Disk failures and online backup services

Posted on 28 November 2011, 12:32

I am currently not a happy camper.

Over the weekend I had a pretty catastrophic disk failure, resulting in the loss (from my home backup) of all of my images from 2010 – things like these, all gone.

But that’s OK. For a couple of years now, I’ve used the Mozyhome backup service, secure in the knowledge that if I had a data loss at home, all of my images would be safe and sound on a server in The Cloud somewhere. After all, that’s what I’m paying for, right?

Yeah, you’d think…

Once I’d established that the files were unrecoverable from my local hard drive, I went straight to my online backup: only to find that nothing whatsoever from 2010 was available. Not a single file.

What the hell?

Last year I upgraded my PC. Note, just the PC: my external hard drives (which are only for image storage) were fine, and untouched by the upgrade.

What I didn’t realise from the small print of the contract with Mozy was that, in the event of a computer upgrade, there’s an assumption that all of the data uploaded to Mozy will have come from the old PC hard drive, and therefore would need to be downloaded to the new PC (the Mozy client software recognises the change to the PC registered to it).

There’s a further assumption – and this is the most monumentally stupid reasoning I’ve ever fallen foul of – that any data not downloaded to the new PC and then re-uploaded to the Mozy server is no longer required, and automatically deleted from the backup 30 days after the new PC is registered.

Not realising the implications of the change in PC to the data uploaded from my external drives, it simply never occurred to me that I would need to download then re-upload several hundred gigabytes of image data that were already sitting happily on the external drives and in backup – not to mention the practical issues of doing so, given the routinely flakey connection between the Mozy client and their servers and the fact that it would probably take more than thirty days to download and then upload the bloody stuff anyway.

Crucially, nothing from Mozy spelled these implications out.

Sure enough, 30 days later, everything from 2009 and 2010 was automatically deleted by Mozy as no longer required – a fact I only established this weekend when I actually needed my backups!

Now as it happens the 2009 stuff was on a different local disk, so no harm done there: but some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken were in the 2010 collection, and to have lost them as a result of such a stupid policy is really hard to stomach: this is going to sound hugely over-the-top to anyone who hasn’t experienced a situation like this, but it’s almost like a bloody bereavement. I’m honestly gutted.

To add insult to injury, after giving up on trying to recover the data from the external disk, I thought to plug the drive into my laptop just in case. And bugger me if some Vista (it’s an old laptop) file recovery process or other didn’t identify nearly every lost 2010 folder, and (albeit with a lot of corrupted files) many of the CR2s: so I’ve managed to get back my Bridlington Gannets and Tree Sparrows, some of my best Stonechat images, and so on.

(All of the files have been renamed and placed in folders of Vista’s own creation though, so that’s my cataloguing/DAM stuffed).

But the final straw is that although folders either side of the date 10/10/10 were recovered with most of their CR2s retrievable, the folder with the Goldcrests – the one I wanted most of all (taken, as you’ll have worked out, on 10 October 2010) – was nowhere to be seen, almost as if I’d deleted the bugger myself, which – I can confidently state – I did not.

If your paranoia can take the hit, try Googling Windows 7 + missing folders...

Suffice it to say, Mozy won’t be getting my business again this year. Aside from the nonsense above, they’ve changed their pricing plan such that, instead of paying £40-£50 a year for unlimited backup space as I currently do, I’ll be paying something in excess of £300 to accommodate the amount of data I’d need to back up, even given the losses I’ve just suffered.

So I think I’ll go it alone with a RAID/NAS solution – and hope my house doesn’t burn down or flood. After all, I’ve had both of them happen once, and you don’t expect two fires or floods in a lifetime.

Do you?

Hmmm… Maybe an online backup solution isn’t such a bad idea at that. But not Mozy – no bloody way.

Added: thanks largely to this detailed review, I think that I’ve found the new online home for my images – Crashplan.


Because of this:

When you adopt a computer so that it takes over for another, a number of things take place behind the scenes:

– The new computer is assigned the old computer’s setting and ID. It “becomes” the other computer.

– The old computer is deactivated. This means that it no longer backs up.

– The files you already backed up from the old computer (and now residing on the new computer) are still in the backup archive. CrashPlan recognizes those files in the backup archive and knows not to back them up (or delete them – Keith) again.

The price is good too – comparable with the old Mozy deal I had, and for unlimited storage.

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