mozy web site and began my web restore. I selected the files that I wanted restored (which turned out to be far from all of them) and submitted my request.

In a few hours, I received an email from Mozy indicating that my requested files were now available for download. Following the link, I found a web page with about seven downloadable files, each named something like “download 1″ and each containing about 1 GB of data. I also learned that these downloads would only be available for seven days, at which point I would need to start the web restore process over from scratch.

Over the next few days, I downloaded all of the seven files, which turned into “disk image” files on my desktop. These had names like “restore_2009_02_27_17_23_572237.dmg”; when I expanded these files, they generated “mounted disks” with names like “345802.2.dmg.”

As I explored the various mounted disks, I discovered that fully five of them contained a folder named Documents, none of which were complete.

  • One version of Documents contained the subfolder “writing” but nothing else; another version of Documents contained a version of “writing” and several other subfolders, etc.
  • My Documents subfolder “Clients” was available in several versions, none of which contained all of my original Clients subfolders.
  • In turn, one version of my Clients folder would contain the subfolder for a given client but only some of the completed projects that should have been in that folder; the rest were scattered across several other versions of the Clients folder, in turn contained within several versions of “writing,” within several versions of Documents, etc., ad nauseam (and I do mean nausea).

What all of this meant was that I could not easily drag and drop the contents of the restored files back into the proper locations on my hard drive. If I dragged Documents from one mounted disk onto the hard drive, the next version of Documents I dragged in would erase the first one. I couldn’t even drag and drop the first level of subfolders, since, for example, I had several versions of the subfolder “writing,” each containing different files.

After mucking about in disbelief for a while, I determined that the only way to reassemble the files and hierarchies I had before would be to go folder by folder, starting at the lowest level of subfolder and working backwards to the main folder, combining files as I went. For my Documents folder alone, this would have meant having five finder windows open at once in order to be able to compare the contents of the various subfolders, so as to ensure I wasn’t leaving anything out.

At a rough estimate, this would have taken me days and days. I quickly gave up on this method. Too hard to monitor, too hard to be sure I was being complete, too much time wasted. Instead, I pulled all of the versions of the contents of my various restored fragments of my Documents folders into specially named folders on my hard drive. It’s all there, and I should be able to find everything by using my laptop’s search function, but I can’t just navigate through folders to an old project like I could before.*

To say this is not the outcome I’d been expecting from a restore would be an understatement.

Thinking maybe I’d missed something, I checked the Mozy web site. Nope, they do advertise their service as being “easy to use,” and – as far as I can find  there is no fine print reading “unless you actually need to restore anything” or “but of course your file hierarchy will be left in smoking ruins.” The site also presents a list of snarky alternatives to Mozy (as in, only an idiot wouldn’t use Mozy), such as “pay $200/year for an online backup service that uses old, mediocre software.” In fact, after this experience, it is difficult to imagine software more mediocre than Mozy’s, at least when it comes to the actual restore process.

My upgraded hard drive has approximately four times as much space as my old one. Looking ahead to the kind of shambles that would result from this sort of restore of that much more information, I quickly decided that there must be a better way and decided to cancel my Mozy account. This put me on the radar of the company’s Customer Retention department; a representative contacted me, writing:

“We would love the chance to work with you to resolve any issues you have and to make sure your experience with Mozy is positive. If you like, I can escalate your issue and get any problem or concern is resolved quickly.”

In response, I explained the problems I’d been having in essentially the same terms as above, and  saying that I felt that Mozy was advertising more than it was capable of delivering  I reiterated my desire to cancel my account and requested all of my money back ($5 a month for about a year, so around $60).

I take it as a final verdict on Mozy that the next contact from Customer Retention was not an explanation of how I’d gotten something wrong, how the restore process is really easy if you just take these additional steps, etc.

Nope. The next contact simply advised that my account had been cancelled and a whole $5 had been refunded to my account, and expressed the “hope that we can do business in the future.”

Not likely.

*I also discovered that I had apparently not saved all the files necessary to restore my calendar; that was my fault, not Mozy’s, but it’s a good word to the wise that even backing up requires some technical knowledge to do well.

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