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Posts Tagged ‘reminder’

Interview with Todd Esplin about Mozy 2.0 for Mac

Friday, November 26th, 2010

mozy-logo-440

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.


mac_2.0

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.

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Back Up Your Joomla! Site with Akeeba

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Akeeba Backup LogoIf you’ve been following this site for any length of time, you’ll know I’m a WordPress fangirl. I’ve written about backup solutions for WordPress sites before, and I’m sure I will again; the darn things seem to proliferate. (In fact, I got to test BackupBuddy on a WordPress Multi-site/BuddyPress install the other day, and though it needed a little tweaking to migrate to a new domain, it worked like a charm. But I digress.)

My WordPress fandom notwithstanding, however, I happen to be responsible for a website that uses Joomla! for its content management system, which is how I ended up at Joomla Day West on October 2nd. I actually skipped the breakout session meant for hopeless n00bs like me in order to attend the one on the subject of backups and security.

Where WordPress has plugins, Joomla! has extensions. (Actually, to make it really, complicated, Joomla!’s extensions include plugins, modules, and components. Modules are roughly equivalent to widgets in WordPress.) And where WordPress has BackupBuddy, Joomla! has Akeeba Backup. Best of all, it’s free, though there is a pro version and also a paid support package. And it comes with a 135-page user’s guide (as well as a somewhat less intimidating 31-page quick-start guide) that far surpasses the documentation on most WordPress plugins. (Okay, on any WordPress plugin that I remember seeing. Ever.)

I have not read the whole user guide. Nor have I installed a Joomla! development environment locally so I can test the validity of my backups. (The only other way to do that would be by restoring them on the live site, and if anything happened to be wrong with them, that could get ugly.) But even as someone who has very rarely done anything with Joomla! besides adding new articles, I found it fairly straightforward to use Akeeba Backup.

First, download the version you want. Unless you like living dangerously, that means a stable release. Next, log in to your Joomla! site as an administrator and go to Extensions | Install/Uninstall. Upload and install Akeeba using the “Upload package file” option.

Akeeba install success

Once you’ve done that, Akeeba will appear as a menu item under “Components.” Click the menu item and you get taken to a substantial control panel:

Akeeba Backup Control Panel

Start with Profiles Management, then move on to Configuration. The default profile is configured to make a full site backup (files and folders as well as the database that contains your content). You can either modify the default profile or create a new one. You don’t have to choose between backing up all the files and folders and not backing up any of them, either.

The first time I tried running a full site backup, I ran into a problem:

Akeeba backup failed

The error message says “Couldn’t write to the archive file; check the output directory permissions and make sure you have enough disk space available.” The file permissions are all right, as far as I can tell. A look at the site’s control panel reveals a likelier source of trouble:

image

Oops! Now what? Obviously, we need to remove something, or store it elsewhere. I discovered some redundancies, too: for some reason the media folders appear to have been duplicated. So it’s time to fire up the FTP client and do a little housecleaning.

When I ran the database-only backup, however, I had no such troubles.

image

Akeeba backup successful

Akeeba even mailed the SQL file to me.

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Without a test site to import it to, I can’t be absolutely sure the backup is complete and correct, and I haven’t had time to set up a local install of Joomla! on XAMPP. I’m not quite brave enough to try restoring it to a live site, particularly when it’s a client site and I haven’t yet read that whole massive instruction manual yet.

So far, though, Akeeba seems like a superior product, and I’m definitely impressed. I don’t see myself setting up a lot of Joomla! sites in the future, but if I do, I definitely plan to install Akeeba Backup.

Postscript: After clearing out some files from the server, I was able to get the full site backup to run successfully. It mailed me the backup in 5 installments.

Guest Post: Back Up Your Facebook Profile

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Ever since I first heard about it at Joomla Day West, I’ve been planning to write about Akeeba Backup, but I haven’t had a chance to test it yet. (Those pesky clients, you know.) And then Facebook came out with the startling news that they’re letting users back up all the material uploaded to their profiles. I’m not a Facebook user, but fortunately my esteemed colleague Lee Hopkins had already written a post for me on the subject, and kindly allowed me to share it here.


facebook download your information

Facebook has opened up its walled garden to allow you to save your own data.

As of now (it’s rolling out across the globe) you can “Download Your Information” into a .zip file all of the following:

  • Profile information;
  • Friend list;
  • Wall archive;
  • All of your photos and videos;
  • Your notes;
  • Your events; and
  • Your messages.

A comprehensive list of one’s Facebook identity.

But why would they open it up – to what purpose?

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,

“At a high level we’ve built two different things, Facebook Connect — which is our real effort to bring our sites to other sites, and “Download Your Information” where you can download your information and upload it to another site. Stuff that you put into the site, you should be able to take out.”

Which makes it sound as though Facebook are being nice and friendly with your personal information and trying to quell the discontent over the ‘Facebook owns my data and can do with it what it will’ elements of their Ts & Cs.

As Mashable’s news story commentator Chris points out,

This a VERY important PR play. FB is criticized for being a walled garden. Many people are defensive about that. This is a huge defense reducer and a way to come off as being open, friendly and saying, “If you want to port your data to another social network in the future, now you can, BUT we’re going to try our hardest to be so freaking great that you won’t want to.” It’s PR – and smart.

