Have you been burned before and lost important data? Or do you lose sleep because of the fear of one day joining the ranks of those who have? Fear not, worried and jaded souls – there's a range of Linux backup tools that can help.
Such tools avoid the pitfalls of common data storage strategies, particularly those that begin and end with burning files on to optical media to free up a single hard disk. Such a method won't protect you from random disk failures or accidents, or back up your important configuration and temporary files.
Backup tools, however, enable you to identify important files and directories that are then constantly monitored and regularly backed up. If you back up the same directories regularly, how do you prevent redundancy of data in backup files, though?
Well, backup tools can perform incremental backups, which – after making a complete initial imprint of the directory – will then only make copies of new files or those that have changed since the last backup. So, for example, a backup of the Pictures directory on Tuesday will only contain files added or changed since last Saturday's backup.
Most backup tools nowadays also offer to compress your data so you can store it more efficiently. Then there are tools that will encrypt your data when making copies. There are also GUI and command line flavours – so use these pages as a guide to pick the best tool for your needs.
So what's the best Linux backup tool? Let's find out.
A vailable in most software repositories, Pybackpack is designed to be a friendly backup tool, and is notable for being easy to install manually thanks to its bundled Python installer script.
Its dependency list includes Python, PyGlade and PyGTK and a few other readily available tools. Once installed, you'll find it listed under System > Administration as 'File Backup Manager'.
Using Pybackpack is simple too. The default Home tab enables you to back up your /home directory. Clicking Go will burn its contents to a disc. You'll need the nautilus-cd-burner package before you can do this, though.
Most backup tools refer to each backup as a set. You can easily create your own sets via the Backup tab. This features a handy Exclude From Set button too, enabling you to specify particular files to leave out of backups made of a full directory. It's useful for trimming the fat.
When the New Backup Set wizard exits, press the Backup button at the bottom-right of the main window. This will create your backup in the specified directory. Make sure to provide a unique destination path for each backup set.
The backup creates two directories in the destination path – home and rdiff-backup-data. The former contains a copy of the files, while the latter holds data about incremental backups, error logs and so on. Pybackpack remembers each set you create and the files it contains, backing up only new or modified files thereafter.
When restoring a backup, you only need to specify the parent directory that contains the two directories. In case of incremental backups, you get the option to restore backups done on a specific date and time.
A lack of active development and compression options hold this back
With Fwbackups, you can either perform on-demand backups or create sets and task Cron with automatically backing up your data. All this is conveniently offered from a slick graphical interface.
The buttons at the top of the interface enable you to choose which type of backup to use. Click One-Time Backup to create a backup of your data immediately. Note that Fwbackups will not treat this data as a set, so it can't be backed up incrementally.
You can choose an archive type, though – be that a tarball, compressed archive, or just a basic copy of the files. All the options are well explained and you can optionally set a Nice value too. This value denotes the importance of a process, and you can use it to prioritise resource allocation. It's especially useful when you're backing up large volumes of data and using compression.
When creating a backup set, in addition to opting for incremental backups, you can also specify Cron settings. In the Configure Set dialog box, click the Times tab to specify backup times. Then Fwbackups will automatically back up any changes made to the files in the specified directory at the times you chose.
You can save your backup to a local folder, a USB drive or to a remote server (using SSH). If you so command, Fwbackups will back up all subdirectories and hidden files in the backup path as well.
Back in the main interface, click the Backup Set Now button on the left to create the backup. Use the Restore Set button when you're ready to restore your backups. For incremental backups, you can also select the backup version to restore.
It's fast and with great options and documentation. Highly recommended.