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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.

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

  1. When my friend needed his files restored from Carbonite, all he got was corrupted files. They lost his entire account. I am using MyOtherDrive.com. Their restoration process is easy – it’s just download. Download a file, download a folder, download a folder and all of it’s subfolders. Nothing mailed to you on DVD. If you want, they will send you a USB drive that contains your files, which you send back when your finished. So I know that I can always easily get access to my files when needed.

  2. Very worth noting: Carbonite’s remote access does not allow you to get at files that have spaces or special characters in the names. My clients send me photos and word docs with spaces and ampersands all the time. When my computer was away for repairs for a month, this proved VERY frustrating and now I’m looking for a new back-up provider.

  3. I run Mac 10.6.4 and VMWare with Windows XP on the same machine. I switched from Carbonite to Mozy because Mozy would backup my virtual machine .vmdk files while Carbonite flatly states it will not back up VMWare files. That’s a deal breaker for me and anyone else who is running VMWare; and I’m not getting rid of VMWare!! ^_^

  4. Kiuze

    I think that biggest broblem with Carbonite is, that their staff CAN access your data. Mac user can’t even manage their own encryption keys, they provide this only to Windows users.
    Their previous revision of Privacy Policy even said:

    “Carbonite will not decrypt your files unless i) it reasonably believes that it must do so to troubleshoot problems with the Carbonite Products or Services or ii) it reasonably believes it must do so in order to comply with a law, subpoena, warrant, order, or a certification requirement, such as the requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 2703”

    Very, very worrying.

  5. I’m trying CrashPlan now. I tested Mozy, Carbonite, and Backblaze on PC and was planning to on Mac. BackBlaze sounded cool but was lacking important features – I couldn’t ‘add’ folders to backup, just ‘exclude’ them, and the Web-only download with no search/filter was just way lame.

    Mozy was preferred to me, Carbonite’s UI tries to be too easy when I want more control. Mozy’s search/filter for restore would work well in a quick emergency, Carbonite had a similar one, but it was quirky in that selected files would not stick between searches, but Mozy’s would. I was going to go with Mozy then I uninstalled them both, and one of them crashed Explorer.exe – probably removing their shell extensions.

    On to Crashplan…

  6. Kaiser Sosay

    I just subscribed to Carbonite; however, I would not have done so if I had known that they do not backup external hard drives. I can’t believe that I had to find out the hard way (by subscribing and trying to save data backed up on an external drive) and that Carbonite did not warn me. People that buy Carbonite tend to have a lot of music and other files worth protecting on external drives. To not protect data from external drives is a major flaw and huge blow to Carbonite’s overall utility. I want my money back and my subscription cancelled. For the price of Carbonite, I could have bought a 1TB external storage backup for my existing external drive and been perfectly happy. I hope this note makes its way to Carbonite’s management. If I get my money back — some harm and some foul from what I believe is deceptive promotion by Carbonite — If I don’t, I will be a mouse that roars. Again,I hope everyone out there understands that Carbonite does not back up data on external drives. You would never gain that understanding by reading Carbonite’s promotional stuff.

  7. I have been on Mozy for a month now. The app running on my Mac looks like it is working and I have tested retrieving files. However, when I log into my account, it shows that I have never backed-up any data, nor restored it. The Mozy helpdesk has been useless, just trying to close my ticket rather than solve the problem.

    Bottom line is that I think it is working but very scary the way they are so sloppy on their website.

  8. I gave up on Mozy and Carbonite for the Mac. They both seemed so promising, but ended up grinding my computer to a halt when they were operating. Carbonite constantly told me it was up to date, but then I’d get emails saying I hadn’t backed up for more than 7 days.

    CrashPlan has been a champion so far, and so has iDrive. Don’t waste your time with the others.

  9. Patrick M.

    Mozy seemed great, till I needed it. I used it on our home PC. Then it crashed. I bought a mac and went to restore my files. But, Mozy won’t restore files, taken from a PC, onto a Mac. Lucky I could recover my files from a hard drive I had also save everything to.

    I use Mozy on my other business Mac I have. I thought I’d be okay because if I ever needed it, it would be a Mac-to-Mac restore. WRONG…my mac crashed. I lost all my data. I went to download my files on Mozy. I’ve tried for two days now to get it to download all my files. It won’t. It tries for 2-6 hours at a time, then stops. Then won’t reconnect. I tried to call their sales team and buy Mozy Pro so that I could access their technical assistance. I can’t get a sales agent on the phone. I’ve never met a company that had a bigger problem with sales than with tech support. It’s amazing, I’m trying to give them money to help me fix their product glitch. I can’t get anyone on the phone to take my money.

    Horrible product. Back-up is for peace of mind and for practical use. I get neither from Mozy. Avoid it at all cost (or no cost for that matter).

  10. I’ve been using Mozy on PC for a couple of years and I’m reasonably happy with it. I’ve recently started using Mozy on Mac and I have some serious concerns.
    The most important is that any user on the Mac can restore (and decrypt) any other user’s private files to his own desktop. The Mozy Restore program (in the Mozy installation) keeps the password and encryption key somewhere (not in the user’s Login keychain, where it should be) and so it doesn’t need to challenge the user before the restore is done. On the PC Mozy Restore will demand the Mozy password.
    On multi-user Macs, this is a show-stopper.

    • I reported this to Mozy tech support and their response was that they would consider it for a future product upgrade.
      I just tried the same test with Crashplan with the same result. (Sigh).

  11. LarryMcJ

    I have tried both and for a Mac…I honestly think Mozy is much easier and less hassle. It configures easily for Backup Sets (catering to the non-techie) and Folders/Files (for those who desire). I think the article is biased…sorry :-)

  12. You mention that these companies fall short on support and security. These are major factors when it comes to trusting your precious data to someone else.

    I encourage people to check out Data Knoxx (www.dataknoxx.com) if they are looking for rock-solid security and personalized support.

  13. I used Mozy successfully for about 6 months on my Macbook but then for the past 4 months I have been unable to back up. I have spent lots of time uninstalling and reinstalling and sending emails back and forth to Mozy. In the end, Mozy stated that there was a problem with Mac Mozy and then refunded my two year contract, which was really nice. I would not recommend Mozy because of all the problems I had trying to get their back up program to actually back up. I wasted a lot of time on this when the idea of a backup was to do it automatically without my having to dink with it. I recommend that you try another back up program than Mozy.