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<http://freshmeat.net/projects/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.

About

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

62 comments
RobertFord
RobertFord

Thanks Jack for those cool recommendation. I've deployed Akeia including their backup appliance for a few customers with good result. However, their price is on the high side that most of my small business customers wouldn't consider. For those customers who require backing up Linux, my choice would be CloudBacko Pro (http://www.cloudbacko.com). Very well designed backup software that can backup VM, databases to local drive and many public cloud, such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, OpenStack, etc. Normally, for those who prefer backup to cloud, I'll host their data under my S3 account and charge them a reasonable monthly fee. So, yeah CloudBacko Pro is an option that I would recommend to small businesses. They have free trial. Cheers.

tempo1
tempo1

Don't you know dar? http://dar.linux.free.fr/

robust, redundancy, no heavy GUI to restore a system, scriptable, strong encryption, compression, Extended Attribute support, sparse files support, ...

techie3018
techie3018

Is Mondorescue available for CentOS-6.5-i386-minimal? If not, is there another software package available that can back up files to Cd's?

mjpaudio
mjpaudio

I've been using Syncrify lately..its basically Rsync but it works on Linux, Windows..NAS boxes etc.. If you have X-Windows it has a pertttty little interface and it works from command line too.  Pretty slick...interface could use a facelift tho.  Check it out at http://syncrify.com

rjwinslow
rjwinslow

I have an HP 1Tb appliance that provides a USB interface, so I like cp -r /home/me (or whatever) "/media/HP Desktop Drive/me" Flexable, intuitive, simple - as usual YMMV

johnywhy
johnywhy

anyone know of a method to do incremental backups on an individual file? such that PARTS of the file are backed up, instead of the entire file.

dutchglory
dutchglory

Most backup tools for Linux work great for making a backup. But the most problems start when you want to restore the backup. developers tend to forget this part of their backup tool with result, many mistakes and recovering completely fails. There should be [b]MUCH[/b] more testing and listening to users on forums or bugreportsystems. Only then you get a perfect working backup tool... DutchGlory

citricguy
citricguy

I've been using BackupPC for years on both windows and *nix servers. It is way simple to use and is a snap to setup.

nathan
nathan

I have several clients in small offices that use Linux servers setup as simple Samba Domain controllers. I use Flexbackup http://www.edwinh.org/flexbackup/ It's easy to setup, just edit and ini file and it runs tar or dump and others so you don't have to have a copy of flexbackup to access the data. Runs off a cron job. Add a cron job to delete old backup and maintain more then one ext HDD set and your good to go.

lixprotip1
lixprotip1

I tried bacula, might as well spend the next 10 years trying to configure it. Backup teddy is WAY easier.

MarthaD67
MarthaD67

I found RSYNC to be a little more annoying to use (I'm not good at LINUX). Also, there was a problem writing the script because Godaddy wants something just below the shebang: TERM=linux export TERM I think the problem was linked possibly to me using Godaddy as a hosting provider. I know they suck at times. There is a tutorial @ http://www.fortasse.com/2010/01/tutorials/tutorial-automatic-backup-script/ which describes a Godaddy working script. So far, it hasn't caused me issues. It doesn't use RSYNC, but I will try to adapt it to do so. Nothing like having your whole years worth of site in super compressed GZIP files. It's not as space costly as some would think (my whole year is perhaps 1 GB). Anyway, is there any way to make a script that is compliant all the time? For example, will the commands I pasted above work on every server? I have some sites not on Godaddy. Martha D.

youareno6
youareno6

You mention Arkeia, but no Storix? Arkeia sucks when it comes to Bare-metal because it does not support LVM. There is also Microlite, but they are a little buggy.