However, as other commentators point out, data portability is the key benefit even if the key reason why Facebook are going down this path is unclear (apart from a PR perspective, and with half-a-billion-and-growing members, why would they worry?). The user has the power to shift their data from Facebook to another platform should they wish, and even though Facebook’s Ts & Cs for the new ‘Download Your Information’ service specifically forbid other sites to build ‘auto-import uploaders’, you can bet that the various other social network sites are going to build them anyway.

All in all, it will come down to user behaviour (as always). Just because the tools now exist to port your data (including your list of friends) across to another social network, it doesn’t mean that you actually will. Even if you move to another service, with a list of all of your friends, there’s no guarantee that they will move to another service, is there?

One to watch…


Lee Hopkins is an Australian-based business communicator and management psychologist with over 30 years experience in helping businesses communicate better for better results. He blogs at LeeHopkins.net and has over 200 articles on business communication at LeeHopkins.com.

StarTech’s SATA Dock & Duplicator: Handy, not Revolutionary

Friday, September 10th, 2010

One of the things I like about my new laptop is the eSATA port—even though I don’t have any eSATA external hard drives yet. (I’m sure there’s someone out there who could correct that little oversight.) SATA (Serial ATA) is a faster way to connect your hard drive to your motherboard; most newer computers use it instead of the older EIDE standard. An eSATA port has a speed of 3,000 megabits per second, whereas a USB 2 port only goes 480 Megabits per second, and your normal home network cable will only transfer data at 100 megabits per second. (I wouldn’t worry about that too much, though, because your normal home ISP won’t be sending it to you at more than about 20 megabits per second.)

A computer with a SATA drive inside it will be faster than a computer with an EIDE drive inside it. But what about external drives? My two most recent external drives actually show up in Windows 7 as “USB to SATA Bridge.” That means they’re SATA drives, but I connect them with a USB cable. Theoretically,  I could switch to an eSATA cable—except that the limitation on that speed is cable length, and I couldn’t have a cable that runs 10 feet from my computer stand across my bed to where I work. So I guess I’m stuck with USB anyway.

StarTech has made a device for people who have bare-naked SATA drives—the kind intended for internal use—and want to use them as external drives with their USB-equipped computers, or perhaps to copy information from them when the computer they come from has died of something other than disk failure. This is the $139 (MSRP—you can get it at Amazon for $84.24 with free shipping) USB to SATA Standalone Hard Drive Duplicator Dock.

This is not an industrial-strength device, but one made for home use. (Machines for duplicating hard drives on a large scale are much more expensive, not to mention larger.) It’s compact and very simple to set up. Inside the box you get the dock itself, the power brick, three sets of plugs (U.S., Europe, and U.K.), a USB connector, and a very small instruction booklet. The cord is a little bit short if you’re trying to reach the top of a desk from a floor-level power strip (the power brick ended up dangling in the air), but it was certainly easy to put together.

StarTech-unboxedStarTech-attached

Windows 7 had no trouble installing the device drivers, in spite of the fact that the package only rated it up to Windows Vista.

The dock isn’t much use without at least one drive in it, of course. One of my geek friends had kindly loaned me an empty 1 TB SATA drive, which I unwrapped and stuck into the “destination” socket of the dock. (It actually doesn’t matter which socket you put the drive in as long as you have the dock connected to the PC and operating in JBOD mode, but I didn’t want to take chances.) You just slot the drive into the socket to connect it, and press the eject button to remove it.

Hitachi-Destination-DriveStarTech-Single-Drive

I was briefly puzzled as to why the drive didn’t show up immediately, but then saw the reminder in the booklet that said “The hard drives may need to be partitioned/formatted using a disk management utility before you can access them.” Duh! I knew that. It’s just been a while since I’ve had to do it.

So I popped over to Administrative Tools | Computer Management | Storage | Disk Management and found that it works pretty much the same way as in Windows XP, though I don’t remember this first step:

StarDock Initialize Disk

Since the Hitachi destination disk was only 1 TB and I wouldn’t know what to do with a GPT anyway, I stuck with the default MBR, then moved on to formatting and found that Microsoft had actually instituted a wizard at this stage.

StarDock Format Partition

Once that was done, the drive duly showed up in My Computer. (And wonder of wonders, it was possible to assign it the drive letter B!)

My Computer

I did a quick test of the connection by copying the contents of my downloads folder over to the Hitachi. It seemed to go pretty speedily.

The next order was to test the stand-alone drive duplication. At first I didn’t think I’d be able to do that, but then I remembered that I had four perfectly good SATA drives sitting inside my Buffalo Quattro, and they were designed to be removed in case they needed to be erased. (The Ur-Guru is going to kill me when he reads this, if Jay Pechek, who gave me the Quattro, doesn’t do so first.) And the drives in the Quattro are only 500 GB apiece, so they’re small enough to copy onto the Hitachi.

