Real Web on Your Cell– Browser: Yes, App Server: No

Chrome Walker has a post on some of the new phones coming out in Europe for 2008. One of the trends that seems to be emerging is the “real web.” This was kicked off by Apple with the iPhone, and its the idea that you can view the Internet on your cell phone with a reasonable interface. In other words, its formatted the same way as it would be on your computer.

In and of itself, this is a good thing for everyone: the cell phone industry (they sell more phones), the carriers (people use their data plans), web sites (more hits), and of course you (its pretty cool, after all). And, the hype seems to be true: people really are using their “Real Web” browsers.

However, like Apple tried with the iPhone, some manufacturers seem to think that providing a full AJAX web environment is an alternative to allowing people to install local applications. After all, the apps already exist, and they are standardized. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, there are a couple of holes in that logic. They are significant, although even the iPhone tried to get around them and found that it couldn’t.

First, the performance of a web-based program is significantly slower than a native one. For the iPhone, for example (the only phone so far with a full web browser), a web-based AJAX game is known to be around 100x slower than a comparable native version of the same program. That’s really slow. So slow, in fact, that almost any sort of game is pretty much out of the question.

Second, web-apps are only available where there is web access. In the States, at least, cell-based web access is pretty horrific, despite whatever recent claims the cell carriers have made. And because broadband speeds are accelerating, it makes the cell rates seem that much worse. Definitely not good enough to be taken seriously for an application. Second, you can’t run the app where you get no (or bad) cell service. Like in a subway, for example. Because the phones don’t cache the web page for very long, it means that you can’t even web apps that don’t need to contact the server are unusable if you want to pull up a game like Space Wormy.

For these reasons, phones will still need local apps for at least the foreseeable future. Hopefully, this won’t lead to the introduction of new cell phone platforms and API’s. The last thing the heavily fragmented cell phone industry needs is yet another platform. However, manufacturers can’t seem to help themselves. But that’s a whole other topic.

Mozy ing along …

About a month ago, I started using Mozy, an online backup service which was endorsed by several respectable publications, including the Wall Street Journal. I immediately ran into problems. After posting about those on my blog, Mozy representatives contacted me and helped to resolve them. Please read that previous post for a background on my experiences with Mozy so far. The current question is, however, now that all those issues have been resolved, how has Mozy been over the past 45 days?

The answer, unfortunately, is not good.

I’ll preface this by saying that I would really like for Mozy to be a great service. I think that they certainly have the potential to be a significant player in the backup market, especially for home and small office users. Also, their ownership by EMC should provide them with a lot of internal leverage to build out a very solid technical infrastructure.

Despite having developed an almost-perfect local client, a very simple to use interface, and a phenomenal price, Mozy has completely goofed their execution. There are a few components to this, but the end result is that Mozy becomes completely useless as a backup solution for any customers who have an actual need for one.

One issue, a relatively minor one, is that they lead you to believe that their client can automatically back up your computer. Now I can only speak for the Mac client, as my Mozy account is a tied to my Mac. Their client installs seamlessly, and puts a little icon in the menu bar. So far, so good. It even goes ahead and starts to back up your computer. Unfortunately, the client can’t be trusted to actually do an unattended backup. If the client runs into any sort of problem, it just stops, and pops up an error box. And it won’t retry the backup until you click ok! This might not seem like a big deal at first, but now consider that it might take weeks or months to make a backup (more on that later). If you go away on a Friday night, and there is an error, Mozy will just sit and do nothing all weekend until you get back and click ‘ok.’

This is a relatively benign issue, and clearly the Mozy developers can easily fix it with a software update, so I wouldn’t use this as a reason not to use Mozy. The next two issues are a bit more serious, however. Let’s tackle the most obvious one: Mozy doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth.

I have Verizon FIOS, with a 10 mbit upload speed. I’ve tested this at various places around the Internet, and I know that I can upload to anywhere that can handle it at the full speed. The Mozy client, however, *averages* about 35k/s uploading to the Mozy servers. This is fairly ridiculous. I have been trying to make a *single* backup since purchasing the service. That was around 45 days ago. In 45 days, Mozy has backed up 200 out of 450 GB. At this rate, it will take me more than 1/4 of a *year* just to make a single backup. While you may have more or less data to back up, this is not an acceptable rate.

And finally, the other big issue with Mozy is that they have no support infrastructure whatsoever. When I contacted them prior to my last blog post, I used their online chat support on their web site several times, speaking with several different technicians (who I then exchanged emails with). I later exchanged emails with their Support Operations Manager.

The interesting thing is that none of these people knew that I was speaking with the others. There was no internal ticketing or CRM system which let them track my issue. Each person I was speaking with tracked my issue separately (or forgot to, as the case may be, and didn’t follow up). Additionally, although I was told Mozy was looking into it, Mozy doesn’t communicate with their customers over Known Issues, or service outages, or anything of that nature. There are no user forums on their web site so that you can ping the community knowledge base. As I’ve said in my previous post, this lack of communication flow from Mozy is unacceptable in a backup company.

I purchased a 1-year subscription to Mozy, thinking that at the price they were offering, how could I go wrong? While I am stuck with my never-ending backup for the next 10 months, I recommend you look elsewhere. I have no knowledge how the other online-backup solutions are, but at this rate your money would be better spend on a USB harddrive.