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September 03, 2007

Recovery Log – Conclusion and Conclusions

Update: A reader adds to my suggestions and Mozy responds here.

Later Update: The mystery of the missing Quicken files.

Conclusion

Finally got all backed-up data from Mary’s toasted hard drive downloaded onto another machine. Couple of frustrating days after the last post as service from our normally reliable ISP went up and down frequently making the 3.6 Gigabyte non-restartable downloads I was trying to do impossible to finish. Turns out the ISP was working on backbone problems which were resulting in much slower than advertised download speeds. The good news was the service was faster after that work was finished and after – unasked – a tech came by and moved our antenna to improve reception. At twice the download speed – 2 Megabits plus – the downloads only took about five hours so they completed successfully.

Meanwhile got an email from Vance Checketts, COO of Mozy, the online backup service we use:

“I’m sorry for the delays you’re experiencing with your Mozy restore. I’ve got one of our restore experts looking into the situation. I’d also like to offer you a complimentary set of DVD’s with your restored files on them. Let me know if you’re interested or if there’s anything else I can do to assist you.”

Took him up on the offer, of course. Could have gotten them shipped for Saturday delivery but wouldn’t be here to sign for them so assume they’ll come Tuesday (today is Labor Day). At this point they’ll be just extra security since the downloads are done but I didn’t know that when I asked for them. Hopefully, Mozy would have been as helpful if they’d heard about the problem directly from a customer rather than read about it in a blog. It’s certainly good service policy to watch blogs and respond to reported problems.

Conclusions

Suggestions for users:

  1. DO use a backup service. We were really lucky; the hard drive failure happened in the middle of the night AFTER the daily backup so NO data was lost. We have Mozy set to back up all our machines each night so not much data would have been lost no matter when the failure occurred. BTW, this does not mean that a huge amount of data is uploaded from our house to Mozy each night. It takes a day or so of uploading to get the initial backup established in cyberspace; after that Mozy incrementally backs up what changs each day which typically doesn’t take very long (and doesn’t interfere much with use of the machine if you happen to have insomnia).

I used to backup to DVDs. It was a pain and I didn’t do it often. Had the failure occurred then, we would have been in much worse shape.

  1. DON’T depend on downloading the huge chunks which Mozy wants to send you if you do a full restore (assuming you’re backing up gigabytes of data). It’ll take too long and any hiccup while downloading’ll put you back to square zero. You probably should order the DVD ASAP as a plan B and then start downloading and restoring first the files that you absolutely need. Mozy does have support for folder by folder and file by file selection so this is awkward but quite doable. When the DVD comes, you can restore the rest of your data if you haven’t finished downloading.

  1. It was obvious using Mozy for this purpose that it’d be a great tool in the case where one or two files were corrupted, infected or accidentally deleted. Mozy restore to the same machine (remember, I was restoring to another machine) looks much better and being able to determine which files you want from which day is great.

  1. It may be that there are competitors of Mozy who do a better job of restore. Haven’t used any others so can’t report on them. Plan to stick with Mozy now that I know how to use it better; but, if you want to look at the field, some of my suggestions for Mozy below may be helpful in doing competitive evaluation.

Suggestions for Mozy:

  1. The backup part of your service is great but you don’t seem organized around restore, particularly restore after a catastrophic failure rather than just the loss of a file or two. Your customers, on the other hand, are in desperate need at restore time.

  1. It is essential that there be a better online guide to restoring onto a backup machine. This should clearly explain the problems with big downloads and recommend restoring essential files first. It should also explain how to do things that users are likely not to know like hooking outlook.pst to a copy of Outlook on a different machine.

  1. Most important: there should be client-based, not just web-based, restore to a new machine. This would allow you to use the same sort of checkpointing logic you use with uploads so that an interrupted download could be restarted close to the point of failure rather than having to go all the way back to the beginning. Result would be much better effective time to recovery for customers, much simpler recovery, and reduced load on your servers and bandwidth.

  1. You should SELL tech support for recovery during non-business hours. My suggestion would be give the customers a choice of paying more for a subscription which comes with 7x24 support or paying a flat fee – say $100 – if they haven’t bought the insurance but need handholding offpeak. I would’ve paid happily.

  1. Get organized around extremely rapid recovery. DVDs should be made and shipped almost immediately (and customers shouldn’t have to be home to sign for them if they waive this deliberately). Emails to tech support about recovery should be answered immediately and not a day later.

Coming soon: buying a new machine, the decline [and possible rebirth] of Dell, and Vista adventures.

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