Burney’s Legal Tech Reviews – Burney’s Gadgets for Legal Pros – The Mirra Personal Server 2.0

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions .

How long have you been told that backing-up your computer files is imperative and how long have you ignored that advice? Any excuses you might have for not backing up your data are quickly becoming moot because of the plethora of easy-to-use backup services and products that are available these days.

One such product is the dynamic and intuitive Mirra Personal Server from Mirra, Inc. The Mirra server is basically a small PC based on the Mini-ITX form factor. You connect it to your local network router or hub with an Ethernet cable and plug in the power.

Once connected correctly, the Mirra continuously backs up folders and e-mail data from one or more PCs connected to your local network. It also provides access to those files from other PCs and even remotely through the Internet.
Setup was painless – I simply followed the included Quick Start Guide and had the Mirra powered up in under 2 minutes. Mirra supplied everything, including an Ethernet cable.

The Mirra server integrated very well into my local network – I have a cable modem going through a router. I simply plugged the MIrra into one of router’s empty network slots.

Once you’re all plugged up, it’s time to install the software. The actual installation went fine but one gripe I had is that the Microsoft .NET software must be installed in order to use the Mirra. This provides the framework that allows the Mirra server to work properly, but I have just personally chosen to not install .NET on my PC for various reasons. I reluctantly allowed it to be installed as part of the process.

The other issue I encountered as soon as the installation process was complete was my Windows XP firewall immediately popped up and prevented the Mirra software from detecting the Mirra server. The Mirra Company did a great job of providing information as to how to properly set up your firewall so that this won’t be much of a problem. I’m using Windows XP SP2 and the updated firewall was easily configured to allow communication with the Mirra server.

The main interface of the Mirra software allows you to select the folders and data you need to back up. The software recommends things like the “My Documents” folder, Internet favorites, and Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express files. You can select any of these recommendations and add more of your own. I chose to back up my Outlook data along with a few of my important folders.
The initial backup can take some time, depending on how big your selected folders and data might be.

Once everything is backed up, you can jump back in the software to choose which folders you want to share – either locally or over the Internet. This is really where the MIrra server shines. While the Mirra Personal Server is not a traditional network server, it provides a simple and effective process for backing up important files and giving access to them over your local network.

On my computer, the folder I selected to be backed up by the Mirra server was tagged with a tiny Mirra logo. It looked a little weird, but I it told me immediately which folders and files were being backed up by the Mirra.

From that point on, anytime I worked on one of those files and made changes to it, the Mirra backed it up for me in the background. I almost forgot that my files were being backed up because as long as you see the Mirra icon in your system tray (bottom right on a Windows machine), the software is working. It had only a negligible effect on my computer’s memory or processor. Backups cannot get much easier than this.

I have a few other PCs connected to my local network and once I installed the Mirra software on them, they too could access the folders on the Mirra server.
I had the option of downloading shared folders to my second computer, so that I could work and have those files backed up in the same way. I found this process incredibly easy and it is a perfect setup for small law offices that need an easy way to backup and share files.

It gets even better – I can also choose to share files and folders over the Internet. I simply visit www.mirra.com when I’m away from the office. I can download files to a remote computer, work on the file, and then re-upload it back on to the server. When I get back to my main computer at my office, that file has been synchronized back to my computer with all the updates.

This is a great way to share files with clients. The Mirra software allows you to send an e-mail invitation to anyone so that they can log in to the Mirra Website and access the folders and files you’ve chosen to share with them.
As I mentioned earlier, there are many services and products on the market today that will easily help you back up your files. But I have to say that I haven’t found anything that is much easier to setup out of the box and to start working than the Mirra Personal Server.

The price of the Mirra server is a little steep starting at $399 for 80GB (I would recommend getting at least 120GB), but a few hundred dollars is worth spending when you think about your computer going down and you need a faithful and accurate backup.

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