Why online backup? The answer is simple: Time Machine, external disk, or CD – DVD backups are only as secure as the media they are on, and the location they are in. Time Machine backups, despite being wickedly convenient, are likely going to be backed up to your home location. This means that a fire, theft, or device failure will render a Time Machine scheme useless. In addition, frequent travelers will be unable to back up their work while on the road. They will also be unable to restore old backups while on the road as well. Manually backing up to a hard disk or other removable media is fine, but the inconvenience of hiding hard disks in sock drawers, or shipping DVD’s to your sister’s house will likely prevent or hinder you from making that one crucial backup that could save your business. The answer, then, is to mix the convenience and transparency of Time Machine, with the security that an offsite backup provides. This is what online backup services can offer, and Mozy.com provides one of the best services for Mac. Let’s look at some tips on how to use it:
Tip 1: Evaluate the software.
Mozy.com lets you evaluate their software for free, with a backup limit of 2 gigabytes, so why not try that out first? You can find instructions on how to set up the free version at this link.
Tip 2. Do a cumulative backup instead of bulk backing up 20 or 30 gigabytes.
Even though Mozy’s desktop application lets you stop anytime and then later start again where you left off, you will still need to do a preparation of data each time you interrupt the transfer. If you are backing up more than 20 gigabytes of data at once, this preparation phase can be quite significant. You may also have trouble keeping track of what you’ve done already, and what’s left to be done. In order to do a cumulative backup, you can start with a small directory, such as Address Book, and then gradually check larger directories until you are done. When you have finished, you will have selected and backed up all the directories that you want in your backup scheme.
Tip 3. Backup with good sense
This means that since you are dealing with large amounts of traffic, and since Mozy will update the backup each time you change the configuration, name, or content of any directory, you will want to keep the backed up data to a minimum. Here is a brief overview of what each directory can mean for your system, with advice on whether or not to back it up:
1) Address Book. This is your Mac’s Address Book content. This will usually be a very small size, and should definitely be backed up, since loss of personal contacts is one of the worst, yet most easily prevented disasters.
2) Apple Mail. This is the content for your Mac’s Mail.app. If you use Mail.app, you will be able to back up your messages here. This directory can vary in size from almost nothing to quite large, if you don’t keep a tidy inbox. Lots of people will be using Mail to interact with a POP or IMAP mail service, in which case, your messages will already be backed up on your mail provider’s servers. Depending upon your configuration, you may be able to skip this. If you use IMAP folders, you can definitely skip this.
3) Application Preferences. These are the preferences located in your Home directory (Users/yourname/ Library/Preferences). This is worth backing up, since the preference files won’t take up much space, and having access to them could save you in a pinch.
4) Desktop. I would deselect this, but only if you can keep a tidy Desktop. The problem with selecting Desktop is that every time you download a new file to your desktop, or if you are trying out an application, or using the Desktop as a holding place, than Mozy will want to back up the content. Like I said, if you can keep a clean Desktop that is only used as a temporary holding place, then deselecting this is a good idea.
5) Documents Folder. This will probably be pretty huge, and should be backed up. It’s all your work. You should consider organizing your Desktop clutter into your Documents folder and backing up this directory, even though it hurts.
6) Firefox Profiles. Firefox users should back this up. I am not sure how large it will be, but probably minimal.
7) Garage Band: GB users should check this.
8) iCal: iCal users should check this
9) iTunes library: This is a tricky one. If you regularly use iTunes, then this directory will be enormous. But you’ll probably have an iTunes library consisting mostly of tracks that you either own on a physical disk, or that you have downloaded from the iTunes store. If you have purchased them, then you can access them at any time with your user name and pass, so backing up is unnecessary. If you have ripped your entire CD collection into iTunes, then it’s probably a good idea to check this so that you can preserve all the work you’ve done, even though it will definitely hurt. If you have only added a few disks to iTunes, or if your library consists mostly of purchased material, then you can probably skip this directory and save lots of time.
10) Keychains: These are your passwords and user data for any Application using your Keychain. This should be checked.
11) Microsoft Entourage 2008: Users of Entourage 2008 should check this, but with attention to the kind of mail service provided (see #2 above)
12) Microsoft User Data: This is the user data and prefs for MS programs. If you use any of the Office packs, you can check this in order not to lose your preferences. This directory shouldn’t be large at all.
13) Movies Folder: This might hurt, but if you have valuable movies saved in this folder, then you should check this. If your Movies folder contains content that you have downloaded and could easily download again, then you should keep this unchecked to save time.
14) Pictures folder: This is your iPhoto data, which in later Mac OS systems consists of a huge file. You should absolutely back this up – right away.
15) Safari bookmarks: Another annoying-to-lose yet easy-to-backup folder. Back this up if you use Safari.
16) Thunderbird Mail: Thunderbird users should back this up, according to your mail provider’s configuration (see #2 above).
Handling Mozy's backup checkboxes