Testing ElephantDrive for online backups

(update 2/21/09) Canceled my ElephantDrive account. See my comment below for a brief explanation. Nice folks, some good concepts, but not fully ready for primetime. Have gone with MyOtherDrive (testing blog here) and will be canceling Mozy by month-end.

(update 2/11/09 — see my comment about repeat uploads — posted as a comment to the blog entry — and not getting support feedback had a support email later in the day … dialogue begun)

(update 2/4/09) ElephantDrive finished the initial upload. Still no clue why it took so long, but it is trucking along very unobtrusively now. Not near the impact on the computer as Mozy had while it is checking for modifications or doing actual updates. Things I find now to be remarkable:

  1. Minimal impact on the computer. Works nicely in the background.
  2. Easy to drag and drop a file from computer to “My Trunk” online — use if there is a file that is not part of the normal backups, but you want it online.
  3. Easy to share a file – just highlight in My Trunk view and click SHARE button.
    1. However – there is no public share. Sharee (is that a word) has to have an ED account. My guess is the free account will do.
  4. Still not convinced the STOP button really works, or works all the time.
  5. The error reports are still quite cryptic except for the “file locked” which are ok.
  6. Love the “Your files” view and think I’ll like the online file explorer but have not tinkered with it much.

Now testing ElephantDrive — here is their blurb:

Unlimited online storage for your photos, music, video, documents, and all other valuable files you have! Pre-made categories and our simple wizard make sure that all your important data gets automatically backed up!

Learn more about plans for Home users

Plans start at $4.95/month  Learn More

via Online Backup, Online File Storage – Simple, secure, & affordable online backup & storage.

At the moment I’m running a backup under their 1gig free account but will probably do the $4.95 plan and test it thoroughly for a month, along with Mozy. Why am I considering changing? Because Mozy is slower and slower, and tends to really hog the machine. If you have a backup that starts and you need the computer, it takes over the machine during all of the prep work. Once the actual data transfer begins the throttle function works and you can resume your work. But that can be 1/2 hour or better (anecdotal — have not timed).

Initial info and impressions

  • Quick installation. Registration took 1 minute or less, no credit-card required.
  • Program installation after download took maybe 3 minutes.
  • Initial scan of the desk to detect files falling within the default categories took maybe 10-15 minutes (Mozy took an hour or more). This is on a drive where Mozy has been backing up 39GB of files. ElephantDrive (ED hereinafter) identified 46GB.
  • On a 6gig broadband connection it appears 1GB of files will take about 4 hours.
  • Has a nice report screen showing the backup in progress, file by file, with upload speeds. Mozy’s status screen is more cryptic.
  • Can access your “trunk” (i.e. your cluster of online data) with either the desktop client or via the web. The file explorer populates much faster than Mozy, but will need to see how that is once a full backup is completed.
  • Includes a file-sharing function.
  • Has an option to automatically throttle upload usage during set hours.
  • The impact on the computer, even when set to the fastest upload usage, is far less than with Mozy.
  • QUESTIONS & CONS
    • Open file backup available only in the Pro versions
    • Not sure about the scheduling — how often will this run and how controllable is it?
      • Double-click the BACKUPS button and configure for individual categories of files
    • Reports window cannot be resized, thus the columns cannot be adjusted so as to see essential info such as the complete path and filename.
    • Problem report is nonsensical: many lines of “It has been removed from the queue.” No explanation of WHAT has been removed or why.
    • Upload appears to stall if the computer goes into either screen saver mode or even just turning the screen off. Left at 6:45AM with about 965mb done, came back at 1:15PM to find only 1015mb done. It was left running all night and similarly appeared to have just stalled. Total now of 20 hrs 37 minutes and only 1015mb done on a 1gig upload connection.
      • It’s now Jan 31 and the initial upload is still not finished.  Here is my Total Progress screen:
        Progress screen

        Progress screen

        which to me doesn’t make a lot of sense. The elapsed time is clearly wrong and the time remaining is as well. The number of files may be about right. Is it 62% done of the initial load? Or of all the files, old and new, to be uploaded? I do note that the total files varies, apparently taking into account both files never uploaded and changed files (or pieces) to be refreshed.

      • (2/1/09) The progress of the initial load continues to be a mystery to me, witness this progress screen:
        Uploading progress

        Uploading progress

        where the transfer indicated now exceeds the size of the entire drive which I assume includes changed files + the remaining initial load. Look at the total number of files to be transferred and how it has lept. This change is in 24 hours.

