Disaster Recovery

Evaluating BRU Professional backup

Do you need a backup utility that runs with the power and stability of Linux? Do you need a tool that is capable of enterprise-level backups? Enhanced Software Technologies' BRU Professional could be just what you need--and more.

New owners of BRU
Since the publication of this article, BRU has changed hands and is now being sold under the Tolis Group name.

No one in IT has time to waste re-creating lost documents, and certainly no one in IT has the luxury of carelessly managing critical information. Therefore, in both personal and professional settings, the importance of properly handled backups has become an imperative aspect of the IT industry. The difficulties in maintaining and creating these backups have been lessened recently, thanks to backup tools such as the Tolis Group’s BRU Professional. In this Daily Drill Down, I will examine Tolis' flagship product and whether it is capable of protecting your enterprise’s vital information.

Who should back up?
Information is a commodity and probably one of the most important facets of your business. Nowadays, information is protected religiously; it is protected from corruption, theft, and the competition. Some companies rely so heavily on information and trade secrets that if they were ever lost or compromised, those companies might not recover.

In light of this, there has been a recent explosion of methods for protecting and retaining information. IT security now keeps intruders from seeing what they shouldn't be seeing, allowing the creation of firewalls, IDS (Intrusion Detection Systems), and other means of protection to become big business.

Within these armored-car types of security measures lies the less flashy but still vital method of backups. As much as hardware or software manufacturers would like you to believe that their product is stable and reliable, accidental deletion or hardware failure resulting in lost data is still a possible—if not probable—problem. When the unthinkable happens, you should easily be able to restore from a backup—if you have an effective backup utility.

While I am focusing here on the effectiveness of a specific backup utility within an enterprise environment, it’s wise to remember that backups are equally important for the home user. Whether it is copies of a resume or other important written documents, or saved data from a favorite game, if you have important information, you need to be using a backup tool. Everyone needs a means of backing up data, regardless of how expensive or inexpensive that means might be.

Introducing BRU-Pro
BRU Professional, more commonly known as BRU-Pro, offers both amazing capabilities and much-needed flexibility. BRU-Pro is a client/server network backup system that allows you to back up the machine it is installed on as well as remote machines that have the BRU-Pro client software installed on them.

Produced by Enhanced Software Technologies, Inc., BRU-Pro is available as a server for Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris. It is also available for a variety of client operating systems, including Linux, every version of Windows, Solaris, FreeBSD and BSDi, SCO UnixWare, and more. This means you can have a tape server running any Linux distribution and use it to back up your Linux servers, Windows clients, and FreeBSD routers (or any other combination you could create). This wide range of support for different operating systems makes BRU-Pro an excellent choice as a backup server.

I have been using the Personal Edition BRU (which, incidentally, is available with many popular Linux distributions if you buy the commercial boxed set) for many months, and it has proven to be comprehensive and reliable. In the past, with my large network and sole tape drive, I had to get creative in order to back up data from my other machines. Installing BRU-Pro solved this problem easily and has made backups a snap.

The minimum system requirements for BRU-Pro are a 266MHz Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM and a minimum of 50 MB of drive space available for the server. The server on which I installed BRU-Pro is an AMD Athlon 750 with 384 MB of RAM and plenty of free space running Linux-Mandrake 7.2. It’s overkill for a simple tape server, but this system provides a number of other services to my network as well. You do not need X installed on the system as long as you have another X server you can display to via ssh forwarding, as you will need to use the GUI client to configure your server.

Finally, you will need a tape drive. BRU-Pro does not back up to other mediums, such as hard drives, ZIP or LS-120 disks, writable CDs, or floppies. It is strictly used with tape drives or tape libraries and as such is useless to anyone without the right hardware. I highly recommend using a SCSI tape drive or library as they outperform any floppy-based or parallel-port-based tape devices.

Installing BRU-Pro server
BRU-Pro is easy to install. It comes with a CD that contains both the various client and server software, so all you need to do is insert the CD into your CD-ROM and mount it as root.

