Good Linux workstation backup solution

This is a discussion on Good Linux workstation backup solution within the Tech Board forums, part of the Community Boards category; Hello all, I'm looking for a good backup solution for my Linux workstation. Preferably one that supports a graphical interface ...

  1. #1
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    Good Linux workstation backup solution

    Hello all,

    I'm looking for a good backup solution for my Linux workstation. Preferably one that supports a graphical interface for recovering files. Time machine of Mac looks good, but unfortunately, that won't work on Linux ;-).
    I do want something free, though.

    So, anyone knows of any good solution?


    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    What kind of file system are you interested in recording? (Yes. There are some backup systems that only work with specific file systems.)

    Are you talking a simple image? Or an incremental snapshot?

    Do you need something fully automatic (everything)? Or would you prefer tight control?

    Soma

  3. #3
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    Hmmm, good questions.

    Yes, I want incremental backups. The filesystem... preferably any. I'm currently using ext3, but that might change in the near future to ext4.

    Whether it'd be fully automatic or tighter control, I don't care too much, as long as the automatic would be good. I mean, I don't want things like /usr/bin backed up, of course. It's not really about not losing the installation of Linux, but just that in case something does happen I can re-set the most tricky configuration and restore my code, songs, documents, etc.
    I really don't know how tight control I'll need. But I would like the file restoring to be as easy as possible; that's most important to me.

    Currently, I just cp all data to an external hard disk, but of course, it's become a huge, unmanageable mess...

  4. #4
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    *shrug*

    With that in mind, I'd say your only real option is the "dar" tool, a few scripts, and maybe "sarab" if you don't think you can get by without it.

    If you really don't want to deal with scripting, you can get a "dar" build as part of a couple of GUI programs. The last time I used them, they lacked the features and power of the CLI utility I needed. That said, this (a simple incremental backup of locally marked files and folders) should be pretty trivial with "kdar". I'd wager... twenty minutes and you'll be satisfied.

    If you don't mind the scripting, to give you an idea, my scripts not only backup my server but dozens of others and hundreds of files on the internet. You aren't going to get that option with the GUI.

    If you go with "dar", be mindful of dealing with encrypted file systems and configuration files. I would strongly advise you to use separate slices to be "played back" by root, super users, and regular users. I've had problems where I ultimately had to reissue ownership manually. [Edit]This was most likely my unfamiliarity with "dar".[/Edit]

    [Edit]
    If you intend any such backup to be "primary", do yourself a favor and combine "dar" with "parchive" on a per-slice basis.
    [/Edit]

    Soma
    Last edited by phantomotap; 04-30-2010 at 07:25 AM.

  5. #5
    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    We use "rsnapshot" on some of the linux servers I work on. It's very easy to use, unobtrusive, and seems reliable, but I have never seen a graphical front-end for it and actually don't know too much about it either. I keep meaning to set it up for myself. Looks like they have a homepage:

    rsnapshot

    Using rsync and hard links, it is possible to keep multiple, full backups instantly available. The disk space required is just a little more than the space of one full backup, plus incrementals.

    But definitely no GUI -- the screenshots are of terminal sessions
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    Registered User jeffcobb's Avatar
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    If you are wanting to do bare-metal recovery, SystemRescueCD is great. I have used it to back up partitions for years and can be used in command line mode or in graphic mode.
    C/C++ Environment: GNU CC/Emacs
    Make system: CMake
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    Hmm okay, thanks guys. But it sounds as if there isn't a nice and user friendly solution to this, is there? That's a huge miss in Linux on the desktop, then...

  8. #8
    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EVOEx View Post
    Hmm okay, thanks guys. But it sounds as if there isn't a nice and user friendly solution to this, is there? That's a huge miss in Linux on the desktop, then...
    What I was trying to explain is that AFAICT, rsnapshot is pretty much a standard, and it is very easy to use. When I have to do a quick snapshot of the entire server, I switch into the proper directory and type one word:

    ./rsnapshot [optional label]

    Done. How much more "nice and user friendly" do you want? I don't know anything else about it -- this is all the sys admin had to tell me.

    If part of your criteria for "nice and user friendly" is that it has a GUI and an install wizard:
    1) your head is on ass-backward
    2) you are on the wrong platform, that is completely counter to unix/linux philosophy which emphasises modularity and simplicity over grandiosity and bloat.