    • The initial upload finally finished. This started on 1/19 and here is the result as of early 2/1/09: Initial load The first three categories had finished some days ago, but Video and Movie Clips on down just finished inthe last 24 hours or so.
    • There is no “pause” button. It is unclear what will happen with the “Stop Backup” button but here goes: file encrypting and transferring is continuing, presumably clearing out the queue. Button came back out as un-selected and transfers continue. Clicked the stop button again. “checking for modifications,” encrypting and transferring still occurring. No messages in either the transfers or problems report. It’s the STOP button — DOUBLE-click it and it pauses the uploading and click again to restart — program does not unload. (updated 1/21)
    • It can’t handle a file being deleted from the disc while it’s being uploaded. Program just stalls — can’t figure out what to do. Further: it may not have stalled. Just closed and re-opened the Reports window and another file is now being transferred.
    • There needs to be a way to adjust the speed of the backup with a simple slider without going through the routine of testing the speed of the link (Advanced|Network Settings).
    • The progress bar is confusing. It doesn’t show overall progress, just that during the current session, I think. See notes above on progress.
    • Throttle doesn’t really work. I’ve been clicking along at around 700Kb/ps, ran the Network Settings and set to next to lowest, still running same speed while using the computer.
      • Clicked stop button: continues upload of current file – that’s probably good.
      • Having trouble finishing that file — ed_progress4it was within bytes of finishing and now apparently has started over trying to finish that “re-sending” process. And why is it re-sending? That file has not been touched.
  • (update 2/2/09) The system as now (as of wee hours of 2/2) finished the initial upload of all of my categories. See ed_progress_currentthe screen shot here. I now observe a real thrashing of the drive while modifications are scanned for. It’ll be interesting during the day when I can watch what’s going on and see how the ongoing updates are handled.
    • Question: is the fact that this is a laptop that gets hibernated with some frequency possibly part of the explanation for the long initial upload? It doesn’t stay down long, but every day it’s hibernated enroute work, and again enroute back home. Otherwise it runs all the time and connected to the internet always.

Other systems I’m looking at

My Other Drive — which I’ve not yet installed or tried. It gets a lot of good reviews and also includes file-sharing so it’s worth looking at. Also apparently has a photo album capability — is it a Flickr replacement?

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About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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18 Responses to Testing ElephantDrive for online backups

  1. An ED user says:

    Lipstick on a pig.

    Sigh.

    I hadn’t expected to be commenting yet again tonight but it turns out my pessimistic expectations about ED’s new desktop software turned out be to widely optimistic.

    After less than 3 hours my very first moderate sized test file (192MB) went to 100%, having uploaded at <50% of my line capacity, and is stuck there still, still transmitting.

    The improvement has been to eliminate the “resending” messages, but the underlying issues have not been tackled.

  2. An ED user says:

    That’s what’s so annoying. Its not hard. Mozy even tells you how to do it:

    > Run a cron job of rsync, gzip and mcrypt piped over ssh to your friend’s server over his DSL line.

    Though no doubt written as a joke to scare off non-techies, it’s pretty much all that’s required — that’s how my sister-in-law’s photos get backed up to my machine (a 15 year old who does backups? Not in this lifetime, even after loosing them all.) The rest is tinkering to make it easy to use, but seemingly breaking it in the process.

    ED’s motives seem particularly suspicious. A search on the net reveals the CEO’s background is in building up a company then selling out to make his money. I worry that the running down of support and development might be indicative of problems selling out and lack of interest in steady income.

    If Google are really bringing out a mainstream solution I’d say the writing is really on the wall for ED and presumably some others too.

  3. Gil Jones says:

    One has to ask “why is this so hard?” I’m pretty happy with MyOtherDrive. Your experience with ElephantDrive tells me there is no chance for it, although it looked intriguing at first.

    MOD does not have a very sophisticated way of creating backup sets or selecting files. You basically select on your own, which is OK with me. The backup works, I can get back one file or many, and I like the sharing ability.

  4. An ED user says:

    Forgot to mention: I found the CEO’s phone number on the web so gave him a call. VM. Calls unreturned.

    Like CEO, like support?

  5. An ED user says:

    Well since my last comment ED desktop crashed, and took my backup settings with it. A note to support on how to recover them went, of course, unanswered.

    So I started looking around at alternatives. Mozy I like a lot: it uploads just the changes so if I change the iptc data on a photo it doesn’t upload the whole thing again like ED does. But the problem for me is that if it sees a previously known drive unattached when it does a backup it schedules its contents for deletion in 30 days. As a laptop user who keeps their photos on an external drive that’s far too risky for my liking.

    I’ve also looked at LiveDrive, but their support for detecting changes in directories is not currently very good, though scheduled to get improved this month.

    So I was just considering whether to give them a try or reenter all my backup setting into the POSware that ED desktop is when a new version of the ED desktop appears today.

