Last night, my husband asked me when was the last time I backed up my laptop. Hmm. Sometime last year? I thought about doing it just a few months ago, but when the program said it would take eighteen hours I abandoned the attempt. One of his friends used some automatic service and he made me email him on the spot to find out what it was so I could sign up.

Today, I got the answer-- Mozy. I signed up within minutes of reading their website. For $49 a year (I used coupon code APRIL for 10% off), it backs up my laptop in the background without any effort on my part. All I had to read was

"You shouldn't have to think about backup. Backup should be set up once, and then work automatically."

and I was sold. Thinking about backing up hasn't really been my problem, but I haven't been so good about actually doing it. I suppose I'll still think about it the same amount as always, but instead of cringing and feeling bad when I think about it, I'll smile smugly to myself since I know it's being done.

I used to back up to a hard drive. The software I used was actually fairly convenient, I just had to push a button on the hard drive and it started. But I did have to make choices like "differential" or "incremental" or "ghost" and while I know the difference between them all, it was still a nuisance to have to think about it for a few seconds each time, even if I knew which one I was going to pick. Disclosure: I have ADD, so what is not a big deal for normal people can be a hurdle for me. If you can handle manual backups, more power to you. But the big problem with backing up to a hard drive was that it took so long, and my computing performance suffered while it was going on. And the blinking lights and whirring hard drive distracted me from my computing work. Again, I suspect only people with ADD can relate. And I didn't just backup overnight due to a not-so-paranoid fear that one of my cats would step on my keyboard during the process, or knock over the hard drive or start chewing on the firewire cable while I was asleep. Probably not a good enough excuse to prevent me from trying, but it is what it is.

Anyway, I decided to sign up for Mozy, which took all of a few seconds, then downloaded and installed the software. First it prompted me to create an online account (which took another couple seconds), then it started scanning my computer to come up with "backup sets" or something. That took several minutes, but I just went through my emails until it was done. Then it prompted me to shut down all applications that might be using the internet so it could do a test. I was in the middle of some online shopping, so I ignored the mozy until I was done, and felt like shutting down my browser and email. To mozy's credit, it didn't bombard me with popups reminding me that it was waiting. Eventually, I was ready, then hit the "test" button and was quickly informed that my internet speed is fast enough for online backups. They do note on the website that you must have a broadband connection for mozy to work. Also, for those of you who also care about the technical details of the backup, mozy only does incremental (not differential or ghost) backups. They warn you that if you have a hard drive failure (or voluntarily move to a new computer) you are responsible for reinstalling your software. They do encrypt your data that is stored on their servers.

Then I was presented with the list of "backup sets" it came up with (or maybe that was before the speed test, I don't remember). These sets at first glance looked like my file folders, and some were, but mozy had switched some things around. I noticed my photos weren't being saved in the heirarchy I have them in, but rather all together. I clicked on the folder to get more information, and it appeared that mozy was just going to save all my .jpg, .gif, etc. files to that one folder. Actually, that's fine by me, since I'd probably forget to point to some photo folders if I had to find them all manually. I've used different cameras over the years, and I'm sure I have some albums stored in their default locations despite my best efforts to get everything into the "My Pictures" folder. I didn't really examine how mozy organized the rest of my "backup sets", I can always fine-tune it later if I care. I just want to get the process going.

The next screen prompts you to choose backup speed vs. computer performance, and recommends 75% backup to 25% performance, so I chose that, and clicked go. The backup monitor informed me that the backup would take over a week, and that this was normal. OK. Better than no backup at all, and it'll probably be done before I'd bother to pull out my external hard drive and connect everything up to do it myself anyway.

And that's it. Incredibly easy. I'm waiting for the catch. I am glad that I read that they are purely a BACKUP service, not an ARCHIVE service. See, when I backed up onto an external drive, I could choose to separately backup a folder or group of folders, then delete them from my laptop, knowing I could read them from my external drive if I wanted to use them again. Not so with mozy. If you delete something from your laptop, they assume it's because you don't want it anymore. They hold your data for 30 days, but if you haven't retrieved it by then, they delete from their system also.

Hmm. I went to lunch and came back in the middle of this review, and I eagerly checked my mozy backup status. It doesn't look much different from when I left 90 minutes ago. But I guess if something is supposed to take over a week to hit 100%, it would be hard to notice a percentage change in only 90 minutes.

Since I just signed up for Mozy today, I guess this more a review of their concept and startup process (which I love). If I have any comments about their service, I'll have to post again in a few weeks.