    IMO a "system backup" that will work for some mouse wielding illiterate is a bad, bad idea. People like that can save their important files with drag and drop onto a usb key, they don't need anything more.
    Last edited by MK27; 05-01-2010 at 08:58 AM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    I'm not saying I need a completely user friendly system, but it's always nice, especially when recovering files. Time Machine on Mac is particularly nice in this respect; you can actually look at files and go "back in time" and see what the files looked like back then. I can use a less user friendly system, and I probably will.

    However, I completely disagree that Linux is the wrong system, then. Especially Ubuntu is doing a fairly good step in becoming user friendly. Some things are still lacking, I agree. And apparently, one of them is a backup system.
    I want Linux to become the most broadly used system, and I think it's not too long until it has a good potential of growing significantly. It still needs some work, but it's not much. But a backup system is one of them.

    Actually, it might be something interesting for me to work on.

  10. #10
    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EVOEx View Post
    I'm not saying I need a completely user friendly system, but it's always nice, especially when recovering files. Time Machine on Mac is particularly nice in this respect; you can actually look at files and go "back in time" and see what the files looked like back then. I can use a less user friendly system, and I probably will.
    Yeah, I dunno if rsnapshot does that or not, but it sounds like something that would be better with a GUI. Of course, it might not be hard to come up with something which combined some file browsers functionality with rsnapshot, and actually googling "rsnapshot plugin" reveals various interesting things altho I don't know if any of them will work for you.

    However, I completely disagree that Linux is the wrong system, then. Especially Ubuntu is doing a fairly good step in becoming user friendly. Some things are still lacking, I agree. And apparently, one of them is a backup system.
    I want Linux to become the most broadly used system, and I think it's not too long until it has a good potential of growing significantly. It still needs some work, but it's not much. But a backup system is one of them.
    Well I was being snarky of course. I probably would not mind if linux became "the most broadly used system", BUT I think it is a not a goal anyone should pursue (altho I'm sure some do). It seems to me that the arenas in which linux has come out on top (servers, super computing, embedded) where MS/Apple have mostly failed, are arenas that may be fundamentally different than an end-user/consumer home desktop platform. Of course, it is much more functional, for me, on the desktop than windows, but I'm a programmer. To get it to that point for everyone would, I suspect, involve eliminating the things I like best (high configurability, modularity which permits radically different desktop environments -- I don't like GNOME, or KDE, or to be honest any of the "integrated environments", they suck -- etc) and creating a windows clone, which, not for no reason, is the wildly successful home desktop environment for end users. But windows does not provide anything close to the choices you have on a *nix style system WRT even the core software (such as the desktop environment). It is, instead, extremely integrated and streamlined. There is a correlation there to ease of use. I don't want my choices eliminated because of someone else's ideas about "ease of use" priorities.

    So I have to ask: 1) Why do you want linux to be "the most broadly used system" 2) Why do think the way to do this is to pander to the general user?

    #2 seems self-evident, but IMO, the best way for linux to attain this would be to educate and change the attitude of the general user,** not to change linux. However, most people do not want or need to do that. Why should they? MS already gives them what they want and need. It's great in that sense.

    Since "linux" is not a multi-national corporation with shareholders, there is no one who would would benefit from such an increase in market share. That being the case, what's the point? Should GNU become a for profit business and sell shares?* That would lead to some fast changes. For the worse, methinks. I'll end up having to switch to freeBSD or something.

    Most of all, I think it would suck for linux developers to start concentrating on new software made to attract new users, rather than the software and the users they already have. In the words of Terence McKenna (RIP), "Deeper experiences for a harder core".

    Actually, it might be something interesting for me to work on.
    Ah ha. Maybe you should check out writing a front end to rsnapshot then -- again, my impression is that it is pretty widely known and used. You probably don't even need to deal with the source, you can just parse rsnapshots files and output. No doubt, many people (in institutional settings) do that already, which is maybe why there has not been a need for a generic front end.

    * I can promise you that is not going to happen
    ** pretty sure that is "the linux experience" (you'll learn!) and thank y'all for it
    Last edited by MK27; 05-01-2010 at 10:52 AM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    I don't want to start yet another Linux vs Windows debate. I'm a Linux fan. And I hate Microsoft; for one reason: they abuse their monopoly.

