The Boiling Mind – thoughts from a techie guy

Lately I’ve been doing some reading on online backups (aka. off-site backup) and it got me thinking…

Everybody knows the importance of backups, but every few weeks or so, I’m still getting this call from another poor soul that usually sounds like this: “oh no, my HDD just died.. what can I do to restore my data?”.

Thing is, most home users fail to backup their data regularly. I must admit that although I consider myself an advanced computer user (who is aware of how important it is to backup your data) I’m still not doing half than I should to make sure my data will be available to me when a catastrophe happens.

So yes, I’ve evolved in the last few years (after losing my laptop HDD and all the data that was on it) and started doing some daily backups between the computers in my home network (copying the data from one computer to another)… so now I feel pretty safe in the occasion of another HDD crash, but I’m still not doing any offline backups.

So what will happen if, god forbids, a burglar will visit me one day and take all my computers with all my precious data? in three words – I am fucked.

Of course the cheapest way to do backups (defiantly not the easiest) is to do it offline – Cassettes/CD’s/DVD’s or what have you. I really don’t know, maybe it’s just me being lazy, but even after losing all the important data I had on my dead laptop HDD I’m still failing to do offline backups and I believe most home users fail to backup their data this way as well.

Which brings me to the point of this email – Online Backup Services

We’ve all heard about them, some of us even experience some of them like xDrive, iBackup and others (I know I have :) ), but I never liked any of them for few reasons:

Why? few reasons:

  1. Speed Speed Speed – if I started a backup session it would take ages until all the data is sent to their servers and it was hogging my bandwidth.
  2. Privacy – I’ve never felt I can trust them with my precious data – how can I tell if someone is actually looking at my nude collection?
  3. Laziness – I always had to remember to initiate the backup myself. Although most of the services do offer scheduling, it’s pretty worth-less when a backup takes approximately 34 hours

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Buckminster Fuller

Today I came across another online backup service called Mozy ( – which promises unlimited online backup storage for ~55$/year.

To start backing up with Mozy, you need to create an account in their website and then you can download & install their backup software. You set an encryption password, choose the folders you wish to backup and Mozy will do everything else from there.

What I like about Mozy (and what actually differentiate their solution from what I’ve seen so far) is that their software is always running in the background checking which files have changed since the last backup (thus needed to be backed up again) and once your computer is idle, it will send these files to the remote server for backup. pretty neat, uh?

Being a true paranoid and all, I have one problem with Mozy (actually, the same problem applies to all the online backup solutions I know) – How can I be 100% sure nobody from Mozy is browsing my nude photo collection… Now seriously, although they offer a pretty impressive 448-bit Blowfish encryption and send the data over 128bit SSL connection, I still need to trust them not to send my private key to their server along with the data (allowing them to read all my data that is saved on their servers).

So if I was a normal person, I would probably trust them and use their product as is, but since I’m not, I’ve come up with a better solution – combining an external encryption software.

My new backup strategy is about to include another software – an external encryption utility named TrueCrypt (

TrueCrypt is sort of an “on the fly encryption” utility. You predefine the folders to encrypt and TrueCrypt will create a new encrypted “virtual hard drive” that can be accessed like a normal drive. All the files on the “virtual HDD” will always be encrypted. TrueCrypt will keep encrypting transparently all files that are changing while I’m work with the computer.

To combine TrueCrypt & Mozy together, all I need to do is pointing Mozy’s backup software to the TrueCrypt “virtual hard drive”, and vwalla – I have a top notch secure backup service.

Few points to consider:

  • The Mozy service costs ~55$/year (for unlimited backup storage) but you can try it for free (with 2GB of free storage). I myself believe it’s worth spending the 55$.
  • Backup with Mozy can take long time (considering the slow upstream connections we have in Israel), but since Mozy is working when the computer is idle I don’t really care.
  • I’m aware that are some much more sophisticated backup solutions out there but I was trying to focus on services that are more suitable for home users.
  • Please consider, I’ve been using Mozy for only one day and still haven’t tried the combination with TrueCrypt, so before you trust all your precious data with these too, I can only suggest you test it for few days.
Mia Clarke
Mia Clarke is a member of numerous multinational organizations' content and group departments, and is a specialist on all aspects of video wall and show solutions. Her publishing is generally focused on technology-related content, as is her area of expertise. When Mia isn't sharing the message about video walls or writing about technology, she can be seen biking or cycling in the great outdoors.