Monday, June 21, 2010

Carbonite vs. Mozy: My Real-Life Cloud-Based Backup Experiences

I, like many of you, lived in fear of reaching for my trusty MacBook one day, only to have it not respond or to have lost all of my precious work and personal information and files. So when Mozy started advertising on TV (and I got my wife a new MacBook and she started loading important stuff on it, too), I signed us both up. (I thought Apple’s MobileMe offered features I didn’t want or need, and Mozy was cheaper.)

Why cloud-based backup? Two reasons. One, if I bought an external hard drive and backed all of our data up onto it, the data was still at risk, if something catastrophic struck our home. (This is why I also eschewed Apple’s Time Machine application.) Two, cloud-based backup means that at least in theory, I could recover critical files from almost anything running a Web browser. A nice safety net in case my laptop failed while on the road, thought I.

I was a very happy Mozy user for a good while – the software downloaded and installed with almost no intervention from me, and after the first backup, which took place over several days, everything would be updated invisibly to me and my wife, as Mozy promised. But then, a few weeks ago, stuff just stopped working. And the same software that had been backing up our stuff invisibly was now not doing so, and not telling me anything useful about why it had stopped working.

So I dutifully visited the Mozy online support portal. Or rather, I tried to, but kept getting weird errors referring to, the cloud-based software Mozy apparently used for customer care and relationship management. To make a long, painful story short, once I finally got into the online support portal, I discovered that Mozy had released a new version of its Windows software, and that both Mac and Windows users were complaining in large numbers and backups that had been working but were no longer.

I posted a note about my problem, and found out that mine was not the same one the other Mac users were having. Wonderful news. I e-mailed Mozy support twice, got automated acknowledgements of my e-mails, then radio silence. Meanwhile, I went without regular backups for days, then weeks.

Finally, I broke down and downloaded the free Carbonite software, which also downloaded and installed with minimal intervention from or confusion for me. And I have to say that Carbonite was even more invisible than Mozy had been during the initial multi-day backup. But I wasn’t really excited about starting all over again with a new vendor. So I visited the Mozy support portal and e-mailed Mozy support again. This time, though, I found the name and e-mail address of Mozy’s press contact and copied him as well as the support address.

Within a day, I got an e-mail from an actual human being, one Brittney Mitchell. With Brttney’s intervention, everything changed, and changed quickly. She apologized for my problems, inspected my log files and determined that my account was misbehaving because I had failed to update an expired credit card. (Why their software wasn’t smart enough to tell me this explicitly from the beginning of my problem is still unclear to me. Brittney said that part of the problem was that I signed up without going through a salesperson, who would have flagged such a thing. I countered that not having to go through a salesperson was one of the reasons I’d signed up in the first place. Sigh.)

Once I updated my credit card information and downloaded the latest Mozy client software, backups started happening again for me and my wife. Meanwhile, Brittney informed me that part of the reason for Mozy’s initial lack of responsiveness was that the company was moving support call handling from India to the US and dealing with a deluge of requests and a lack of trained responders. (Brittney had only been with the company for a month when she took up my issues, she wrote.)

Meanwhile, the Carbonite software was working just fine – but no one ever responded to the e-mail questions I sent to that company. All I got was the automated reminders that my free access was about to expire and that I should subscribe – messages I received after cancelling my trial account. Sigh.

The bottom line: I’d have to recommend Mozy over Carbonite, not because I know of anything particularly lacking in Carbonite, but because Mozy finally came through when I had support questions that needed answers. I also believe that Mozy moving support to the US should improve things for all users, not just me or those using Mozy for the Mac. (I don’t know where Carbonite user support is based, because I’ve never received a personal response from them.) Also, Mozy is owned by EMC, a company that knows a bit about backup, at least from the enterprise perspective.

Carbonite make have a slight edge over Mozy because Carbonite offers an app with the ability to restore individual files on demand to an iPad, an iPhone or a Wi-Fi-equipped iPod touch, but I don’t expect Mozy to allow this gap to exist for long. Ultimately, the Mozy-vs.-Carbonite discussion may come down to distinctions that make little difference. But to me, either is far better than no cloud-based backup at all. But what do YOU think?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

EnterpriseWizard: A, If Not The, Future of Business Applications

Where business software is concerned, last year’s big question was, "Why can’t business applications be as easy to use as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?"

This year's question should be, "Why aren't business application development, alignment with key business processes and process optimization as easy as building Facebook pages or blogs and Web sites with Weebly or Google Sites?”

I know, it's overly long, but it's still a good question.

As I see it, two key obstacles stand in the way of legacy/traditional approaches to business applications and business process automation.
  • Adaptation – legacy/traditional approaches are notoriously difficult, expensive, time-consuming or impossible to adapt to specific business processes, needs or goals.
  • Adoption – in part because of their adaptation limitations, legacy/traditional approaches almost never achieve sufficient user adoption levels to drive high, consistent or sustained business value.
A more modern approach should enable rapid development and deployment with almost limitless adaptation abilities, to drive high, rapid adoption and measurable, significant and sustainable business value. Such an approach should also enable creation of applications for key business tasks, aligned with and driven by easily captured, executed and automated business processes.

I believe that one of the first real-life examples of such an approach is being taken by Colin Earl and his merry little band at a software company called EnterpriseWizard. And that's all I'm going to tell you here, at least for now. You can read more about EnterpriseWizard and why I think what I do about the company in a Brief I wrote for -- "Integrated Collaboration, Communication and Process Automation in the Cloud: EnterpriseWizard." Then, you should visit the EnterpriseWizard Web site, paying particular attention to the user success stories, which span a range of use cases and company sizes.

EnterpriseWizard isn't for every company's every software need. But I believe it is a bellwether for how many business applications are likely to be built and delivered in the future. And I mean the near-term future, as is starting...oh, pretty much now.