    That's essentially the reason I want Microsoft dead: Windows currently uses closed formats and protocol that makes it hard, if not impossible, for Linux to be compatible with some things it should be compatible with. Take msn. The protocol is largely reversed, but still not fully, making it lack functionality - because Microsoft keeps it a secret how it works. And if it finally does work, they secretly change the protocol to make it stop work (it happened a few times with amsn).

    What would still make Linux good if everybody uses it and it IS user friendly? Choice. You can use Ubuntu with a fancy front-end to everything, making it extremely user friendly so your mother can use it. Or you can use Gentoo, which lacks those front-ends and still require the hacking of configuration files.

    I prefer the user friendliness of Ubuntu, and yet it still gives you the power any Linux does - to do anything you want. In fact, I've even changed some code in Gnome because the functionality bothered me (not because it was coded wrong, but because my hardware is broken and Gnome would keep do annoying things because of this - showing messages every few minutes and stuff).


    EDIT: Does rsnapshot even support incremental backups?
    EDIT2: It seems to... Am I right?
    Last edited by EVOEx; 05-01-2010 at 11:51 AM.

  12. #12
    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EVOEx View Post
    That's essentially the reason I want Microsoft dead: Windows currently uses closed formats and protocol that makes it hard, if not impossible, for Linux to be compatible with some things it should be compatible with. Take msn. The protocol is largely reversed, but still not fully, making it lack functionality - because Microsoft keeps it a secret how it works. And if it finally does work, they secretly change the protocol to make it stop work
    I totally sympathize, but that is not a practice unique to MS, it's a standard (albeit thoroughly despicable) business practice in software generally. Dealing with hardware drivers is a total mess because of this. I think everyone with a brain understands that the only benefit here is to monopoly capitalism and the trickle down enjoyed by employees of such, tho that last part could just as easily be fear mongering (how can I get paid without closed sourcing? WHAAAA....), and it does not benefit the technology at all.

    But simply bringing down microsoft is not a good motive for engineering linux to replace it. I honestly believe that in time history will shut the lid on most closed source practices anyway, for purely inevitable rational reasons, maybe that is a tad idealistic.

    What would still make Linux good if everybody uses it and it IS user friendly? Choice. You can use Ubuntu with a fancy front-end to everything, making it extremely user friendly so your mother can use it.
    Alright, great point. You're right.* But does your mother really want or need a GUI back-up system with the features you mention? Just saying, this may not be the first thing on the wish list. Generally, a simple unobtrusive backup system that works will make most people happy enough. They (to be honest, me too) will have little real need to browse through previous versions of every file on the system. I'm sure it would come in handy occasionally tho.

    EDIT: Does rsnapshot even support incremental backups?
    EDIT2: It seems to... Am I right?
    If by incremental you mean, it backs up what's changed rather than the whole thing every time, yeah. It's mostly meant to work with cron, I think, so your system gets a snapshot taken every 24 hours or whatever. They are surprisingly quick, run automatically in the background you would barely notice (but again, I'm not using it at home currently, I'm satisfied with backing up stuff manually there and I'm the only user). The increments are stockpiled, so if you wanted to do something which would allow you to browse for specific files in them, you probably can. Install it for a week or so and start playing around.

    * altho I still think the heterogenous flexibility which makes that possible puts it at a big disadvantage to windows, where if you are a developer, you are dealing with only one window manager and a totally standardized, integrated environment, etc. XDG has/is making attempts to tackle this with a sort of standard for doing desktopy environment type things (add to menu, etc), but it's up to the individual DE's to implement. Hopefully this does not lead to something paralleling "browser wars".
    Last edited by MK27; 05-01-2010 at 12:35 PM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

  13. #13
    In my head happyclown's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EVOEx View Post
    I don't want to start yet another Linux vs Windows debate. I'm a Linux fan. And I hate Microsoft; for one reason: they abuse their monopoly.

    That's essentially the reason I want Microsoft dead...
    Are you sure you don't want to start a war?
    OS: Linux Mint 13(Maya) LTS 64 bit.

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    Take a look at rsync. There are a few front-ends (grsync, for one). I use it to back up all of my machines to an external HDD, and to my fileserver over the network.

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    flyback claims to be "Time Machine for Linux". I've never used it, but it sounds like it may be what you're looking for.
    bit∙hub [bit-huhb] n. A source and destination for information.

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