Mozy vs. Carbonite: Mac Backup Smackdown

127 Comments

mozy_carbonite

If you look at the amount of advertising out there these days, you’d think the Mac vs. PC war is a mere slap fight compared to the war being raged for your data backups. They want your data, and they want it now!

In one corner you have Mozy, which shares corporate DNA with former Mac (s aapl) backup champion, Retrospect. In the other corner is Carbonite, which began supporting the Mac this year. Mozy had almost a 2-year head start on Carbonite, but the software race doesn’t always go to the first one out of the gate. I gave both products an intense 3-month test. Which one deserves your data? Read on.

Round One: Staying Power

I wouldn’t trust my data to a brand-new company that could go out of business when I need my data (X-Drive, anyone?). Carbonite and Mozy are both well established. Of the two, Carbonite has the better name recognition, referencing Han Solo’s preservation in the “Star Wars” series. But Carbonite also seems to attract bad press like the Millennium Falcon attracted mynocks.

A server failure in 2007 lead to quite a few lawsuits, but according to Carbonite, no data was lost. Additionally, Carbonite was caught using “the Force” to influence reviews on Amazon — and by the Force I mean its employees. Carbonite uses Rush Limbaugh as a spokesperson, and you can’t get more controversial than Rush. However, Mozy has the “Mozy gal,” who has almost as high a following as Deltalina. This is a tough choice, and we’ll call Round One a draw.

Round Two: Setup and Installation

Carbonite cleans Mozy’s clock in software design. For reference, both Mozy and Carbonite require Tiger, but Carbonite is Intel (s intc) only.

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Both programs have assistants that automatically pick your critical data, as well as let you manually decide what to back up and how much bandwidth to use. Because these programs upload large amounts of data, the average system could take weeks to back up. Neither program will back up external media. Mozy claims it does, but if you detach it, it forgets the configuration. Carbonite flat-out refuses to back up externals. If you keep critical files, such as iTunes or iPhoto libraries, on something besides your main boot drive, neither product will back it up reliably.

Mozyconfigwindow

carbonitedisable

Mozy is a background program that can easily be quit, reconfigured or uninstalled without asking for an Administrator password. Like the Death Star, one well-placed shot, or mouse click, renders this program useless. On the other hand, Carbonite runs as a daemon, requiring Administrator approval to change or quit. Mozy allows you to back up other users, but doesn’t always run when switching users.

Dare I say that Mozy operates like a clumsy blaster and Carbonite is the elegant light saber? The clear winner in this round is Carbonite. If you have more than one user account on your system, it’s time to go home, because Carbonite has won.

Round Three: Restoration

Carbonite takes a blow to the chin in this category. Both services offer a web-based restore program, not requiring installation of their software. Unfortunately, Carbonite does not handle Mac OS packages well, so I could not restore OmniOutliner and Keynote data files via its web site, since its software saw them as folders rather then files.

carboniteproblems

However, Carbonite restored those files properly after installing the client software. Unfortunately, after installing the client software for either product on the restoring computer, the services got confused and stopped backing up my old computer.

The process for restoring Mozy is a bit more complex. Mozy has you choose the files to restore, and emails you when they’re “ready.” The prep for a 6GB file took about an hour. Mozy also allows you to order a DVD of your files at a rather hefty price of 50 cents a gigabyte, plus a processing fee of $29.95 and a next-day shipping charge of $40.

Neither company wins this round: restoration isn’t easy or efficient. Both programs, go back into your corners and make this process easier for subscribers.

Round Four: Support

Neither company includes phone support, but Carbonite allows you to purchase it for $19.95 a year and Mozy provides it with their “Pro” package. I tested support via free online chat sessions. Of the multiple times I contacted support for both real and made-up problems, both companies failed to provide quality tech support folks that could understand the most basic of questions.

Emailing questions was equally frustrating. I consistently received conflicting and contradictory information. This is very scary when we’re talking about backups. Carbonite annoyed me more because their reps would reference instructions they were going to email me, trying to quickly close the chat. Neither company wins this round and both deserve an upper cut for lousy tech support.

Round Five: Security

Mozy, how could you let your guard down? Its software, when used properly, has all your critical and very personal data stored on its servers. When resetting your password, no security questions are asked. All you need is access to someone’s email and you can quickly and easily reset the Mozy password on an account. Email accounts can be hacked and if all you need is someone’s email password to get into any file on their computer, well, that’s a foul stench even Princess Leia can smell from across the galaxy.

mozypasswordreset

carbonitereset

Carbonite forces you to answer a series of personal questions before it’ll let you reset, and not the standard biographical info you can find on the web about anyone. The clear winner in this security round is Carbonite.

