[Not] Unlimited Mozy

Something interesting happened on February 1st. in the incredibly exciting realm of online backups. Let’s just address one thing first: backups. Please make backups and regularly. Even better, have an onsite and an offsite backup. For me, offsite used to mean burning to DVD-R and shipping to the parents, nine time zones away, and thus preserving all my family’s pictures, video and a few other bits in case something Bad (™) happened.

Initially I went with JungleDisk/Amazon S3 for this, but in November 2009 shifted to Mozy – unlimited backup for 5USD a month which made more sense for me and meant I could also backup all the .dv videos and music, then about 140GB in total, now about 175GB.

As I say then, on Feb. 1st. Mozy dropped their unlimited plan, and implemented a tier based system. Instead of unlimited for 5 USD/month, it would be 50GB for 6USD/month and additional fees per 20GB above that. For me then, that would be about 21USD / month – a decent price increase.

As I posted on their forums, on the now 847 post complaint thread:

“I appreciate storage (even with EMC behind you) costs money. Bandwidth costs money. I can understand your move to a tiered, non unlimited plan, I really can.  That said, here’s my two thoughts:

– you set the baseline too low – I see a lot of people on Twitter, and myself between 150-200GB, and for us, there’s just no economic reason to stay once our plans expire. For me that’s 10months, though I need to be careful to avoid the auto-renewal if I decide to leave (and unfortunately take my parents with me). I don’t think we’re abusing your generous unlimited offer with that amount per month. My fee likely covers my cost to you.

– but honestly, what irks me most is that I learn about this on Twitter, and on Lifehacker. I don’t have an e-mail from you, I don’t see anything on the blog from you. That just seems to imply you’re not interested in customer relations. As I implied above, that I only get mail from Mozy after they’ve charged my credit card, but not for a product offering shift like this means that I think you’re going to have a painful reaction from users who don’t watch every product announcement not in their mailbox.

Again, it’s a bold move by Mozy and I’m sure others will follow, and users will chose to stay or go, but really, whoever handled the rollout of this announcement needs to be given a little talking to.”

The first company blog entry for the change came on February 3rd. A touch late for many. That support forum thread is 99% complaints, accusations, as you can imagine.

I didn’t get the email notification Mozy say they sent. I use Google Apps for mail and had a look but found nothing. I asked about this and Community Manager Mike responded that so many e-mails going out at once probably set many ISPs spam alarm bells ringing. I find this fairly plausible, but given I’d already seen it on Twitter it was essentially moot within 24hours anyway.

“Mike, thanks for posting, and I wish you all the best too.

Business needs change, strategies change, sheer costs change, and that’s part of the world. Per my previous post in this thread, one thing I hope Mozy is hearing, aside from people’s unhappiness with the costing, is the communication. I found out via Lifehacker – no email for me. That’s not impressive. When I went to the blog at http://mozy.com/blog/ there’s nothing there either.

Given this thread, and the pounding #mozy is taking on Twitter and elsewhere, which I’m sure Mozy anticipated, it’s obvious a lot of people liked the service as it was, and many will leave due to the change. I hope those who work in Mozy stay employed in whatever direction Mozy is going. A company is always made up of it’s staff and it’s customers.

As for me, I have a few months for myself and my parents until renewal, so I’ll likely wait and see what happens.”

To which Mike responded:

“Thanks. The emails went out last night, however because of the volume of emails, it took a while for all of them to be sent. Also, because of the volume, I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit a lot of spam filters. The Mozy blog was supposed to contain this content here, but they moved it because of the high traffic (they didn’t want to bring mozy.com to a crawl).”

I’m actually finding this quite interesting, both in how to manage this from Mozy’s point of view, and how to seize some advantage. You only have to check out some Twitter streams for Feb. 1st. to 3rd. to see how this works: mentions of Mozy, #Mozy

Note that the hashtag seems to have a lot of spam like entries still pimping the unlimited and free plans – it’s fair to say Mozy has zero control over this.

Basically, it’s a pounding at best. Mozy in their Twitter stream is obviously on the defensive and they don’t really have any carrot to dangle. Also, note that up until the end of January, Mozy would go for days without posting – now it’s more than hourly.

Now see how competitor Crashplan is working this with their ‘mozyonover’ 15% discount link thrown out all over. @crashplan.

There’s a key couple of key phrases repeated in there such as “We appreciate your business.” and “Welcome” as well as careful retweets, and the re-iteration of their migration discount URL.

What comes out of things like this is that it makes people go and take a look at competitors – I looked at quite a few but I should say that I’ve gone with Crashplan. Crashplan have an interesting client which allows me to use their app to backup to another local machine as well as their online service (or even a friend’s PC).

Sustainable?

One thing that did occur to me is why. Obviously Mozy wants out of the large storage consumer market – chances are it just doesn’t have the profit margin they need and is more trouble than they feel it’s worth. I suspect the sweet spots are indeed these sub 50GB people, and the small business users. I wonder how long till others decide to drop ‘unlimited’; I suspect that may depend on how Mozy fares.

I think there are questions over anything called ‘unlimited’ though I honestly believe 170GB isn’t a huge amount of data, people backing up terabytes is almost impressive. Perhaps its because to me Mozy was a last resort – my main machine, a Mac – has a Time Machine drive as live backup, and I take weekly snapshots to a couple of attached hard drives.

Mozy, with it’s download speed even on my nice fibre connection, isn’t going to rival an eSATA2 HDD for restore. However, if someone walks off with that drive and the diminutive Mac Mini, then Mozy just paid for itself.

As you can see from my posts, and some of the others, I just can’t get angry about this. Yes, it’s a pain uploading all that data to another site, but my Mac is happy to do that whilst I sleep, and it’s still on Mozy whilst I move. If anything, I hope it makes people think more about offsite storage.