Over the years I’ve found that it matters very little which Linux distribution we use when being dealt a heavy data loss. Clearly the importance of data backup is right up there with remembering to secure a network or making sure current software patches are applied.
In short, it’s a pretty darned big deal.
But rather than dwell on the obvious downsides to revisiting one’s hindsight in losing data, I’ve decided instead to focus on the best backup utilities available for Linux on the desktop – software you’ll need before the big crash.
Bacula – Bacula is said to be the premiere enterprise-ready backup solution for those needing to pull out the big guns in keeping their data secure. The plus side is its power. This is one of the best methods of backing up servers and workstations in an enterprise setting. Despite its power however, it’s not for the casual user, as you will be knee-deep in documentation before its first run. It’s powerful, but also rather complex to use.
Amanda– I’ve always felt like that if you’re looking for enterprise backup without looking to roll up a solution from scratch, Amanda is a great option. It’s most definitely easier to use than Bacula and I don’t believe that Amanda uses MySQL/PostgreSQL for its backups. This alone can be a huge benefit. Like Bacula, Amanda is best suited for enterprise users looking for a professional backup solution. Amanda is also network backup friendly.
Mondo Rescue– Like most enterprise backup solutions, Mondo Rescue provides great support for network backups, tape drives and other enterprise backup needs. It should also be noted that some very big name companies use Mondo due to its enterprise ready dependability. After a disastrous loss of data, you can restore everything that was lost or just as much as you choose.
Clonezilla – This is a disk cloning tool that I use in my own home office, but it happens to be suitable for the enterprise environment as well. Designed to be the ultimate alternative for Norton Ghost, Clonezilla is a friendly way to keep partitions or hard disks backed up safely, without a lot of complexity. Some might claim that it feels a little bit like Mondo Rescue, but Clonezilla uses Partclone along with other technologies.
For the home office
Simple Backup – If you simply want to have specific files and folders backed up, kept safe and not have to worry about it, this is a good choice. No problem, using SBackup (Simple Backup) offers this functionality with flying colors. It’s simple to run, is available for most Linux distributions and will allow both local/off-site backups easily. SBackup also works nicely with external storage devices or SSH to a remote location, depending on how a scheduled backup is setup.
FlyBack– Based on rsync technology, FlyBack provides the most effective use of system resources possible. You can setup FlyBack to only backup what’s needed. And because it sets up a time for each backup saved, you can opt to recover your system based on a specific date of backup. The software’s creator was inspired by Apple’s Time Machine and the ability to provide a time-based recovery is thanks to rsync.
TimeVault– Considered to be a bit more intensive to use than FlyBack, TimeVault also differs from FlyBack in that it doesn’t rely on rsync. I’d consider TimeVault to be reasonably worthwhile for those folks who are interested in seeing the graphs representing their data being backed up. Like FlyBack, data is available in time-based increments. So for a restoration, just select the date you’d like to restore.
Grsync – Rsync is considered a standard among many Linux enthusiasts. After all, rsync can provide the user with great control to minimize wasted storage space by only backing up what has changed. Grsync comes into the picture as a GUI front end to rsync. It basically puts a friendly face to an already powerful tool.
Proprietary backup options
Even though I’m a big fan of the open source backup solutions listed above, I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t include two very effective proprietary Linux backup tools. I use one of them every day and can honestly state that it’s been bullet proof for me since the first time I had to do a restoration.
JungleDisk – Using their simple backup service, users of the JungleDisk product can benefit from access to Amazon’s S3 servers with seamless, quiet scheduled backups. Considering that competing services like Mozy ignore Linux altogether, I’m thrilled that JungleDisk offers a natively working client that allows us to use their service if we choose to. JungleDisk offers a straightforward experience that makes backing up files/directories very easy. Best of all, it runs silently in the background.
CrashPlan – Like JungleDisk, CrashPlan offers off-site hosting using secure transmission of your files/directories by utilizing their software. That said, CrashPlan has one additional quality that sets it apart. The basic software option allows for the end user to save their data to another remote machine also running CrashPlan. This remote machine could be running Linux, Windows or OS X. CrashPlan doesn’t care.
Ultimate backup scenario
Enterprise support staff shouldn’t need any advice here because if they did they’d likely be unemployed. But for small business users who are not backing up to tape or to some faceless data center, I thought I’d suggest my approach to a solid workstation backup.
1) A dedicated home directory. Obviously less important for a common workstation as user data might very well be based on a server and not locally, it’s still worth mentioning that local settings are kept here. In my home office, this is the only way I operate. The perceived value seen here may vary.
2) Clone a clean installation of the system partition. When starting off with a fresh workstation, I like to do a Clonezilla image of the system partition. This makes restoration much easier as I am able to backup user files from other sources.
3) Incremental backups are your friend. For my home directory housing my user settings, I tend to lean with this method of data backup. I cannot stress enough how nice it is to save space and eliminate extreme overwriting by using incremental backups.
No single software tool or method is going to be perfect for everyone. What works for one environment might be completely inappropriate for another. That said, the software listed above provides you with a solid list of resources from which to come up with a solid game plan to secure your company’s backup needs.
Do you have some suggestions or alternatives? By all means, please share them with the community by posting your suggestions to the comments. I’d love to hear about which backup solutions are working for you.
ALSO SEE: GNOME vs. KDE: The Latest Round