Round Six: Cost

Both Carbonite and Mozy have limited trial versions, but these tests were done with the full versions. Mozy offers a multitiered plan of 2GB of backup for home users for free. Unlimited backups for home users are $4.95 per month (though 20 percent off codes are easy to find). Business users of the Pro version pay $3.95 a month plus 50 cents per GB. Carbonite is simpler at $54.95 a year for everyone ($4.58 a month, for those without calculators). Carbonite is less expensive, but Mozy does offer the free version. We’ll score this round a draw.

The Winner

Overall, there’s no clear winner in this fight. If you have multiple users on your computer, Carbonite wins by default because it easily backups all accounts and prevents others from tampering. Additionally, if security is of high concern, then Carbonite is also the winner due to Mozy’s terrible security practices. However, if you have exclusive control of your email and don’t have multiple people using your Mac, then Mozy might be the better choice since it has the friendlier pricing plans. Who wins? I’ll leave that up to you to let me know in the comments, and/or with your wallet.

But wait, a new contender approaches the ring! New to the scene is Internet darling BackBlaze. The winner of the Mozy vs. Carbonite bout will go on to fight BackBlaze in a further review, coming soon. Make your predictions now.

127 Comments

Matthew Dornquast

I’m surprised you haven’t tried CrashPlan? We’ve been backing up longer on the Mac (2007) and have more features than either product mentioned.

Not only were we first to mac, we were first with web restore, and have better security and performance.

Brian

I follow both Mozy and Carbonite on twitter. They both are claiming that this review was misleading and dishonest. That must mean it was pretty fair and balanced :-)

Personally, I’m cool with Mozy’s security issues. I use Carbonite at work (more secure stuff) and mozy at home (if the world wants to see pictures of my kids, more power to them).

You might consider in the future doing a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each. Summarize so we can make a decision for ourselves.

BTW, Am I the only one that’s impressed that this review was even allowed despite the fact Mozy’;s ad appears to the side.

What to read on the GigaOM network

[…] 17, 2009 | 10:50 AM PT | 0 comments Confessions of an unbranded professional (WebWorkerDaily) Mozy vs. Carbonite: Mac backup smackdown (TheAppleBlog) Windows 7’s impact, and Microsoft’s more open development (OStatic) […]

S August

Does anyone else have issues with Carbonite running the CPU at between 90-120% (sometimes even when idling)? I basically have to disable it while I work or else everything crawls.

I had tried Mozy, Backblaze, and Carbonite trials. Mozy couldn’t restore a few simple files in my testing without errors which scared me. Backblaze and Carbonite seemed like a draw function wise. However, I picked Carbonite because I liked the interface better and the price with coupon (20% off) was a deal. I just wish I would have noticed the CPU slow down before I bought the 3 year plan. Next time I won’t do this type of testing while on vacation so I’ll notice the slow down which is horrible.

Steven

I used Mozy for 2 years relatively happy. Then I started realizing terrible performance on my new MacBookPro. I was concerned and figured it was Mozy so I uninstalled to test. It was Mozy that was bringing my system to a crawl. I started using Backblaze and found it to not peg my system at all noticeably unless using very bandwidth intense applications. Interface is smooth, cost is the same and now they offer backing up of external drives which is why I had Mozy in the first place. I highly recommend Backblaze. I have tested all the players and this has been the best by far.

Matt Hargus

I’ve used Mozy, Carbonite, and Backblaze, and I have to say that Backblaze is the clear winner for me. As others have posted, it does its job and stays out of the way, similar to how Time Machine functions. I haven’t tried the external drive backup feature, but for me it isn’t a make-or-break item.

Joe Eversole

Mozy is ultimately owned by EMC, one of (if not the) largest storage companies in the world. If you’re worried about your backup provider shutting down without warning, I’d imagine Mozy would be least likely to disappear in the middle of the night.

Mozy’s interface leaves a lot to be desired. Have you tried to exclude anything from backups (Virtual Machines in the Documents folder, for example)? I hope you have your Spotlight Programming guides handy…

If you’ve got terabytes of data, you’re going to be better off getting a large drive or two and getting a temperature controlled safety deposit box at your local bank to store them in.

