Last Friday I had the opportunity to talk to Todd Esplin, principal product manager at Mozy, about the just-released Mozy 2.0 for Mac.
As a PC user, I can’t review this product myself, but the Ur-Guru has recently started investing in Macs because he’s getting into iOS development, so he’s testing it out and will have a review for you soon. Meanwhile, I’ve waited long enough to publish the interview, so I’m releasing it separately. (I’ve just changed web hosts and switched to a multi-site installation of WordPress, which involved a big domain-mapping adventure, among other things, but never mind that, I’ll write about it somewhere else for those who are interested.)
This is not quite a word-for-word transcription of the interview, but I have not changed anything material.
What was the most challenging thing about developing the Mac version?
Although we were one of the first in the market with a Mac client, it’s been slightly behind or moderately behind the Windows client from a feature standpoint, just because of its maturity , so we’ve had to do two or three things to catch up, as well as take this from a usability and UI (user interface) perspective that was focused on a Windows platform and then create a Mac UI environment. We really worked on our performance, and that was a challenge. One of the biggest complaints we hear is that backups take too long. People don’t understand that if they have a lot of data to send through a small pipe, it’s going to take a while. But we also had to take a look at what we could do to speed up the process. We’ve taken some pretty significant measures over 6-9 months of development time to optimize our transfer process, what we do to prepare the files before they leave your computer and go up to our cloud. We do less work on the client, on the desktop, and we pushed a lot of the work we do back to the server. We scan files, prepare a list of files and the changes that are going to be backed up, and then we just send the files. Previously we were doing more analysis and more structuring on the desktop. That’s reduced the amount of data that needs to go through the bandwidth, and a lot of our users will see immediate benefits from that.
The second thing we did around performance has to do with scanning for changed files to back up. Prior to the 2.0 release we were limited by Tiger operating system because they required us to use Spotlight to do the scanning. With Leopard and Snow Leopard, we don’t have to scan the whole drive, so every time a backup kicks off, it’s faster.
The Ur-Guru reports that Mozy doesn’t seem to be taking full advantage of European upload speeds? Why not?
Try the 1.7.3 version for comparison and see whether 2.0 is significantly faster. Also, a European user should back up to datacenters in Europe to avoid latency backing up to US datacenters. Of course the encryption and creating the list of files that have and have not changed do mean that Mozy backups take longer than straight FTP uploads. Customer reports so far do indicate that the 2.0 version backs up faster than the 1.7 version.
Are there significant differences between the Mac and PC versions of the program?
We’re at 90-95% parity between the two versions. There are differences in the UI, but the core features of setting up my backup, scheduling my backup to run, the flexibility I have with setting a specific time or a frequency—those are all the same. The way that we now process the backup is the same now; it wasn’t before. The way I can throttle my bandwidth (use less or more bandwidth for the backup) is the same.
One thing that is different, and it’s noteworthy to us, is that in the 2.0 product for Windows we added a local backup feature that we call 2x protect. It means that I can now decide which files I want to back up both to a local hard drive and to the online service. For the Mac, we consciously chose not to add that, because as we gathered customer feedback, we found that everyone preferred just to use Time Machine for local backups. Users didn’t want to have two places to go and manage a local backup. We looked at integrating with Time Machine, but there were technical hurdles we would need to overcome, and the majority of users we talked to aren’t asking for it.
Is there anything Mozy doesn’t back up? Are there files Apple doesn’t let you back up?
You can take the default backup sets, like “My Photos” or customize them and put any file extension you want in there. But there are server-like database files that you can’t back up with our desktop version, but you can back them up on the server version. We don’t back up applications, but we do back up application information like browser favorites. We back up everything you’re commonly using and a lot of things you don’t even know that you’re using. If a customer looks at everything we’re backing up, they’re going to be surprised, but if you set it as a preference, we have to back it up. There aren’t many things we don’t back up apart from applications. And we update file types quickly. So every time, say, Quicken comes out with a new file extension, we go in and add it to the default backup set.
What percentage of your users are on Macs?
17-18%, predominantly in the consumer market. We’re seeing more Macs appearing in the business market, however. We usually get into enterprises because people are using the home version of Mozy and tell their IT guys to adopt us.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want my readers to know about?
We’re striving to make our backups simpler, because we’re getting more customers who are less technically savvy. In the beginning, we got the “protectionists,” the people who went out looking for security and were highly aware and considered themselves advanced users. When we surveyed our users in those days, 60% or more marked themselves as advanced. I’ve looked at trends, and that percentage is coming down. Some people want to watch how fast the transfer rate is for their backups; others just want to let it run. We’re trying to meet the needs of both user types. We’ve left in the advanced options, but we’re now highlighting and emphasizing the basic options someone needs to know: if my backup is working, when the last backup ran, and can I distinguish the files that are backed up from those that aren’t. We’ve added new screens and new views to make it easier to choose files and to see what files are backed up. If it has a green dot next to it, it’s backed up. If it doesn’t, it’s not, and you can add it right then. So far the feedback we’ve had is that this is a great feature. It’s instilling the trust we want.
What’s your favorite feature in Mozy 2.0 for Mac?
I like the speed. That’s the one I’m really focused on and we’re continually trying to make it faster. But as far as the Mac product is concerned, I do like the integration. We used to have two or three views to find your information. Now the menu bar that icon gives you all the information you need, plus the advanced information if you hold down the control button. We’ve merged everything else into the system preferences in the Mac, which is very native-Mac-like. One specific feature I really like is the ability to see which files are going to backed up yet.
Have you been getting much feedback yet?
We have. It’s only been out for a week and a half, but we did a pretty substantial beta test and got a lot of great feedback. What’s encouraging is that I’m not getting a lot of calls from our support team, which means it’s a pretty stable product and they haven’t been getting complaints about it. We do a monthly customer satisfaction survey, broken down by Windows and Mac users, and the most recent survey was more positive than the previous one on the Mac product. That doesn’t mean everyone has converted to 2.0, but probably by next month they will. Generally the feedback has been positive.
We constantly monitor blogs and our customer forums. We have had people say we oversimplified. We tell them how to find the advanced settings. We expected to get that response; anytime you change an interface, you get that response. But the new customers really like it.
Thanks again to Todd Esplin for taking the time to speak to me. Come back next week to read the product review.