We’ve currently got something like 7 computers currently in use in my house these days, and I’ve been looking for a centralized backup solution for the home for a while.
Eventually, I settled on a Mirra – a small form-factor appliance-like backup server. It comes in four sizes, 80GB, 160GB, 250GB, and 400GB. I ordered the 400GB based on the amount of stuff we’ve got saved on the various machines that will have to be backed up.
I’ve not yet had a chance to use all the features of the product (in particular, I’ve not used the remote access functionality), but I did set it up and get it running on two of the machines over the weekend.
I have to say that I’m impressed. IMHO, these guys have been taking lessons from Apple in terms of out-of-box experience (Personally, I think that Apple does OOBE better than any other PC hardware company).
You open the Mirra box, and you see a cardboard inset, with a folded card-stock flyer and the power cord and an ethernet cord.
On the cover of the flyer, are the words “Welcome to Mirra”. You open it up, and it unfolds into a four page story telling you that you’re about to enter into a new world where you don’t have to worry about your data. On the back of each of the four pages is one of the four steps to setting up the Mirra – the first tab has you plugging in the appliance (you need to plug it into AC and into an ethernet port), the second tab has you installing the software on your PC, the third has you configuring the PC, the fourth is “Relax”.
I LOVED this experience – it’s exactly the balance that computer-related appliance should strike – simple instructions, clearly spelled out, easy for Abby to get right. The actual Mirra device is a small form-factor PC, I didn’t crack the case to see what was running inside it, but it’s got video, keyboard, mouse, and USB ports on the case (the video and USB are covered over with plastic). The small form-factor PC is perfect for “plug it in and forget about it”.
I had some difficulties getting the software installed on the first machine I tried, it didn’t recognize the firewall I was running (Microsoft One-Care Beta1), and I had to manually configure it. On the other hand, the manufacturers web site was extremely helpful getting past this hurdle, and once set up, it immediately started copying files.
I next went to each of the four accounts on that machine and set the software up on each of them. It worked seamlessly for all four accounts, including all the limited user accounts. This alone impressed the heck out of me – there aren’t that many software products out there that consider the FUS (fast user switching) and LUA scenarios, but clearly the Mirra guys had.
I then went upstairs to my computer, and installed it. This machine doesn’t have One-Care installed on it, and the Mirra detected the XP SP2 firewall and opened the relevant ports in the firewall (the firewall is enabled and I didn’t need to do anything about it). The machine then started hammering our home network copying off all the files on the machine.
I still need to get it installed on the kids computers, that’ll be interesting since the kids computers don’t have access to the internet.
The Mirra backup software runs as two services, running in two processes (I’m not sure why, since both services run at localsystem). However, once configured, the Mirra backup software will run without requiring any process in the user’s session. If I was doing it, I’d have used just one process to run both services, but…
As I commented to Valorie “This is the software I would have designed”. I was utterly impressed that they seem to have nailed several critical scenarios that are usually overlooked.
One negative (not relevant to me, but probably to others) is that this is a Windows-only product – they don’t seem to have Mac or Linux clients.
In general, though, I’m pretty impressed.