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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.