Backing up Linux
- By Paul Ferrill
- Apr 25, 2000
As Linux continues to gain momentum in the application server arena, so
does the need for robust utilities such as backup programs.
Most Linux distributions come with some form of backup utility, but
those applications generally don't deliver the kind of features that most
government information technology managers have come to depend on in other
operating system environments.
Minimum requirements for most organizations include scheduled backups,
volume management and auto-changer support.
For this review, we looked at two Linux backup products: PerfectBackup+
from Merlin Software Technologies Inc. and BRU from Enhanced Software Technologies
Inc. Both products provide a command-line interface as well as a graphical
user interface (GUI), along with a host of options to ease the backup chore.
Unfortunately, we were not able to get either package up and running
without help from technical support staff. Of the two packages, however,
the PerfectBackup+ installation was definitely easier. Once we got the install
package working, it loaded the software and automatically detected our 4mm
digital audiotape drive right off the bat.
The BRU product required additional manual tweaking of a special setup
file that the user is directed to create.
With a few caveats, both products make it easy to perform backups with
little or no user intervention and make it similarly easy to restore files
when necessary. The two products do, however, approach their work a little
PerfectBackup+ guides the user in creating backup "packages" of selected
files. These packages can then be scheduled for backup at different intervals
based on a user-defined timetable. PerfectBackup+ also supports full and
incremental backups of either entire volumes or selected files.
BRU allows the user to create a backup definition file similar in functionality
to the package concept from PerfectBackup+. Once you configure the specific
BRU options desired for the backup, you simply choose Save from the file
menu to save the definition file for future use.
To reuse the same definition file at a later date, you then load it
from the file menu. You can also schedule a backup based on one of the definition
PerfectBackup+ uses wizards to guide you through the backup and restore
process. The backup menu offers options to include or exclude files from
the backup operation based on a working directory and a file-name pattern.
BRU provides the same kind of file selection capability but adds the
ability to use Unix-style regular expressions to choose specific files.
Both products enable you to restore files into directories that are
different from the ones from which they were originally backed up.
They also provide configuration settings for determining what to do
when files that you are attempting to restore already exist on the disk.
You can set the program to always or never overwrite or to restore only
PerfectBackup+ also provides the option to back up and restore remote
files on Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Network File System or Novell Inc.'s NetWare.
One nice feature of PerfectBackup+ is the ability to duplicate or convert
With this utility, you can make a duplicate copy of a backup tape for
off-site storage or a copy from one media type to another for use on another
system. There's also a device configuration utility that provides a way
to test your backup device to determine its capacity.
We much prefer the PerfectBackup+ documentation to that for BRU. The
spiral-bound PerfectBackup+ manual includes a good mix of screen shots and
verbiage that explain in detail all the different options available. There's
also a section called Planning Your Backups that walks you through different
backup and restore scenarios and how to address each one.
The primary BRU manual focuses on the command-line version of BRU.
Although it doesn't contain any screen shots, it does provide a lot of technical
detail about how to use some of the more powerful features of BRU.
One area that the BRU manual covers that we didn't find in the PerfectBackup+
manual is the procedure to follow should you have a system disk failure.
The BRU GUI manual is short and contains the bare essentials of using the
Backup is a mission-critical capability for most government IT shops.
Without it, you have no way to recover from a disk failure or to restore
those inadvertently deleted user files. Making the administrator's job easier
is the goal of both of these programs, and both are up to the task.
PerfectBackup+ is easier to use than BRU, though BRU does offer a few
more options via its command-line interface, such as setting block size
and buffers to increase performance.
Whether you end up choosing PerfectBackup+ or BRU, you can't really
go wrong unless you simply fail to put it to work.