Blog Post

Mozy vs. Carbonite: Mac Backup Smackdown

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.

carbonitebackup

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 Responses to “Mozy vs. Carbonite: Mac Backup Smackdown”

  1. Very nicely done article. I am listing it as a resource in an article that will be posting on my site later this morning to give readers a Mac perspective.

    Are you aware if Mozy has changed their policy since this article is so popular, hopefully they’ve noticed.

  2. I use Amazon s3 for backing up my data. I first encrypt data using “truecrypt” and then upload data on amazon s3 using “cyberduck” [It is a mac client you can download from cyberduck.ch ..you can download bunch of free utilities for uploading/downloading data to/from amazon ].

    It costs only few cents per month to use amazon s3 webservices. Private encryption of my files gives me peace of mind. I believe amazon will release some client of their own to upload/download files in future.

  3. Abraham Watts

    Currently I am using BackupandShare.com for my pc backup. It is a great service for personal use or people looking for inexpensive online backup. It is very simple to use with features like incremental automatic and scheduled backup. With them I am getting unlimited backup space and mobile access too. I don’t think other services are providing all these features.

  4. Wayne Hamilton

    I have never used online backup service but now wish to try one, which is in affordable prize and reliable for my data. So with BackupandShare . com, can I say I am at the right place?

  5. teetotaler

    I’ve tried a few different services over the past year and so far have found these the best based on ease of use and reliability:

    a) DropBox
    – ‘Instant’ online backup
    – Very ease to use and is reliable
    – The files can be accessed online via their portal when I am traveling
    – Only negative issue is that it comes with 2GB for free and upgrades are expensive.

    b) Wuala
    This is a whole new concept in online storage, need extra space but don’t want to pay for it? Then you can get online storage by sharing any extra disk space you have on your hard drive!

    I use both and the combination has worked well for me.

  6. I have just switched to ‘www.BackupandShare.com’ for online backup. I am currently using a free version of BackupandShare.com and it is working just fine. I can take incremental backup either daily or weekly as per my schedule.

    With Backupandshare.com windows mobile Backup solution, comes free. I can take backup of my windows mobile version for 5.0. I was looking out for a backup solution for 5.0 version and was not able to find one for taking online backups. This solution met my needs.

    No wonder they are the latest topper in http://www.top10onlinebackup.com/ list.

  7. Crashplan! I am very pleased with Crashplan. It’s not perfect, but I love that I can run it on Mac, Linux, Windows, and now even Solaris. And I like the file delta based backups and data deduplication. (on the Crashplan+ version) And yes, now they have unlimited online backup to Crashplan Central, but remember you can send your data to multiple destinations, locally (USB or LAN) or offsite to a friend for free, in addition to their Central servers.

    Do these other systems use in-file delta backups? (like Rsync?) I don’t see that on the Carbonite site, nor on the Backblaze one. Have not looked at Mozy yet. Maybe they do but just don’t advertise it. It’s the main reason I chose Crashplan for myself and my clients. But also because I could stick a huge drive in a friends computer and send all my backups there for free, pre-seeded with my data too. Crashplan is also really easy to use and restore from. And I even use it on a couple servers to get their shared files offsite.

    There is one thing I wish it did have though, backup sets. You can only make one backup set, and thats the main job that runs continuously, to as many destinations as you like.

    Why when I see reviews, I don’t see much on Crashplan? To me, it looks better than Carbonite and Mozy, though I’ve not used either of the two so can’t say for sure. Anyway, Crashplan is worth a look, check it out.

  8. My wife and I both started with Mozy on the Mac. Hers never quite worked well (taking too many resources, etc.). Mine worked fine for over a year, and then started having problems. Contacting Technical Support was a nightmare.

    So I switched her to Carbonite, and she’s been happy ever since. I switched after she had been successfully using it for over a month.

    Unfortunately, for some reason on my Mac Carbonite takes 40 – 120 % CPU when idle! I tried reporting this to Carbonite technical support twice, but didn’t really get anywhere. When I asked for a refund, they gave me a further run around.

    So I’m trying Back Blaze now and hope it will be better.

    I can’t really recommend either Mozy or Carbonite.

  9. I signed up for Carbonite and paid my money. I uploaded the software and started it running. (I am NOT a computer person, but I have a very successful on-line business.) Due to Carbonite’s markers on my desktop, I quickly saw that it just backed up my Windows-based files, but not my huge business database nor my huge jpg files.

    So, I sent Carbonite a support request. At least four times. No response.

    So, I sent Carbonite a refund request. At least ten times. No response.

    Carbonite’s clever new television ads should say, “Carbonite backs up the Window-based files on your desktop. Any other files? You’re on your own. Carbonite will, however, make good use of your money.”
    Carbonite for suckers.

  10. There’s also an up-and-comer in the arena. Nomadesk is a backup and sync service with local and online access with 256 bit encryption locally and online. You can’t get much more secure than that. There is also an iPhone enabled access site and they’ve announced plans for an iPhone app soon. It’s super easy to use and has unlimited storage with a basic plan. I’ve tried others but this one works the best for me.