Dave Greenbaum

If you read the link about “corporate” DNA mentioned it will take you to the FAQ which states

“Q: What is Decho and what does it mean for Mozy?
A: In November 2008, EMC announced that Mozy and Pi Corporation, another EMC acquisition, have combined to form Decho Corporation. Decho brings together two Internet services companies acquired by EMC. Making Decho an independent company will help accelerate our growth and increase our focus and ability to meet customer needs. Decho remains wholly owned by EMC and retains access to EMC resources and technology. Mozy is Decho’s flagship product, and the new company continues to invest heavily in Mozy’s online backup and recovery services.”

Translation. EMC is involved with Mozy, but retains the right to close Mozy without affecting the EMC brands. As they say “it is an independent company” Mozy is less stable IMHO that it was when EMC branded it under their name.

Jeff

I’ve been a Mozy customer for several years now. I started out with it on my old PC and then moved over to the Mac version when I switched to a Mac. That being said, I’m not totally satisfied with Mozy for Mac. The feature set on the Mac client is inferior to the PC side (e.g., no way to ‘pause’ a backup or throttle it – this is a killer when it’s backing up a particular large set of data and I just want to jump online for a few minutes. All I can do is Stop the backup and, hopefully, remember to restart it).

Also, and this really stinks, the Mozy for Mac client will PREVENT your Mac from auto-sleeping. That is, if your Mac is set to sleep after nn minutes of inactivity, the Mozy client will simply disallow this behavior. When I contacted Mozy support about this (through multiple channels) I was told that this was in effect a ‘feature’, there was NO fix coming for this, and I could “always manually put my Mac to sleep”. Ugh.

Thanks for the article. Performance, customization and price is fine for me and I continue to use Mozy. I haven’t looked into switching and really there’s nothing in this article that overwhelmingly would push me towards Carbonite. For now I’ll just continue to work with Mozy’s shortcomings and hope they fix some of the issues and come to their senses regarding the sleep issue.

Jake

getdropbox.com does not back up your entire computer. It just backs up one folder. You can put anything in that folder you want though, which comes in handy with littlesnapper across multiple machines. :-)

Darrin

I don’t see how anyone can think Mozy is a clear winner. Mozy is pretty mediocre. Carbonite is slightly better in my opinion mostly because it is more secure and seems more Mac-like. Both are better then nothing, though.

V Manav

Mozy interface put me off. So it was Carbonite. But they don’t have 2GB free account. I found IDrive offers it. How does IDrive compare? Any other (established company) that offers atleast 2GB free? Else I have to put up with Mozy :(

James

This seems to be OK with administrative work but when it comes to Freelance or Agency ‘Design’ the amount of data is in the TerraBytes range and these solutions (across the internet) are, and will always be, impractical.

doug jones

Many of the problems with managing large files via SaaS model solutions revolve around bandwidth limitations (especially on upload). Storage is extremely cheap – it is the access that is expensive. If you are looking to work a TB of files from a remote location as if it were on your local desktop you need a dedicated bandwidth connection 10 MB/s, 100 MB/s, etc. to the datacenter where your files are stored. But if what you are really looking to do is preserve 99% of the files and only access the most current files on a regular basis there are other solutions like manually delivering the files via removable/portable drives and then making them retrievable via the internet – existing bandwidth connections are often sufficient. Spansafe is a solution you may consider as we have several partnerships with bandwidth providers to offer affordable point-to-point options and a variety of solutions designed for transfer and access to large files.

Bob Smith

It’s very noticeable that storage charges haven’t been dropping nearly as fast as storage density is increasing. S3 still charges $0.15/GB, the same as a couple of years ago. That makes them quite expensive for larger backups.

Any good solutions for a TB or 2? Putting aside upload times, which would run into weeks of runtime depending on your uplink speed, I’m not sure Mozy or Carbonite would let you do it. You’d be talking $150/month/TB with S3 or Rackspace just for storage. It would be cheaper to co-locate a custom box (I’m thinking Solaris 10 with a RAIDZ2 array) than to use their service. If you don’t care about data integrity, colocate a Mini with an attached external drive.

With rackspace cloud storage there is no data transfer fee at all.

Last I checked Rackspace had substantial bandwidth charges.

Ian

Last I checked Rackspace had substantial bandwidth charges.

Nope, not with Jungle Disk.