    The interface is still hokey, though not as bad as it was. The question is does it work now? Testing…

    Still don’t know if I’ll renew though. The reality is that its totally unsupported.

  6. An ED user says:

    I too am considering canceling ED.

    For months now I’ve had problems with slow uploads and hours and hours of “resending fragments”. Support was unable to fix it, blaming everything apart from their service, and now they’ve stopped answering my emails altogether. There’s no messenger service any more, and their phone always goes to VM.

    Their desktop software has always been a bit hokey and there’s clearly no development under way to fix it.

    I’m not sure I’m happy to trust my data to an organization where you can’t contact support and they’re not interested in responding to problems.

    More style then substance maybe?

  7. Gil Jones says:

    I have not looked into livedrive. And am currently having some issues with MyOtherDrive on my Vista machine, but an XP machine is cranking away just fine. Don’t know why there would be a difference. I’ll say this, their support is outstanding. You WILL get an answer back from John at MOD when you do have questions.

  8. Jan says:

    Have you looked into livedrive at all? Mozy was not a good fit for me, and I am now unsure of ed. I would love some info on livedrive if you have any. I will also be looking into myotherdrive.

    Thanks!!

  9. Bill says:

    Gil:

    I experienced the same issues as you reported and had issues with Elephant Drive customer service. I missed the end of the 14 day trial because I had forgotten when it began. I would have remembered had they sent an initial e-mail right after I signed up, but I did not get one. In the admin section, there is also no indication of start date. Because of this, I told them what I really wanted to was switch from the yearly plan they billed me for to a monthly. They told me several times they would do it, no problem, and credit my account, but they never did. Customer service appears to be 1 guy who appears to be buried in work. No one answers the phone or returns voice mail messages. I initiated a charged back with my credit card company and I cancelled the account. It’s been a week and I have not heard from them or seen a resolution with the charge back. Their site does not say if they refund the unused portion of a yearly fee when you cancel, but that is what I would expect from any company. Still waiting. These guys are not ready for prime time.

  10. Brad says:

    Great review, thanks!

    Any issues with cancelling service on elephantdrive? The cancellation link works but I don’t receive the confirmation e-mail. I was cancelling it on day 14 but today is day 15 and they billed me the yearly fee. I left voicemails and e-mails yesterday and today.

    Come to think of it, I sent a request for partnership 2 weeks ago and received no response, and also support request a few days received no response. Nothing in my email provider’s spam filter from them either.

    I’m testing myotherdrive next and following your other blog.

  11. Would love to have you check us out on http://www.myotherdrive.com. We handle photos exceptionally well.

  12. Gil Jones says:

    On 2/13/09 canceled ElephantDrive and am returning to Mozy. The program is either constantly running either looking for modifications or actually uploading, and has uploaded a number of unchanged files twice. The initial backup took a couple of weeks altogether. It also consumes 150-200mb of memory and works the hard drive way too much. Mozy, while backing up, uses less that 100mb. It is also better at detecting when the computer is truly idle and not starting prematurely, although if it does get started and you need to get to the computer, it takes a while to kill the program or get to the lower usage screen. But overall it’s a more finished product. ED is an advanced beta, I’d say. There is much about ED I do like better as discussed in my main part of the article above.

  13. Gil Jones says:

    Sometime on Feb 7 or 8, I posted a support form on the ElephantDrive site that many, many files were again being uploaded that had not changed. Going into the web explorer I could see many files in my photo directory with two versions, one with, for example, 2.55mb size and the most recent with 2.56mb size. But in fact, these files had NOT been modified. Many hours of uploading in directories that had been marked by ED as having been completed. Maybe as many as 6 files had been added to the photo directory and perhaps a couple were changed. Hundreds upon hundreds were uploaded.

    Here’s the bad thing. I then sent an email on 2/10 before noon and still have had no response either to the web form submission or the direct email. Here was the followup email:

    I submitted a support form a little over a day ago on something pretty important. Following up.
    It appears, that I’m experiencing a complete re-upload of my entire system of files that in no way have changed.

    (update 2/11/09 — have been contacted. Looking into the problem.)

    I only looked specifically at the photo files because that was a huge volume of data, but I can verify that huge portions of files have been re-uploaded without any modifications having been made.

    I’m willing to say that maybe there is something here that I don’t understand, but the lack of support response is troubling.

  14. Gil Jones says:

    Still testing ElephantDrive. It is still working on the initial upload which is taking considerably longer than did Mozy. I want to get that completed and see how ED does in normal, daily operation before taking a look at something else.

  15. John Tucker says:

    Did you decide to stay with ElephantDrive or go with MyOtherDrive?

  16. Pingback: Justice rules on ElephantDrive - the verdict is “great service” « ElephantDrive

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