A reliable backup tool is an essential — and finding one with the features you want need not cost a fortune, says Jack Wallen.
Whether you work in IT or you are a computer power user at home, you need a backup tool. It should allow you to make scheduled, one-time, local and remote backups, along with other tasks.
Plenty of proprietary solutions exist. Some are minimal and cost-effective, while others are feature-rich and expensive.
The open-source community also has plenty to offer in terms of backup software. Here are 10 excellent utilities for the Linux operating system — in fact, some of these are cross-platform and will back up Linux, Windows and Mac.
Fwbackups is by far the easiest of all the Linux backup options to use. It is cross-platform, has a user-friendly interface and can do single or recurring scheduled backups.
The fwbackups tool allows you to do backups either locally or remotely in tar, tar.gz, tar.bZ, or rsync format. You can back up an entire computer or a single file.
Unlike many backup utilities, fwbackups is easy to install because it will probably be found in your distribution's repository. Both backing up and restoring are incredibly easy — as is scheduling a remote, recurring scheduled backup. You can also perform incremental or differential backups to speed up the process.
Bacula is a powerful backup utility and one of the few Linux open-source backup tools to be truly enterprise-ready. But with that comes a level of complexity you might not find in other backup software. Unlike many other utilities, Bacula contains a number of components:
1. Director: The application that supervises all of Bacula
2. Console: This is how you communicate with the Bacula Director
3. File: This is the application that is installed on the machine to be backed up
4. Storage: This application performs the reading/writing to your storage space
5. Catalog: This application is responsible for the databases used
6. Monitorp: Allows the administrator to keep track of the status of the various Bacula tools
Bacula is not the easiest backup utility to configure and use, but it is one of the most powerful. So if you are looking for power and are not concerned about putting in the time to familiarise yourself with configuration, Bacula is the tool for you.
Rsync is one of the most widely used Linux backup utilities. With rsync, you can do flexible incremental backups, either locally or remotely.
Comment: Top 10 pratfalls for novice Linux admins
As a new Linux admin, it's easy to trip up over commonly made mistakes, says Jack Wallen...
Read more +
Rsync can update whole directory trees and file systems; preserve links, ownerships, permissions and privileges; use rsh, ssh or direct sockets for connection; and support anonymous connections.
Rsync is a command-line tool, although front-ends are available, such as Grsync. But the front-ends negate the flexibility of having a simple command-line backup tool.
One of the biggest pluses of using a command-line tool is that you can create simple scripts to use, in conjunction with cron, to create automated backups. For this, rsync is perfect.
4. Mondo Rescue
Mondo Rescue is one of those tools you around for disaster recovery, because one of its strengths is backing up an entire installation. Another strength of Mondo Rescue is that it can back up to nearly any medium, including CD, DVD, tape, NFS and hard disk.
Mondo Rescue also supports LVM 1/2, RAID, ext2, ext3, ext4, JFS, XFS, ReiserFS and VFAT. If your file system is not listed, there is a call on the Mondo website to email the developers for a file system request and they will make it work.
Mondo Rescue is used by large companies, such as Lockheed Martin, so you know it is reliable.
5. Simple Backup Solution
Simple Backup Solution is primarily targeted at desktop backup. It can back up files and directories, and allows regular expressions to be used for exclusion purposes.
Because Simple Backup Solution uses compressed archives, it is not the best option for backing up large...
...amounts of pre-compressed data, such as multimedia files. One of the beauties of this tool is that it includes predefined backup solutions that can be used to back up directories, such as /var/, /etc/, /usr/local.
SBS is not limited to predefined backups. You can also perform custom, manual and scheduled backups, and the interface is user-friendly.
One of the downsides of SBS is that it does not include a restore feature, such as the one found in fwbackups.
Amanda allows an administrator to set up a single backup server and back up multiple hosts to it. It is robust, reliable and flexible. Amanda uses native Linux dump or tar to facilitate the backup process.
One useful feature is that Amanda can use Samba to back up Windows clients to the same Amanda server. It is important to note that with Amanda, there are separate applications for server and client.
For the server, only Amanda is needed. For the client, the Amanda-client application must be installed.
Arkeia is one of the big boys in the backup industry. If you are looking for enterprise-level backup-restore tools — and even replication server solutions — and do not mind paying a premium, Arkeia is a strong candidate.
If you are wondering about price, the Arkeia starter pack costs $1,300 (£800), which should indicate the seriousness of this package.
Although Arkeia says it has small to medium-sized versions, it is best suited for larger business and enterprise-level needs.
8. Back In Time
Back In Time allows you to take snapshots of predefined directories and can do so to a schedule. This tool has an outstanding interface and integrates well with Gnome and KDE.
Back In Time does a great job of creating dated snapshots that will serve as backups. However, it does not use any compression for the backups, nor does it include an automated restore tool. It is a desktop-only tool.
9. Box Backup
Box Backup is unusual in that it is not only fully automated, but can also use encryption to secure backups.
Comment: Ten extensions that add Firefox power
Firefox may be good, but there are numerous extensions to make even better, says Jack Wallen...
Read more +
It uses both a client and a server daemon, as well as a restore utility. The utility uses SSL certificates to authenticate clients, so connections are secure.
Although Box Backup is a command-line utility, it is simple to configure and deploy. Data directories are configured, the daemon scans those directories and if new data is found, it is uploaded to the server.
There are three components to install — the bbstored backup server daemon, the bbackupd client daemon and the bbackupquery backup query and restore tool. Box Backup is available for Linux, OpenBSD, Windows, NetBSD, FreeBSD, Darwin and Solaris.
Kbackup is a simple utility that backs up locally to any media that can be written to. It is designed to be a backup device that any user can take advantage of. T
o that end, it is simple and does not have a long list of features. Apart from being able to back up files and directories, its only other feature allows users to save backup profiles that can be opened and backed up quickly.
Kbackup uses the tar format to restore backups, which is as simple as using ARK as a graphical user interface for unpacking the backup files.
Backup of choice?
If we have overlooked your favourite Linux backup, tell us what it is and how you deployed it.