Data Centers

10 outstanding Linux backup utilities

A dependable backup tool is not a luxury - everyone needs to have one. But that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune to get the feature set that meets your needs. Jack Wallen introduces some great Linux backup solutions, including a few that are cross platform.

A dependable backup tool is not a luxury - everyone needs to have one. But that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune to get the feature set that meets your needs. Jack Wallen introduces some great Linux backup solutions, including a few that are cross platform.

Whether you're in the IT industry or you're a computer power user, you need to have a backup tool at the ready. With this tool, you will need scheduled backups, one-time backups, local backups, remote backups, and many other features.

Plenty of proprietary solutions are out there. Some of them are minimal and cost effective, while others are feature-rich and costly. The open source community is no stranger to the world of backups. Here are 10 excellent backup solutions for the Linux operating system. In fact, some of these are actually cross platform and will back up Linux, Windows, and/or Mac.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: fwbackups

This is, by far, the easiest of all the Linux backup solutions. It is cross platform, has a user-friendly interface, and can do single backups 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 most likely be found in your distribution's repository. Both backing up and restoring are incredibly easy (even scheduling a remote, recurring scheduled backup). You can also do incremental or differential backups to speed the process.

2: Bacula

Bacula is a powerful Linux backup solution, and it's one of the few Linux open source backup solutions that's truly enterprise ready. But with this enterprise readiness comes a level of complexity you might not find in any other solution. Unlike many other solutions, Bacula contains a number of components:

  • Director — This is the application that supervises all of Bacula.
  • Console — This is how you communicate with the Bacula Director.
  • File — This is the application that's installed on the machine to be backed up.
  • Storage — This application performs the reading and writing to your storage space.
  • Catalog — This application is responsible for the databases used.
  • Monitor — This application allows the administer to keep track of the status of the various Bacula tools.

Bacula is not the easiest backup solution to configure and use. It is, however, one of the most powerful. So if you are looking for power and aren't concerned about putting in the time to get up to speed with the configuration, Bacula is your solution.

3: Rsync

Rsync is one of the most widely used Linux backup solutions. With rsync, you can do flexible incremental backups, either locally or remotely. 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 defeat 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: Mondorescue

Mondorescue is one of those tools you have around for disaster recovery because one of its strengths is backing up an entire installation. Another strength of Mondorescue is that it can back up to nearly any medium: CD, DVD, tape, NFS, hard disk, etc. And Mondo supports LVM 1/2, RAID, ext2, ext3, ext4, JFS, XFS, ReiserFS, and VFAT. If your file system isn't listed, there is a call on the Mondo Web site to email the developers for a file system request and they will make it work. Mondo is used by large companies, such as Lockheed-Martin, so you know it's 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 solution for backing up large amounts of pre-compressed data (such as multimedia files). One of the beauties of Simple Backup Solution 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 do custom backups, manual backups, and scheduled backups. The user interface is user friendly. One of the downfalls of SBS is that it does not include a restore solution like fwbackups does.

6: Amanda

Amanda allows an administrator to set up a single backup server and back up multiple hosts to it. It's robust, reliable, and flexible. Amanda uses native Linux dump and/or tar to facilitate the backup process. One nice feature is that Amanda can use Samba to back up Windows clients to the same Amanda server. It's 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.

7: Arkeia

Arkeia is one of the big boys in the backup industry. If you are looking for enterprise-level backup-restore solutions (and even replication server solutions) and you don't mind paying a premium, Arkeia is your tool. If you're wondering about price, the Arkeia starter pack is $1,300.00 USD - which should indicate the seriousness of this solution.  Although Arkeia says it has small to midsize solutions, I think Arkeia is best suited for large business to enterprise-level needs.

8: Back In Time

Back In Time allows you to take snapshots of predefined directories and can do so on 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 doesn't use any compression for the backups, nor does it include an automated restore tool. This is a desktop-only tool.

9: Box Backup

Box Backup is unique in that not only is it fully automated but it can use encryption to secure your backups. Box Backup uses both a client daemon and server daemon, as well as a restore utility. Box Backup uses SSL certificates to authenticate clients, so connections are secure. Although Box Backup is a command-line solution, 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: bbstored (backup server daemon), bbackupd (client daemon), and bbackupquery (backup query and restore tool). Box Backup is available for Linux, OpenBSD, Windows (Native only), NetBSD, FreeBSD, Darwin (OS X), and Solaris.

10: Kbackup

Kbackup is a simple backup utility that backs up locally to any media (hard drive or mounted device) that can be written to. It's designed to be a backup device that ANY user can take advantage of. To that end, it is simple and doesn't have a long feature list. Outside of being able to back up files and directories, the only other feature is that the user can 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 GUI for unpacking the backup files.

Backup of choice?

Did we over look your favorite Linux backup tool? If so, tell us what it is and how you deployed it. As we all know, a good backup solution is worth its weight in code.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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