Linux Backup: Software Roundup

The choices for Linux backup are as varied as the Linux platform itself.
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One of the reasons I use Linux is because it allows me to get a lot of work done without the added distraction of malware. However, just because malware isn't a threat to my desktop doesn't mean that I shouldn't backup my data. Linux isn't fail proof and anyone who values their data is a fool if they don't have a solid backup plan in place.

In this article, we'll examine different tools that are used to backup desktop Linux installations. From the easy to use to the more in-depth, I’ll explore multiple options.

Similar to Apple's Time Machine (Linux)

Apple fans like my wife genuinely enjoy the convenience that her Mac's Time Machine program provides. It backs up her entire OS X installation. Time Machine's biggest attraction is being able to roll back the system state to an earlier period of time.

The closest thing to the Apple program would be a software title known as Back In Time. It's designed to take a snapshot of the directories you've designated to be backed up. To be clear, I've only used this software for user data and not system data.

At its core, Back In Time is just a fancy wrapper for rsync. The advantage to this rsync front-end is you're able to restore from specific points in time. This can be helpful if you're trying to recover a lost document or picture from a few backups ago. The only real downside to this software is that outside of local shares and directories, you're not able to store your backups remotely.

There are work-a-rounds to this of course – one could move the backups via cron after the fact. But this would be messy and not recommended. Your best bet is to stick to a NAS box or perhaps a samba share.

Now obviously this might be overkill for most people. Users (such as myself) might prefer a tool that simply allows them to restore selected user data directories from the most recent backup. In instances like this, I've found that Déjà Dup is tough to beat. This software is a front-end to duplicity. Once you get past the fact that you can't restore to certain time points, the advantage of this application is being able to store to remote locations over SSH, Amazon S3 and anything else your file browser can connect to.

I also appreciate that you can browse to a file in your file manager (Caja, Nautilus, etc), right-click on a file and see the option to revert that file to a previous state. As explained previously, the restoration is only available from the most recent backup. Some might find this limiting, but I've found it works for me.

Who should use this: If you need incremental backup for user data like your home directory.

Similar to Windows Restore (Linux)

One of the things I've found people miss from their Windows days is the ability to restore system files from a previous state under Linux. Personally, it's not a feature I miss or care much for. Nevertheless, the desire among the masses is that there should be an option here. As luck would have it, one application called TimeShift provides this exact ability.

Most people will find that creating system snapshots at boot is more than enough to meet their needs with this application. Anything beyond this can fill up your drive(s) rather quickly. Another consideration is whether this is really worth it. Think about it – it's the user data that's difficult to replace. That said, if you're running a rolling release distribution and have concerns about future updates, this won't provide a smooth way to restore to a working system. And like our other examples above, TimeShift takes its snapshots with rsync along with hard-links.

Who should use this: If you need incremental backup for your operating system configuration, this is the tool for you.


This proprietary application isn't going to be a fit for everyone, but if you're looking for a Linux compatible GUI application to backup your data to Amazon's cloud servers, this is a dependable solution. With JungleDisk, you're able to select the directories you'd like to backup and setup a backup schedule that works best for you.

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Tags: data storage, Linux, backup

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