  11. MrShermanOaks

    Carbonite has terrible feedback as to what its currently doing. It always says its backing up, even if the list of files waiting for backup never changes.

    Other options are:

    BackJack – expensive, but reliable and easy to use. Can back up external drives.

    iDrive – Software is a little clumsy, but works OK. Can backup external drives. Supports multiple computers.

    BackBlaze – no external drives, simple to use and configure.

    • MrShermanOaks

      Ugh, once again problems with Carbonite. I complained two weeks ago that it appeared the computer was never actually finishing backups and they assured me it all look right from their side. Exactly two weeks later I get an email that says I haven’t been backed up in two weeks. Their software is still 1.0.0 after all these months, as if they can’t find any bugs? Now I discover that the Carbonite control panel says it’s “disabled” and trying to enable it locks up the System Preferences. So far, Carbonite has performed at the bottom of the pack – even worst than Backblaze which nearly kills my whole internet connection no matter what bandwidth setting.

      Hey Carbonite – the worst sin of a backup program is to leave you unsure if you’re computer is being backed up!

      My feeling is that since many of these services require or encourage you to pay for a year’s service in advance, that they think they have you locked in and have some extra time to fix things. Anyone ever gotten a partial year refund from Carbonite?

  12. Mozy and carbonite have a dirty little secret you should know about.

    If you loose a file for any reason (deleted it, got corrupt, hard disk problem) Mozy/carbonite software will detect this and actually delete the file off its server.

    This is no joke. It happened to me.

    Mozy/Carbonite covers their ass because they give you 30 days to recover the file using their archive retrieval process.

    But what if you didn’t know that your file got corrupt or you deleted it by accident? Well, too bad. Its gone on the 31st day.

    This is just insane and not a backup strategy at all. It goes against everything a backup strategy is – to protect you from loosing data for ANY reason.

    If you don’t believe me, go to this link from the mozy support site.

    http://support.mozy.com/docs/en-user-home-win/faq/concepts/deletefile_markedforbackup_faq.html

    “If you delete a document and then run a backup, Mozy assumes that you no longer need a backup copy of that document, and marks the file to be removed from our system. (We keep it on file for 30 days, just in case you change your mind.)”

    Are you kidding me? Assumes? It’s on their website!!!

    Bottom line – mozy/carbonite is not a backup strategy at all. Their business model is based on providing you little storage space as possible and deleting files off their servers as soon as they can. Not to mention it would take you up to 6 MONTHS to upload 500Gig of data. It’s a waste of your money. Buy an external HD (they are cheap) and bring it over a friends house to keep off-site.

    • I don’t think this is a problem at all, if it worked the way you’d like it to eventually more of your storage would be files you’ve deleted in the past years than ones you currently have on your computer and actually want to keep. If you don’t notice that you deleted a file then you need to pay more attention to what you’re doing in my opinion.

    • I think you are misunderstanding the term “backup.” Backup means to just make a duplicate copy of what you have here and now. Backup never claims to “preserve” your data/documents. Certainly backup (in any form online or manual) is no strategy for long-term preservation of important business documents with retention requirements that can equal 7 years or more. ONERECORD offers a service which utilizes a three-copy, three-datacenter, 300-mile separation model to perpetually verify the accuracy of data over long periods of time. It does not rely on static backup in any form in it’s model. Of course it is a business-grade solution so it is not $5/mo. – but it does offer reasonable individual and small business plans. The important benefit is that you get 7 years of storage & retrieval with every one-year license, so if for any reason you don’t renew your license your documents are still “preserved” and accessible without needing to spend more money. Check out ONERECORD.

  13. Kevin Altree

    Mozy SUCKS!

    I recently got bit by Mozy’s restore feature. Since it doesn’t handle packages well, I was unable to restore my Quicken data file.

    It’s free entry price is enticing – but you do get what you pay for…

  14. John Smith

    Did you guys tried Vaulten ? It seems to be quite good given that it is in some relation with IBM and seems to answer much of the irritating problems cited above ?

  15. I found that Mozy restores don’t work as advertised on my Mac. I can’t do a client restore, and I can’t even get the Mozy application to work now. Their support is non-existent / incompetent.

    I un-installed then re-installed Mozy but I just get an error when trying to run Mozy. Any ideas?
    Thanks.

  16. You talk about the Mozy option to order a DVD restore like it is the most expensive option in the world. If you just lost all your files, your family photos, your finacial documents that fee is nothing! I would gladly pay the 100 dollars or so to have the data shipped to me on DVD. At least Mozy offers the option. There has also been mention on the Mozy Twitter account that they will ship a hard drive restore instead of DVD’s.

    Carbonite does not even give you the choice. Have problems with Carbonites web/client restore and you might as well kiss all your data goodbye.

  17. Freddy

    Mozy Security issues?
    Mozy only needs a valid e-mail address, and allows you to set your own password which has nothing to do with your e-mail password.

    Mozy not backing up multiple users?
    It sure does – just choose backup set and set it’s scope out for all users. No hassle there.

    Mozy Restore?
    You only tried the web restore. In client restore on Mozy is as easy as drag and drop baby! Select the file/folder you want and drag and drop it where you want it to go and done!