Bob Smith

I see your point about Jungle Disk and bandwidth charges, though Jungle Disk’s monthly fee is arguably prepaid bandwidth. Still, the real problem with S3 and Rackspace is storage costs, which are way too high if you have storage needs greater than a flash drive.

Nick Onken

I’ve been using JungleDisk for 4 months now and it’s been great. I purposely chose it over these two because I felt much safer with Amazon.

Hanoch

“Carbonite uses Rush Limbaugh as a spokesperson, and you can’t get more controversial than Rush.”

Is it me, or does anyone else smell a liberal around here?

Chris A

Rush is controversial.
That is a fact.
So is (insert the name of your most hated liberal radio host).

Myerspercussion

Rush is only controversial because, as a nation, we are a buch of asleep-at-the-switch sheep. We’re consumers, not citizens, buying in to the BS the media feed us. We need to wake TF up and start understanding the gravity of the issues we’re facing… like WE’RE AT WAR — and start taking the appropriate actions. If that’s controversial, check please.

Jpear

I would NOT purchase or use Carbonite for free just because they use Limbaugh as an endorser! What pompous ass!

FrankA

You don’t have to be a liberal to recognize Rush Limbaugh for what he is. A pompous hate-spewing asshat. And that is reason enough for me to go with Mozy over Carbonite.

Jon Henshaw

LMAO! I believe Backblaze is an independent or possibly part of the Green or Libertarian party. Either way, it’s the best choice of the three in my opinion.

Dr Jay

Rush is the King, and much more on the mark than the loons will admit!

Nobama4me

You don’t have to like Rush, just keep listening and he’ll bring you into the light.

Tom

Great Mac based writeup, thanks! I’ve been watching the same solutions, and Backblaze.

During my research, I located http://www.onlinefilebackupreport.com and they did a review of each. Mozy, Carbonite and Backblaze. They talk about the features across the two, and like your review, some of the company information as well. While you review was usage based, which I like, theirs is a feature by feature report on each product, and it’s pretty detailed.

What’s cool is that they even talk about other services for file archiving, since you rightly point out in your article that if its and external device backup, and you remove the device, the backup service loses the configuration, or they simply think you no longer need those files and so they will delete them after 30 days or whatever.

In the end, I was not happy with any “one” product. I’m using multiple services now for backup and archive service. I’m also getting file syncing as a benefit, across multiple platforms including mobile. Thanks again for the write up- can’t wait to see your review for Backblaze too.

Rob Dewhirst

I have been using jungledisk for a little under a month now. It’s slow but cheap. It also has supported all three major platforms since day 1 and continues to do so. With rackspace cloud storage there is no data transfer fee at all.
Of course, I don’t use their software for backup. I use rsync.

Dalton

I have been using Backblaze for 6 months and have had a very good experience with it. I am currently backing up about 350GB. It was easy to set up, runs quietly in the background and doesn’t slow down my machine. It is covering my main hard drive as well as an external drive. I haven’t had to do a restore yet, thank goodness, but the options for restore seem very reasonable and efficient. (Backups are delivered as a download, a DVD, or in extreme cases on an external drive).

I am quite happy with the service so far and am curious to see how it fares in your tests.

Jim Reardon

I can’t get mozy to work — and I’ve had 3 open tickets that haven’t been responded to in just about a month now (despite many people saying they’d get it escalated past their first-line outsourced tech support).

I can’t backup (worse still — it claimed my system backups were running but it was backing nothing up), it consumed tons of resources (90% cpu. When idle. 3 GB RAM, also when idle), and I also can’t restore what I did manage to back up (the website freezes on the spinner).

I haven’t tried carbonite — there were already some bad reviews out there so I took a pass.

I signed up for backblaze which uses only a small pittance of my resources, has been backing up flawlessly, and has MUCH BETTER support (it’s downright impressive how good they are).

There are some limitations: no backing up files >4 GB, won’t back up certain folders (like /Applications), but it WILL backup any external hard drives you have.

fitzage

I tried out Mozy and it was doing OK, but then it started getting really sluggish. This was after it decided one day to make me run the setup assistant again. Not good.

So now I’m still attempting my first backup with Backblaze. It actually lets me use the insane bandwidth I have here at work, and as a result is almost 2/3 of the way through my initial upload after about 3 days, where Mozy only made it halfway after more than a week.