StarTech-Raiding-the-RAID StarTech-dismantling-RAID

So I took a screwdriver and removed one of the drives from the Quattro and put it into the “source” socket on the StarTech dock, which I had disconnected from my computer. (Yes, of course I disconnected the Quattro and turned it off first. And yes, there was a little dust in there.) The dock beeped at me, prompting me to hold down the “mode” button until it beeped again and the light turned red to signify that it was now in drive duplication mode.

StarTech-two-drives StarDock-start-duplicating

And off it went. It’s still going: after an hour it had reached the 50% mark. Well, StarTech bills it as a stand-alone hard drive duplicator, not an instantaneous hard drive duplicator. The duplication rate quoted in the product specifications is 72 MB/second, which is much slower than SATA transfer speeds and brings us to an expected duplication time of nearly two hours for a 500 GB drive.

I would honestly have expected the duplication to be faster than the USB interface, since there’s no slowdown from passing the information through a computers’ operating system and none from having to use a slower bus for transport, but I’m obviously missing something. Maybe it’s the something that makes those industrial-strength drive duplicators cost ten times as much as StarTech’s.

The StarTech USB to SATA Standalone Hard Drive Duplicator Dock seems like a handy way to be able to use hard drives in rotation, perhaps keeping one or more off site. Because your drives are going to be somewhat more exposed to dust and other damage just sticking up out of the dock like that, so it’s probably better for drives that you don’t plan to let sit in the dock for long periods, but rather intend to store in nice sealed anti-static bags. If you do any kind of tech support and have to make rescue calls with any kind of frequency, it could be a very handy device to have. If you’re a technophobe who shudders at the thought of formatting a disk, you might as well just buy a traditional external hard drive with an enclosure around it.

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Don’t They Teach Backup in School These Days?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The Ur-Guru pointed me to this sad post on Refreshing News:

A Calgary man is desperate to get his stolen laptop, with years of work on it, back.

It was stolen from the trunk of his car while he went for a run in Edworthy Park Wednesday night.

John Boldt is pleading for the return of his hard drive, which contains research and notes for the thesis he was writing for his master’s degree in history. He only had three chapters left to write before his paper was complete.

Unless he gets it back, Boldt will have to abandon his dream and quit at the University of Calgary.

“It’s so many years of my life just thrown away,” he says. […] Boldt says if he doesn’t get the data back, he won’t be able to return to the U of C when classes start next week.

I feel for John Boldt. My car was broken into in February, and it’s a terrible experience even when nothing of value is taken. Even if the laptop had been in plain sight on the passenger seat and not in the trunk, that wouldn’t have given anyone the right to steal it.

But how does someone get into, and nearly through, a master’s program without learning to back up his work, especially when it’s so important to him?

Back when I was in graduate school, in the late Eighties and early Nineties, I had all my papers, and then the draft chapters of my dissertation, on floppy disks. This was partly because I didn’t own the computers I worked on, and partly because computers didn’t have much internal storage. But there were always two sets of disks, the main set and the backup set. Always. I can’t even remember who taught me to do that, but the lesson was an old one.

Heck, even when I was an undergraduate using the mainframe as a glorified typewriter, they told us we could get a tape with our files on it. (I never did, but I can’t imagine what computer I would ever have been able to use it with, anyway. It would be easier for me to run my undergraduate honors thesis through a scanner and OCR it.)

Ah—according to Gawker, there was a backup drive in the trunk along with the laptop, and that got taken, too. This additional info makes Boldt look a bit more clueful. Some people do habitually store their backup drives in the car, in order not to have them in the office where the desktop computer is. I’m not sure that would be the best option if you’re a laptop person carrying your computer around a lot, but at least it suggests he was doing something to protect his work.

Many of the commenters on the Gawker post are protesting that the situation seems fishy to them, pointing out numerous ways that the chapters of the thesis could have been backed up and asking why Boldt’s advisor doesn’t have a copy of it. It’s a good question: I certainly gave chapters of my dissertation to my advisor as I wrote them, though I think I had to deliver them in hard copy. Having a printout would be a lot better than not having anything.

Others point out that Boldt had plenty of opportunity to use an online backup service like Mozy or Carbonite or even a tool like Dropbox. A history thesis would almost certainly be a Word doc, probably using a template provided by the university or the department. It might be large as Word docs go if it had illustrations in it, but it would be unlikely to be larger than the 2 GB limit for free accounts at Mozy.

But, as I suspected, Boldt would have had no need to resort to a commercial service if he wanted online backup. The University of Calgary offers all students a service called Webdisk File Storage:

Webdisk is a remote file storage system that allows you to store your files on a IT server making them easily accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. […] Webdisk files are automatically backed up every day, so they can be recovered if they are inadvertently deleted or changed.

So where was Boldt when Webdisk accounts were being handed out?

It’s easy to get sloppy about backups, to say you’ll put another system in place tomorrow, to forget to re-establish levels of protection when you get a new machine. But when you have really critical data, you can’t back it up too many ways or in too many places, and you can’t do it too soon.

And that will be true even if John Boldt turns out to be just as much a fiction as Whiteboard Jenny.

FileSlinger Backup Blog at Blogged

 

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