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Online Storage

December 3rd, 2007

XdrivelogoI decided to check out some of those free hard-drive services that MacMerc wrote about this week, and tested out X-Drive first. Run by AOL, they give you 5GB of storage space. Alas, there is no stand-alone app for the Mac (you are relegated to a pop-up window using Javascript, and it requires turning off pop-up blocking in Safari), and advanced features such as syncing are also absent.

What’s worse is that it just ain’t worth the trouble. The uploads are slow–I was getting 6KB/sec., which is roughly dial-up speed. Plus, there are way too many steps… click this folder, click that button, wait for the window, click this, wait for that, click the same button again, then click that button, use a limited-browsing-ability open dialog box to find the file in an unfamiliar fashion, then wait 5 minutes for a few MB to upload.

Maybe the Windows version is faster and easier, but the Mac version, for now at least, is way too much trouble. Far easier to simply get a GMail account and email files to yourself. Unfortunately, the late great Mac app “gDisk” no longer works (even under Tiger), so a direct interface app won’t fly. (At least, not that I know of.) Box.net is also available, though it limits uploads to 10 MB each, and only has 1GB of storage.
There is one more option: Mozy.com. They’re free, have a 2 GB limit, and a Mac-specific client. It’s not so much an online hard drive as it is a backup utility–you don’t store things in a directory and then download them wherever you want. You select files to be backed up, they get uploaded–and then you can restore them, to their original position. It’s more for protection against losing files than it is an online disk drive.

I was not impressed with how they handle people coming in for their advertised free service. They do the usual routine that services like this do, trying to trick you into paying. You have to hunt the free option down–it’s necessary to go to the paid service page, and see the small box in one corner for the free account. When I signed up for them, there was the other routine of “we’re checking to see if that email address you gave us to use for spamming you is real” and asked that I wait “a few minutes” for the email to arrive in my box. So of course, the email doesn’t come for at least an hour. (I used a throwaway email address used only with them–so I’ll know if spam that comes in is from them.)

After you get past that, things seem to work more smoothly. If you’re uncomfortable with someone else residing within your system, or are generally paranoid about privacy, you probably don’t want this: Mozy installs software that requires your admin password to execute, and when it boots up, it starts scanning your drive–being helpful, finding files you might want to upload. Some people might not appreciate that help. But if you trust them and don’t mind, the software is nicely integrated–a menu bar icon allows access to every part of the service.

Once you get sorted out what it can and cannot back up, however, things get better. It first prepares the files, then uploads them. Upload speeds for me hovered around 100 KB/sec, but can go higher, especially the longer your upload takes.

All this would be great–if the software were not in beta. It is, however, and it crashed on me a few times during file prep. I am pretty sure that I am going to uninstall this one–even though it was the best and most successful of the lot.

When it comes down to it, I greatly prefer simply having a private web site on a web host. For about the same price as many of these backup services tout for their higher-end packages (as opposed to their free ones), I get my own domain, web site with tons of features, tech support, and 200 GB of storage, which I can use as an online disk, with full drag-and-drop functionality, using any of several FTP programs.

So if you just want a free backup service and are willing to put up with the headaches involved, the online storage services might be good for you. Otherwise, just bear down and teach yourself how to get and manage your own domain and hosted site.

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  1. December 6th, 2007 at 05:27 | #1


    I’m the CEO of Carbonite and there IS another option for automatic online backup for Mac – or there will be very soon. Our Mac version is going into beta and we’d be delighted to have you or your readers join. We’ve been working hard to make sure our beta is as bug-free as possible. Just send an email to beta@carbonite.com to be added to the list.


    Dave Friend
    CEO, Carbonite Inc.

  2. Luis
    April 30th, 2008 at 01:12 | #2

    Was just checking this post as someone wrote an article on using box.net and I wanted to check and see what I had wrote. Then I checked this above guy’s near-spam comment on Carbonite. Short version: don’t waste your time checking them out. Their product doesn’t even have a semi-crippled free version. You have to pay $50 a year, and as I mentioned, you can pay about the same amount to any number of reasonable low-end web hosts and get a few hundred gigs of backup.

    Carbonite might post back here and claim, “but we give unlimited storage space!” To which I would point out that anyone who knows the first thing about web hosts is that when you hear the word “unlimited” in a service plan, then (1) it’s not unlimited, which you quickly find out when you try to test the claim, and (2) it’s probably a bad service beyond the false claim anyway. I still say that a web host is likely to be just as good, and what’s more, you get a fully-functioning web site with email, script installers, and lots of other cool stuff to boot.

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