kleosubmit
kleosubmit

Great article. I think the list of apps reviewed still stand up as the some of the best Linux backup utilities. I'd like to suggest one more -- Kleo Bare Metal Backup for Servers http://www.kleobackup.net. Kleo is graphical wrapper around the excellent open source program partimage. Partimage has always been one of the best open source image backup programs around, but it suffers from a complicated user interface. For example, if you wanted to store your partimage backup on the network, you'd first need to manually find the target, and manage mounting the remote share. Kleo is a wizard interface that makes the job of running partimage simple without trading away any of the power. Kleo will scan the network and list possible targets. You pick your destination, and Kleo handles the job of connecting to the network share and invoking partimage with exactly the right set of command line options. We bundled Kleo with the Carroll-Net Server Rescue Kit. A LiveCD jam packed with with 100s of specialized server recovery tools. All the best tools we like to have at hand when attempting server recovery -- Gparted, NTpasswd, Dd_rescue, install-mgr, grub, and many more. Both Kleo & the Carroll-Net Server Recovery kit are free for any use, personal or business. The Server Recovery Kit is released as GPLv2 and Kleo is released as Freeware. You download a copy of Kleo or read more information online at http://www.kleobackup.net Jim C. http://www.carroll.net

artmartz
artmartz

A backup is no better than it's restore. I've been looking at D?j? Dup. It's nice feature is its integration into Nautilus. It has a Restore to Previous Version option when you right-click that lets you restore a folder or record from its backup.

jcooke
jcooke

One that is cross platform and a great application for us is SEP Sesam. It is truly enterprise capable.

cheth1
cheth1

Acronis works well if you want to do an image backup that works with Windows as well.

kansalbpa
kansalbpa

I use rsync , best for my requirements..

mbbs
mbbs

How about FOG ? If you need to image a lot of desktops, this seems a usefull tool, comparable to Ghost enterprise, but completely free

enthdegree
enthdegree

There's one of them in every comment section, but I've never been that guy. Here's my comment: If you guys were real men, you would use a 'tar+cp' program/script that you wrote yourself, or maybe 'rsync' in a pinch.

Michael Brumlow
Michael Brumlow

None of these backup tools seem to support point in time snapshots of an entire file system. Which is very important for fast moving environment.

quinox
quinox

I use rsnapshots. very effective backup utility and works the same as the snapshot mechanisem of NetApp. Further SEP Sesam backup is also very good with a front-end and very suitable for large enterprises. http://www.sep.de/home.php

stoffell
stoffell

the name might let you think it's only used to backup PC's, but you can use it to backup servers, cross-platform, using rsync, ssh, smb, .. It's a truly great tool, worth a try.

sethumohan
sethumohan

A worthy article and lots of information. SMB & Enterprise customers are running databases and mail servers on various Linux flavours, have you got list of backup tools for these too namely Symantec Netbackup, Netbackup Puredisk, Symantec Backup Exec.

jck
jck

Do some/most/all of these work with backing up to an external USB drive? If so, I am going to be buying some more externals and prepping. ugh...if Cedega was just built-in to Linux :^0

steven.drake
steven.drake

Try Microlite Backup Edge. Can create bare metal disaster recovery backups to tape or DVD that can be restored to new hard drive(s) - not simply file backup/restore. When paired with HP Proliant servers, can boot from the disaster recovery media and restore entire system simply (OBDR). Been using it for years with SCO Openserver 5, Caldera, SLES9, and SLES10.

Jaqui
Jaqui

mirror? ;) use the usually included mirror script / cron job to automatically back up across the network. [rsync, ftp, ssh, sftp, rcp, scp all supported in this usage. ]

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The current backup aproach compresses data to a safe location so it can be restored but the stock image has to be put in place and fine tuning changes done by hand. The Linux based solutions I've looked at do the backup part well but leave me a directory of dated tar.gz to restore manually or through backup software after the system reinstall. My ideal is independent system install, user setup and user data. If a machine's software bakes, remotely reimage the machine then have the user setup synced back down from LDAP with user data hosed on the network by default. Some expensive appliances do this already but what is available in the software realm? How do the articles backup solutions stand up to the benchmark of remote or boot disk reimaging followed by automated restore? I've been looking at Bacula on test servers but it's pretty industrial software that really needs a dedicated backup server to do it right. Do the other's provide a good restore from metal approach?

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