Following on the heels of my near-death laptop experience last week, I committed to fixing my backup situation once and for all. I work from home, and we didn’t have a good back-up solution for either my PC or my wife’s. Though an external hard drive or a Linux box with a big hard drive would have provided storage, there is additional overhead that goes into configuring and maintaining the backup environment — something I wanted to avoid.
Then I got an e-mail from Mike Masnick, who beat some sense into me and convinced me that I needed a Mirra back-up server. (Buzz also gets credit for browbeating me into getting a Mirra.) I picked one up today, and am stunned at how simple and powerful it is.
The Mirra is a Linux PC with just an ethernet jack; plug it into your router, then install some software on the PCs you want to back up (apparently Mac support is coming), and in less than 20 minutes you’ll be backing up to the Mirra. The Mirra not only provides backup, it does it in real time, meaning the moment you save a file it’s copied to the Mirra. Even better? It stores versions of those files, ensuring that accidental over-writes are easily fixed.
Perhaps best of all, the Mirra becomes a web-accessible storage unit, instantly creating a secure web interface to your files. Now all of your files are instantly available over the web, regardless of what computer you might be at. Want to save a file with someone? Forget about online file sharing sites (why bother uploading?!) — just create a share on the Mirra by e-mailing an invite to your friend, co-worker, family member — and they’ll have access in no time.
The Mirra will also synchronize files across computers, which makes common files (I like having our pictures on my hard drive, even though the digital camera is hooked up to my wife’s computer) easy to have in two places. All in all, the feature set is solid, and so far it seems to work exactly as advertised. For $300, a 120 gigabyte hard drive with built-in real-time backup is hard to beat. All it took for me was flirting with losing a year’s worth of data to see the value in doing this.
Couple things I wished I’d done before installing the Mirra, however:
- Compact my PST file. I use Outlook, which stores everything — e-mail, attachments, contacts, calendar entries, tasks, etc. — in one huge honking file. When I started this process, my PST was nearly 1 gigabyte. After moving some old messages to a separate PST file and compacting the file (right-click on “Personal folders”, then select “properties”, then “advanced”, then “Compact now”), I reduced the PST file to 590 megs. That’s still too big, but nearly a 40% reduction, which will make backups much faster.
- Connected via ethernet. My original backup set was nearly 20 gigs, which is a ton of data to push over a wireless connection. After one aborted effort, I plugged into the ethernet port and things went much more smoothly.
Thanks to Mike and Buzz for their enthusiastic endorsements of the Mirra. After getting mine up and running, I can confirm: it’s worth the $300.