Review: Backupninja backups for Linux

Backupninja is for any Linux administrator looking for a solid backup tool that won't require a full day's work to setup, but will still be reliable.

When you hear the word "backup," what do you think? Critical? Complicated? Costly? When you think of backing up Linux desktops or servers what do you think? You don't? You run screaming? Thankfully that is not necessary. There are tons of tools in the Linux-verse capable of running a multitude of backs. From the overly simple to the overly complex, in Linux you can find a tool for just about every situation and every experience level.

One of those tools is Backupninja. This is a unique tool in that it doesn't actually have a full-blown GTK+ or QT GUI. Instead it has an ncurses-based GUI that is, thankfully, just as easy to use as any other. The GUI, however, only applies to the creation of backup sets. For the overall configuration, you're going to have to edit that text-based configuration file. But fear not, the installation and setup is quite easy.


That's it. So your standard Linux distribution should, by default, have all the necessary requirements installed.

Who's it for?

Backupninja is for any Linux administrator looking for a solid backup tool that won't require a full day's work to setup, but will still be reliable. Backupninja is also ideal for Linux admins needing to be able to quickly add backup sets to an existing setup as well as create scheduled backups.

What problem does it solve?

Backupninja solves the problem of creating backup jobs on a Linux server or desktop without having to get deep in the muck and mire of the command line. It's a free tool, so it will do the job many other, more costly tools do for free.

Standout features

  • Easy to use backup set creator called Ninjahelper
  • Scheduled backups
  • Email alerts
  • Database backup solution included
  • Works with Linux virtual servers

What's wrong?

If you are not comfortable with configuring an INI-like configuration file, then you should probably look elsewhere, as Backupninja requires manual configuration. Also, if you need a backup solution that will also create images for machine restoration you will want to look elsewhere.

As you would guess, the biggest problem with Backupninja is its lack of a standard GUI for configuration. This, however, is not a problem when you are backing up a GUI-less server. Another issue that pops up is that some of the features require other packages to be installed. I would think, given the size and scope of this tool, all the requirements for all the features would be part of a successful installation. That is not the case. For example to backup hardware information you need to install hwinfo and debconf-utils. You will only find out what requirements are necessary as you attempt the different features of the tool.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you are looking for a simple to use, but feature-rich, backup solution that will back up your various servers and even you desktop, and you do not require a standard GUI (and are not afraid of doing manual configurations), then Backupninja is the tool for you. You can backup remotely (and securely using SSH) or you can back up to a CD. Backupninja is a reliable, schedule-able backup tool that you will find as close to set it and forget it as is out there on the Linux platform.

User rating

Have you encountered or used Backupninja? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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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

Justin James
Justin James

"Backupninja is a reliable, schedule-able backup tool that you will find as close to set it and forget it as is out there on the Linux platform." This is the second funniest thing I read all day. What, there are no "set and forget it" backup solutions on Linux, not even this one? Either BSD and Windows have some really amazing packages out there, or Linux truly sucks. If backup *isn't* "set and forget" it isn't proper backup! I can't vouch for Linux, but on BSD, running dump from a cron job is as "set and forget" as it can be, not much different from Jaqui's tarball + rsync proposal (the old fashioned way of doing these things). J.Ja


with no extra installation needed? a cron job to make a tarball of the data and rsync it to a specific system, or even to cd/dvd if you want to make sure a blank disk is in the drive when the job runs. opps, two cron jobs one daily one weekly that burns the daily tarballs to disk. there you go, backed up no extra software to be installed. :p

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you have a Linux backup application to recommend?


Subject says it all, really. For keeping home directories or a limited subest of other directories on a small number of machines backed up, any rsync one-liner will do. For a more capable, enterprise-scale solution, I really like bacula. The free version is very usable (but you'll need to do some planning for enterprise scale anyway), and if you want they'll be more than happy to sell you addons and services.


I use scripts/cronjobs based on tar or rsync for backing up servers.


I realize that this is not for enterprise situations but you asked for easier backups. Ubuntu One was introduced with 10.04 LTS. Just sign up and list the folders you want backed up. Each file is synced when created or modified as it is saved to your folders. You get 2 Gig of storage free. The listing on the user's homepage states when the file was last modified. It is also designed for sharing, even on non-Ubuntu systems. This may not be what you have in mind, but for the small office or home user without an IT guru, it works. No complex setup or scheduling. Sign up, list the folders, and you're set. Paul

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