Also, when I tell Backblaze to pause, it does so almost immediately. Mozy took a long time and then a long time to get started again. So far, I’m much more impressed with Backblaze.

Howie Isaacks

Very good info. What I would like to find is a good, Mac compatible enterprise class online backup solution. What lot of people are unaware of is that if they have hundreds of gigabytes of data, or terabytes, these solutions may not be appropriate, and they need lots of bandwidth. I’m currently researching a good online backup solution for one of my customers in Dallas.

Ian

Recently, I was evaluating all online backup solutions.

In the end, I decided on Jungle Disk as I have 3 computers to backup plus a percentage of an external drive.

As such, Jungle Disk was the cheapest – however, you do pay by the GB. Currently I pay $9USD / month (60GB) to have all three computers backed up to my satisfaction.

FWIW, I also use Time Machine on all three computers so the off site backup is a redundancy.

MrMojo

@ Catmanrog:

Backing up your data using one of these services is an excellent way to keep your data safe in the case of theft of your computer/external drives and a disaster such as a fire. Keeping irreplaceable data in one physical location is not a very good idea…

As far as Carbonite goes: any company that hires Rush Limbaugh as its spokesman is out of the running as far as I am concerned. Thanks for the heads-up!

piratemacfan

It’s a wash. Any company that hires Rush Limbaugh as its spokesman gets a head start as far when I start evaluating, as far as I am concerned. Cheers!

piratemacfan

Oops. My cut and paste effort fell short. I’ll try again:

It’s a wash. Any company that hires Rush Limbaugh as its spokesman gets a head start when I start evaluating, as far as I am concerned.

BTW-helpful article. Giving both Carbonite and Mozy a trial. Carbonite does seem a bit easier to use. However, how to evaluate reliability in an emergency? That’s the crux of the issue.

Mario

Another vote for Carbonite – especially with Rush’s endorsment.

George Worley

Carbinite is out of the running because they failed to backup my external drives When I complained, they said it was by design and I need to move everything to the internal hard drive…. Well that is kind of hard since I have 100 GB internal hard drive and a 500 GB external HD with about 300 GB of music on it. Mozy is very slow. Elephant is too costly plus will not backup my INBOX as it is over 2 GB on three acounts.

Paul Blackman

Sorry, your comments loose all credibility when you base your opinion on who advertises the product. Stick to the facts related to the product and maybe I will believe you.
I have used Carbonite for over a year and found it to be great.

Ben T.

Blind hate is a cruel master. What does a company’s choice of advertising have on the usefulness of its product?

Nobama4me

but at least you’re listening to Rush, there’s hope for you yet.

Brandon

My vote is for elephantdrive – I like the web interface better and it uses Amazon S3 so I feel good about the storage.

Catmanrog

None of this stuff. Why go nuts with backups when there is Superduper, that really works ?

servantofjc316

I have used many different backup programs such as superduper Ghost etc, When I go to use the hard drive to restore the file the Hard drive or CD/DVD has either gone bad or the data is corrupted. I have made it a normal part of my life to always have more then one backup. So using a online back in conjunction with an external drive or CD/DVD is a good idea.

Adam

I like Mozy personally. Never had a single problem with it, its affordable, and even the FREE version works really great!

Dave

i was told Safecopy was better than both of these two and at $50 a year for 150 GB seems fair enough

Tim

I think backing up external drives is important, and Backblaze claims to do just that at the same price as Mozy and Carbonite.

Any good or bad experiences out there?

https://www.backblaze.com/

Jon Henshaw

I used Mozy for quite some time until Backblaze came out. While I thought Mozy did the job, Backblaze was much better. As I wrote here:

“Mozy throttles your upload connection, uses an unreasonable amount of resources, and can occasionally get in your face with application messages. On the other hand, Backblaze allows you to upload your files as fast as your connection will allow, appears to leave a very small footprint on your computer when it’s running, and runs completely in the background (I have yet to see a message pop up from it.)”

I couldn’t recommend Backblaze more. It just works, stays out of my face, and doesn’t use up too many resources. I’m looking forward to your next smackdown.

ken MacDonald

I don’t know why, but carbonite keeps going belly up on me, and has worked only a few weeks out of the few months i’ve been a subscriber. Free tech support by email is just like the article says: lousy. Let’s make that with a capital L: Lousy. It’s been longer than two weeks since my service went south, and about every third day i get another email asking for more information, but no fix to try so far. To be fair, it seems to be working on two other computers here.

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