Reader Bob Klein is disappointed with a method for backing up computer data that I recommended last year. Here's his story:
Late last year you wrote a column touting the Mirra Personal Server as a backup device for small offices (see BW Online, 09/29/05, "Bless Both of These Backups"). I bought one for my wife's home business, a three-computer setup, and after a few glitches got it running. Recently, my wife's hard drive failed, and when I tried to restore from the Mirra, I found that all the modified dates were set to 4/21/06, the date of the restore. When Mirra restores them, it cannot preserve the dates on the files. Mirra tech support (such as it is) confirms this feature.
Dates on the files are an important way for my wife to keep things straight. She is devastated (and furious at me for having inflicted the Mirra on her) about having lost an important means of keeping over 5,000 separate files organized. A backup solution that cannot preserve the original information about a file should never be recommended by BusinessWeek. I don't know if you have any mechanism for withdrawing or correcting a recommendation, but in this case I strongly urge you to consider doing so.
After verifying the problem you describe on my own system, I took the issue to Seagate Technology (STX), which now owns Mirra. A spokesperson promised in early May to check into the matter and get back to me, and that's the last I heard of it.
The handling of dates is a flaw in Mirra's design that I should have noticed but didn't. I don't generally pay a lot of attention to file dates. In particular, the files on the Mirra that were most important to me were photos and music. For music, file dates are completely irrelevant, while for photos I rely on the date recorded by the camera at the time the picture was taken rather than the file date created when the pictures are stored. So I didn't lose anything of value when I restored data from the Mirra -- and I overlooked a problem that would be important for many users.
There's no particular trick to preserving file dates. Most backup software does this right, preserving the correct dates for all the versions of a file that it saves. In the absence of a response from Seagate, I'm baffled as to why the Mirra doesn't.
After publication, Seagate came back with a response:
"The Mirra system is designed to preserve the file modification dates during the restore process. However, Seagate technical support has heard from a very few Mirra owners (the number I was told was 3 in the last year) where a certain combination of events on those particular systems resulted in the dates being changed from the file’s original modification date to the date of the restore. We have classified this anomaly as a bug that is difficult to replicate, but understood that it exists. The good news, of course, is that Mr. Klein's data was saved from the hard drive crash and then restored. The bad news is that it had lost the modification dates that his wife used to organize her data."
Seagate also says it is close to completing a new version of the software that will eliminate the problem and add new features, including support for Macintoshes.