Online backups on the go

11 Jan 2011
Posted by Laptop Junction

Making backups isn't a particularly favorite task for many - especially not while traveling around with a laptop. Unfortunately a complete loss of data has never been closer. Nonetheless the internet can reduce some of these data-loss risks. Connecting a laptop to the Internet is a good opportunity to backup a few things to an online archive - not only when traveling. An impression of Mozy Pro, an online backup service - while trucking The Machine around in Europe.
 

Backups on the Go.

The ones who have suffered a complete loss of precious data know what its like  – if I only had taken the time….! Laptop theft, damaged hard disks, virus infected files, the risk on this kind of mayhem simply increases while on the go. Pictures are irreplaceable and loss of tedious researched travel info can be a real pain. Anticipating data loss while on the go is not so easy. Where to keep backups when there’s only a bit of luggage or a USB memory stick / pen drive in a wallet or keyring? Typical items on the thieves radar.

Online backups on the go - connecting to a public WIFI signal
Online backups on the go - using a public WIFI internet connection of the mountain village. (Zahara de la Sierra - Spain)

Those who travel with a laptop tend to make an effort to connect to the internet somewhere - it's one of the primary motifs for carrying a laptop around. And once connected it's a good moment to get an online backup done in the background. An impression of Mozy Pro.
 

Mozy Pro on the Go

Mozy Pro is not particularly made for those who travel with laptops, notebooks and netbooks. But it’s an interesting backup service to consider while traveling. MozyPro is designed to automatically backup any new data over the internet once connected. The backup software comes in a Windows and Mac version.

Online backups on the go with Mozy Pro
Online backups on the go with Mozy Pro - Windows Client V2.4.3.0 - Mac version also available

Here you find a real life test of Mozy Pro in average travel conditions where there’s regular internet access though with a bit of instability. Meaning the internet connection is either a bit slow, there are disconnects or there’s simply just a short time available. Very common conditions while traveling. Testing took place in Morocco, Spain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
 

The average internet connection 

Those who travel and connect to the internet on a regular basis know that the average (public) internet connection can be unstable. Usually internet access is established through WIFI or cellular 3G – adding unpredictable wireless effects to connection speed and stability.

Mozy Pro was tested using somewhat slow internet access with limited time to actually make backups - meaning backups have to be aborted sometimes. Next to this laptop battery capacity is also taken into account – because access to AC mains while traveling is not always available.
 

Mozy Pro backup rules

Using Mozy Pro on the go successfully takes a bit of preparation. It’s a about creating a backup scheme – known as a Mozy Pro Backup rule. The backup rule captures important files which should be saved online.

As a practical approach for Mozy Pro on the go – it’s best to create 2 backup rules. One for a quick online backup anticipating little time, slow connection or limited laptop battery capacity. A second larger online backup rule when AC mains is available and a few hours to spare. 

Mozy Pro backup set editor
Mozy Pro backup set editor - preparing online backup sets

A nice addition would be a priority of file extensions or file size to back upped first. With limited time, laptop battery life or 3G prepaid bandwidth it’s nice to have important stuff go first in the backup queue. When times up and the backup has to be aborted at least the smaller important stuff is already saved at the backup server.

Before starting both backup rules where executed while connected to a fast and stable internet connection. This way only changes in the files compared to the previous backup (incremental backup) are stored online.
 

Mozy Pro travel configuration

It took a bit of tinkering to put Mozy Pro in a travel state. Meaning non-evasive on battery capacity and  should only run when told. With the Mozy Pro version reviewed (2.2.4.0) there’s no single button to get this done. Automatic backups were suspended in the Mozy Pro client so it only runs when manually activated.

To prevent any laptop battery usage by Mozy pro in the background, the Mozy Pro service was suspended also. This had to be done in the Windows Computer Management window stopping the Mozy Pro service.

Although the latter conflicts with it’s intended use – battery live is more important than having Mozy Pro run in the background.
 

Mozy Pro in action

The first online backup test was done using a WIFI connection found somewhere on the go. With no AC mains around a quick backup rule was given a go. It was selected in “Backup sets” in the settings section.  After starting the Windows service again and pressing the “Try Again” button in the status window Mozy Pro launched the backup.

Mozy Pro Online backup status
Mozy Pro Online backup status - showing a few backup details.

It takes a while before Mozy Pro has a backup set ready for online backup – it shows as “Creating volume shadow copy” in the status window. The time used depends on the amount of files it has to scan for changes since the last backup. If nothing was backup-ed before it makes a full backup. In this case a full backup was already done – so it's creating incremental backups only.