Before you take that step, however, you will need to create a system user called brupro for BRU-Pro to work properly. You can do this using a system-administration tool like linuxconf, or you can use the useradd command, which is:
useradd -d /home/brupro -m -r -s /bin/bash brupro

This creates a system user called brupro with a home directory of /home/brupro and with a login shell of /bin/bash. Once you have done this, you are ready to install BRU-Pro.

Mount the CD-ROM and change to the mount point to run the install.sh program:
mount /mnt/cdrom
cd /mnt/cdrom
./install.sh


This will take you through the BRU-Pro installation. You will be asked for your license information and for a number of defaults that are self-explanatory. Once you finish with the installation, you will need to configure your system to automatically start the BRU-Pro server upon bootup. If your system uses SysV-style scripts, you will be able to use the installed tserv script installed in /etc/rc.d/init.d to start the server, the same as you would for any other service you are running. To enable the server, use chkconfig to turn it on:
chkconfig --level 345 tserv on
chkconfig --list tserv


Double-check to make sure that tserv is set to start in runlevels 3, 4, and 5. If you do not use SysV style scripts, you can use the /opt/brupro/bin/tserv.sh script to start and stop the server. It takes the arguments start or stop respectively, the same as the initscript /etc/rc.d/init.d/tserv does.

Finally, BRU-Pro uses a special MySQL server to store information. If you already run MySQL, don't worry. The MySQL that comes with BRU-Pro does not interfere with your existing MySQL server at all. The BRU-Pro-supplied MySQL server listens to port 6660 while normal MySQL servers listen to port 3306, so there is absolutely no conflict at all.

You will need to configure MySQL, however, to set up access control for it. To do this, execute the following commands:
cd /opt/brupro/mysql/bin
./mysqladmin -u root -p password secret
./mysqladmin -u root -h tapeserver.mydomain.com


The first mysqladmin command sets the new password for the root user; in this case it will be secret. The second command sets host access rights. In this case, only the host tapeserver.mydomain.com will be able to access the database. Change this to the hostname that belongs to the machine on which you have installed BRU-Pro.

When BRU-Pro is installed, it also modifies the PATH settings in your /etc/profile file to include /opt/brupro/bin in the PATH, which is where the main GUI configuration/administration program xbrup is installed. In order to have your PATH updated so you can run xbrup, you must re-source the file by using:
. /etc/profile

Configuring BRU-Pro server
The next step is to fire up xbrup, the GUI control center for BRU-Pro. To start the control center, at the command line, type:
xbrup

If you are using ssh to connect to the server via remote, you can forward the display to your local desktop with the command:
xhost +tapeserver.mydomain.com

where tapeserver.mydomain.com is the host name of the remote computer. Then, after establishing an ssh session as root, type the following to have the client open on your local desktop:
export DISPLAY=192.168.1.12:0
. /etc/profile
xbrup


This assumes that the IP address of your local system is 192.168.1.12. By exporting the $DISPLAY variable as 192.168.1.12:0, you are telling the system to use the X server on your local system. Next, source /etc/profile to set up the $PATH settings and then run xbrup on the remote system.

You will be asked to enter the administrator password you assigned when installing BRU-Pro. After typing this in, you will get the main BRU-Pro screen. From here, you can start a backup, restore a backup from tape, verify that a backup is good, configure BRU-Pro, refresh cached data, or exit the control center.

After you get to the main BRU-Pro screen, the first thing you need to do is to click on the Configure button. This will open up two new windows. The left-hand window contains a tree view of the different configuration options:
  • Jobs
  • Schedules
  • Groups
  • Devices
  • Destinations

The right-hand window is an expanded view of whatever configuration option you select.

Under the Jobs section, you can view previously saved jobs (or backup classifications). This will give you a quick glance at saved jobs on the system. For instance, you might define a daily job to back up all the /home directories on one machine. You may also define a weekly job to back up the entire file system on all client machines. This is not, however, where you define new jobs. You only get to view saved jobs here, and the only manipulation you can do is to delete them. You can also view a history of completed jobs and check the status of any jobs that are currently running.

The Schedules configuration section allows you to modify saved jobs that are set to be repeated based on a certain schedule. Here you can define when certain jobs are to be run, how to repeat them, the backup scope (full or incremental), and whether to overwrite data on the current tape or append data to the current tape.

