Edit November 2011:
I’ve been using MiMedia for over a year now. Some great new music lockers (from Amazon and Google as an example) have shown up since this was written, making MiMedia’s in-browser mp3 feature a bit less distinguishing and the continued lack of organization of your songs a bit more disappointing. But overall, I still highly reccommend the service, and have paid for another year myself.
Also, it’s been suggested that this review is an ad (see comments) – that’s not the case, it is all original, un-solicited content about a new service I was genuinely interested in.
A Look at Online Backups
Normally this blog is topically limited to subjects directly involving the outdoors in Western NC, but behind the web site is a lot of technology that is needed to keep it running, which I like to mention from time to time. So I wanted to share my experience with a new Online Backup provider that I think deserves some serious attention to anyone who wants to backup their stuff online (and everyone should!) The big players in this space are currently Mozy and Carbonite – which have great products – but the new service MiMedia should be giving them a run for their money soon.
Why MiMedia is Different
Like Mozy and Carbonite, MiMedia keeps a copy of everything on your computer in a secure digital locker on servers far away, so that even if your computer is completely destroyed, you’ll be able to get your stuff back. But what sets MiMedia apart is that you can access your files from anywhere through their Web Portal, and you don’t need to do a complicated restore process to get to them.
For most people, a good deal of what they backup is media related – music, photos, and videos. MiMedia was built with this in mind from the start. So using their Web Portal, you can listen to your MP3′s anywhere, on demand – even from an iPhone (I hear support for Android is coming soon). You can look at photo slideshows and watch videos anywhere you have Internet and a Web browser. And sharing them with family and friends is a piece of cake. MiMedia even gives you an “M” drive which you can upload files to from anywhere. This can replace those USB thumb drives everyone carries, if both computers are online.
If you’re a geek, like me, MiMedia feels like a backup service, YouTube, Flickr, the old LaLa music service, and Dropbox all in one!
Next – and this is a big deal – MiMedia offers a shuttle drive to “seed” your initial backup so you don’t have to upload it all through your Internet connection. And they ship the drive for free! If you’ve ever used something like Mozy or Carbonite and have *lots* of data, you know how important this is. My initial backup with my last online provider took a good solid month, during which time I didn’t have that safety net for disasters. But when the MiMedia client is first installed, it looks at what you’re backing up to determine if your Internet connection is fast enough to handle it. Mine wasn’t, and MiMedia shipped me a USB shuttle drive in the mail. A couple of days later, I plugged it in and everything was copied to the drive in a matter of hours. Slap the postage-paid return label on the box, and put it back in the mail. A couple of more days later and everything was backed up, safe, and available through the Web Portal. This is an excellent advantage that MiMedia has that the other companies don’t yet offer. (One smaller online backup provider – CrashPlan – does offer this “seeding” service, but at the cost of $124.99. Yuk!)
MiMedia is still in Beta, meaning that they’re still working on polishing this new product to make it shine. That’s not a bad thing – you can expect the product to improve as they continue making fixes and enhancements, and it’s already better than other online backup services out there. I did notice a few small things that needed improvement as I came on board. Seriously though – little things. Like the prompt for copying to the shuttle drive appeared twice after I plugged it in (I just closed the second one), and my online portal shows all my songs twice in the list. One slightly bigger issue is that the client takes up system resources noticeably as it is running. This is to be expected and happens with any backup service, but MiMedia always runs continuously, backing up new files and changes in real time. You don’t have an option to “Pause” or schedule the backups to run overnight. But for now, I just shut down the client while I’m working and start it back up when I leave and let it do its thing. (Update: Support told me to try setting the new bandwidth utilization setting to 0% to keep it from running while the computer is in use. I’ll check out this brand-new feature and post another update when I do!)
Issues like this give beta users, like me, a great chance to test out another facet of a service – their support! Which I did, with an email I sent shortly after signing up with the service. I listed about 9 things that seemed wrong or could use improvement (again – mostly minor). They responded within a few hours, and all of the issues have been fixed or addressed, and support was quick and courteous. After speaking with several folks there, I have no doubt that the company is committed to solving any issues that arise and continuing to improve the technical aspects of the service. They are enthusiastic and really understand the problem users of the various backup and media sharing sites face. They get a solid A+ in this area.
Support options currently include phone, email, and live chat (business hours) and self-help guides and videos online.
Pricing for MiMedia is a bit different than the two big online providers, which provide unlimited space for a flat rate, in that you pay for the amount of data you need to back up. Pricing for the lowest data tier – 25GB – is just $5/month or $50/year, which is comparable to Mozy’s and Carbonite’s of the world. Honestly, this is more than enough space for most people. From there, the monthly price increases to $14 for 100GB (my plan), $24 for 250GB, $39 for 500GB, and $70 for 1TB (this is a huge amount of data – much more than most people will ever need to backup!).
So if you’re in the market for an online backup service, or maybe lamenting the shutdown of the LaLa service like I was and need a place to store your mp3′s for remote listening, MiMedia might be a good one to look at. Check it out!