Ever since I read about this product in several of the post-CES roundups, I have been fairly intrigued by the Mirra Personal Server and its positioning as a backup solution for home computers. The logic for the Mirra product is pretty easy to grasp and its success in the marketplace will tell us something about consumer awareness about the need for backup.
Just to get a few things clear, I think that the need for backup outside of the enterprise space has always been there. My experience has been that people do not become serious about backing up their files until they have suffered a costly loss of data or massive hard drive failure. Generally speaking, I have seen that such incidents make people much more aware of and interested in data backup solutions. With that background, my guess is that the “why now” logic of the Mirra product goes something like this:
-Conusmers are storing and creating increasing amounts of digital content (photos, home movies, mp3s, etc.)
-Loss of said content would represent a catasrophe of sorts for your average home user as he/she likely does not have any other digital copy of said content
-Therefore, consumers will pay money for a low-cost, easy-to-use backup solution.
I tend to agree with all three of those statements. I do believe that consumers are storing a lot of family photos, home movies, mp3s, and other digital content on their home PCs and that the information is not being backed up anywhere. I do believe that losing that information would be catastrophic for the average user and that people are looking to find a way to protect that data from loss. So will the Mirra product do the trick?
First of all, a lot of tech-savvy consumers will likely look at the $399 price tag and say “Wait a minute — I can buy an 80 GB hard drive for about $150 retail from any reputable online or offline merchant. Why would I pay $250 on top of that?” I don’t think that Mirra is looking to target the Fry’s do-it-yourself crowd. The real audience for this tool is probably the intersection of the crowd who is technologically savvy enough to understand the need for backup but not sufficiently inclined/talented to buy an alternative. For Mirra’s target customers, my guess that the most competitive substitute to their product is simply apathy.
Second, an I believe more importantly, is the question of whether the need for backup has become sufficiently well-understood by consumers to justify a capital expenditure that could be roughly equivalent to purchasing a new low-end PC. My sense is that the consumer backup market today is where antivirus was 3-7 years ago — people broadly understood that it was a good thing to protect themselves against viruses, but the problem had very little personal relevance. It wasn’t until people got hit with a bad virus that either led to great personal embarassment or system failure that the message hit home — protect your machine. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that home PC backup is in the same place.
I am going to follow the development of this product because I believe that it is something that consumers should use and want. The market will tell us if the price and timing are right.