During the first backup attempts a weak WIFI connection was lost several times in a row. Mozy Pro signaled this in the status window, unable to continue the backup. Because Mozy Pro is on manual – the “Try again” was pressed again. Causing it do a full scan again – which in this case wasn’t really necessary because nothing was changed anyway. It would be nice to be able to resume a previous attempt without scanning the disk again. This to save battery life.

When the online backup ran – there was some feedback about what was transferred at which speed. Pretty important feedback with an unstable internet connection and limited battery capacity. What was missing was a prediction how much time was needed. Though there in some feedback in how much % of a file was already transferred.

Online backup in progress over public WIFI connection
Online backup in progress over public WIFI connection

The backup completed in about 5 minutes – a good result knowing a few important files where saved online. It would be nice though to have a few session statistics displayed how much time it took, how much data was transferred at which transfer speed. With speedy results it might be worth to run the larger backup set for also. The info is available in settings but takes another logon to review the backup run.
 

Mozy Pro on a 3G cellular connection

In contrary to WIFI – a cellular 3G connection is less prone to disconnects. Though the connection speed depends on actual traffic at the cellular access point / base station. Using a prepaid connection – there’s limited bandwidth available, in this case 100Mb per day.

Again the quick backup rule was started with a few files changed. At this time it would be nice to know how large the backup (how many Mb) would be.

Online backup in progress over prepaid 3G connection
Online backup in progress over a prepaid 3G internet connection

The backup completed successfully. Actual bandwidth usage was checked afterwards in the settings window. Luckily it was well within the 100 Mb daily bandwidth allowing more 3G traffic for the remainder of the day.
The results window above shows the total amount of files in the online backup archive - not the size of the last executed incremental backup. The actual backup size can be found in backup reports under the settings button.
 

Mozy Pro and large files

Big files like high resolution pictures or the dreaded PST file from Microsoft Outlook pose a problem for online backups in a travel setting. There’s no way around it than resizing and compressing pictures in a lower resolution to have them transferred on slower connections. An accumulation of pictures from several days simply requires a fast connection to get stuff transferred in a few hours of laptop battery life.

Large PST files created by Microsoft Outlook are unmanageable for online backups on the go. Switching either to webmail or a different offline e-mail client like Eudora seems a better option. Still mail folders can best be kept small.

A better solution is to automatically store mail online – like GMAIL does - even when used with an off-line mail reader. This way online backups of e-mail can be fully skipped. 
 

File restore on the go

Assuming full loss of a laptop – previously backupped files can be accessed through the web service of Mozy Pro. This makes retrieval of important data possible in Internet Café’s.

Restoring to a different PC using Mozy Pro software triggered a license transfer message. Because it was unknown if the license could be transferred back again this test was skipped.
 

Mozy Pro online upgrade

During testing a pop-up message appeared that Mozy Pro had downloaded a new version. (2.4.3.0) The message came as a bit of a surprise – meaning it had downloaded the new version somewhere during previous server connections. The advanced setting “automatically update the client software without prompting me” was not set. It seems like a software bug in Mozy Pro V2.4.3.0

On a 3G connection with limited daily bandwidth it could have drained the remaining bandwidth for the day. Luckily it happened on a WIFI connection with most of the testing done already.
 

Looking back at Mozy Pro

Mozy Pro online backup service also works while traveling. A bit of tinkering is necessary to protect battery life and cellular prepaid bandwidth. On a weak WIFI internet connection many disconnects causes unnecessary file scanning by Mozy Pro to detect new changes and drained the laptop battery. A mobile version of Mozy Pro would be nice with all of the above implemented as simple push buttons.
 

Online backups on the road - Mozy Pro Website through WIFI or 3G
Online backups on the road through WIFI or 3G - Mozy Pro Website


For large picture sets - a compression tool resizing and compressing pictures to a predefined size would help to backup precious one-time shots. A few weeks of picture taking can easily amount to a few Gb of pictures. As an extra - it would help to have a point and click interface to select the most precious pictures to be uploaded in original untouched format.

3G cellular internet connections used with Mozy Pro:

Maroc Telecom in Morocco
T-Mobile in Germany
Yoigo in Spain
Movidata in Spain
Orange in France
Vodafone in the Netherlands

More information about Mozy Pro:

Mozy Pro online backup service

 

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