Thursday, April 9, 2009


For some time now I have been  concerned about adequate backups for our computer data. Since everything we own is in our RV, even though I backup to an external disk on a daily basis, a fire, theft or some other catastrophe could wipe it all out. I have way too much stuff to write it to DVD's and mail them off somewhere, plus that would be an extreme hassle.  It just would not get done.  On a weekly basis I have always copied some of my most critical financial files to my web site using FTP, but that does not protect all our digital photos (12,000+), my music library and dozens of other important files.  Putting 20 Gig of data on AZNB's servers was not an option.  Plus, it is a manual process that requires me to stay on top of it.

I decided to look into the online backup services and used Mozy's free 2 GB plan to do some testing. There are several providers who all do about the same thing for the same price.  My primary concern was the FAP issue.  I use a HughesNet satellite system for internet access.  In order to provide equitable access to all their customers, Hughes has a Fair Access Policy (FAP) that limits the amount of data that can be downloaded during any 24 hour period.  If you exceed the limit, your service is slowed to approximately that of a dial up connection for 24 hours.  This is a very unpleasant penalty!   While everything I read on Hughes' website was careful to qualify the FAP limits in terms of download, I also read many posts in various forums where it was stated that FAP limits included uploaded data.  I decided to test it for myself.

I have the HughesNet Pro plan so my limit is 375 MB per 24 hours. I chose a day before a planned travel day, so if I got myself into FAP it would not be a big deal. I installed their software and fired up the initial backup with about 1.3 GB of data, and let it run. My system sent about 90 MB per hour to the Mozy backup servers. I let it run almost continuously. It never entered FAP and worked like a champ.  I was able to upload the entire test data in less than 24 hours, including stopping and starting it several times.  I also tested the recovery process and found it worked great.  Mozy keeps previous versions of each file for 30 days so it was easy to retrieve an older version.

Since the test worked fine I decided to sign up for an unlimited account for $4.95 per month. I have now completed the initial backup of over 17 GB. I have scheduled the Mozy Backup process to upload changed files automatically every night.  It takes only an hour or two on a normal night.   The 90 MB being uploaded every hour is very slow compared to most DSL or Cable connections in homes, but it works fine for me at that slow rate.

If I ever need to recover a file or two, the downloading of that small amount would not be a big deal in terms of download FAP limits. Of course, that would not work if I needed to recover everything. In that case, for a fee Mozy will send me everything on DVD. That would obviously be a lot faster anyway.

I use our desktop system as our main "server" and installed Mozy on it.  Most of the time Dianna and I use our laptops but we keep the really big stuff on the desktop system.  It has RAID 1 which means that all data is duplicated on two identical disks.   All the photographs, music and family videos are there. Our laptops contain the stuff we use on a daily basis.  This includes our e-mail, financial software (Quicken), investment tracking data, and Dianna's genealogy files among other things.  To back up all this data I have an external disk attached to the desktop system.  Every night I use Cobian Backup to save everything from all three machines to the external disk.  I keep three copies for each system.  I keep a daily copy and copies of everything from the past two Sunday mornings.  All three systems are networked and the backups run over wireless G from the laptops to the external disk attached to the desktop.  This local backup provides very good recoverability of data as long as I do not have a catastrophic loss of my entire rig.

I also wanted to back up certain files from our laptops to the Mozy online backup servers.  To install Mozy on each laptop would require $4.95 per month for each of them.  To avoid that cost I created two folders on the desktop system and set up another Cobian Backup  task to make copies of the desired data from the laptops into the folders on the desktop.  The Mozy backup task that runs on the desktop includes those two folders.

So there you have it.  I can now sleep a whole lot better than I used to.  I know all my data is secure and will not be lost through a personal catastrophe.