The Groups configuration option allows you to define client machines and users that are able to use the tape drive or library. If you look in the Default group, you will see the host name of the local machine defined and the default user brupro. You can add or delete new users who will have access to BRU-Pro and define what access privileges they have. For instance, the brupro user is defined as the Tape Administrator, which is the highest access level granted. You can also define Group Administrator, Machine Administrator, and End User groups.

The Group Administrator has the second highest level of access and can control any machines or processes assigned to a certain workgroup. So if you define a new user as a Group Administrator, he or she will be able to control all machines and scheduled jobs for the workgroup they are assigned to, which is the Default group by default.

The Machine Administrator only has access to the machine to which he or she is assigned. So if you define a Machine Administrator for one client machine, that administrator can only modify information for that sole client machine and no other systems or jobs that affect the rest of the group.

The End User is the lowest access level in BRU-Pro. The End User only has access to the files that he or she has access to on the client system.

You can have as many groups as you like. Depending on your number of client licenses, you may wish to group some servers into one group, some client systems in another workgroup, and so forth to keep them separate from each other. This allows you to fine-tune the level of control you have over users being able to access data on your tapes.

Finally, within the Groups configuration option, there is the Client Scan option, which allows you to configure client systems (see Adding BRU-Pro clients below for more information on this option).

The Devices configuration option allows you to detect new devices on the system and configure them. You can also configure any defined tape libraries and drives.

The Destinations configuration option allows you to configure devices that are to be used in backups. This lets you define permissions and the owner of the device.

For instance, my system has a SCSI Seagate STT20000N tape drive, which uses 20 GB tapes. Under Devices/Tape Drives, the Seagate shows up and displays information on the tape drive, the vendor, model, version, and device node, which in my case is /dev/nst0. Under Destinations, the tape drive shows up as "Standalone Seagate 1," which was the name given it automatically during installation because it is a single tape drive and not a tape library device.

During installation, the hardware should have been properly configured, so the only thing you should have to configure are your client machines, possibly a few users, and any automatic jobs you wish to run.

Adding BRU-Pro clients
Adding a BRU-Pro client is simple. On my Windows Me system, I inserted the CD-ROM and clicked on setup.exe from the Windows Explorer drive view. This started the installation. The only information I was asked for was the host name of the tape server and the host name of the Windows client machine. During your installation, make sure you have TCP port 6602 open to allow communication between the client and server. Go back to xbrup on the server and click on Client Scan in the Groups configuration section and give it the IP address of your Client. After that, the client system will appear in the Default group and you should assign a user for the machine, which should correspond to the primary user of the client machine. That’s all there is to it! The configuration for the Linux, FreeBSD, and other UNIX clients is just as simple.

Creating the first backup
In xbrup, click on the Backup button, which will take you to a screen asking for the device to back up to and whether you want to load a previously saved job. Here you can define the files to back up by using an easy tree navigation view of the server and all defined client system directory trees. Simply click on the folder next to the directory you wish to back up to have it included in the file selection.

Under Options, you can tell BRU-Pro to verify every archive after backup and also tell it to e-mail a completion report to a specific user.

Once you have selected the files you wish to back up, you can click on the Save/Schedule button at the bottom of the screen to save the selection as a job and also schedule the backup to repeat at specific times that you define. Once you have done this, if you choose to, you can exit BRU-Pro and allow it to execute the backups according to the schedule you have provided, or click the Run button to have it perform the backup immediately.

Conclusion
BRU-Pro is perhaps one of the easiest client/server backup programs to use and configure that I have ever come across. It's not cheap ($624.99 from LinuxMall), but it does an amazing job of simplifying what used to be a very difficult process under Linux and other UNIX systems. And it beats the heck out of using tar for your backups.

If BRU-Pro sounds like overkill for your system, but you still want a reliable backup program, take a look at the BRU Personal version. It is as reliable and feature-rich as the Professional version, but will only work for the one machine on which it is installed. If you don't need network backup capabilities, the personal version may be better suited for you. Whichever version you choose, you can rest assured that you are using a mature and reliable product to protect your important information.

About

Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.

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