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Backup Programs

By wkorfhage ·
I've been trying to find backup programs for 2 different situations, and I have yet to find anything that is just right. I'd like to draw on the accumulated wisdom of community for some suggestions. I have 2 situations where I need a program, and it is quite possible that a different program is best for each situations. I'll tell you the situations, then what I've tried so far.

The first situation is that I am the volunteer sysadmin at my son's small school. The school's needs are quite modest, and the system needs to just work with minimal attention. I'm going to take an old PC with 2 40GB disks set up as Raid 1 and install Debian on that. I was planning to put an old DVD burner into the machine for backup purposes. This machine will store home directories for half a dozen people or so, along with some shared files. Client machines will be one Windows XP Home machine for QuickBooks, and several PC's running BeatrIX from CD for web browsing, email and access to files on the server. At a minimum, I'd be ok with something that just backed up the shared files and home directories (probably < 1GB of data). A program that allowed the server or windows machine to be reinstalled from bare metal might be handy down the road. What I visualize is something that takes periodic full backups, with daily incremental backups in between, and writes them out to the DVD. Every now and then it sends someone an email when it needs a new DVD. I want something that requires minimal attention, because I won't be around to tend to it, and the people that are around have minimal technical skills. School budgets being what they are, the monetary cost of this solution should be as low as possible. If can use our educational or non-profit status to our advantage, we can do so.

The second situation is my personal server, running Debian. I've got a 40GB disk with material that changes moderately frequently. I would also like to backup Windows XP and Linux machines on my home network, and these have anywhere from 10 - 200 GB of data, but generally toward the smaller side, and their files don't change very frequently. I was very happy with Retrospect in the past. Unfortunately, it only runs on Windows. I am hoping to find something similar on Linux now that I've switched my file server to Linux

I historically used a single DLT drive, but that ate a tape and died recently. I do have an Overland DLT tape library, but it is extremely loud, designed for server rooms and not offices, but it is probably the device best suited for the backup. I'd considering using a DVD drive. Full backups would be a nuisance, but lots of incrementals would fit on a DVD, particularly if compressed. Because I'm around daily, the backup program can require more interaction than the first situation. I'm happy if I can get the backup going for free, but I'd be willing to pay up to about $250 if I had to to buy a reliable and easy to use system.

I've looked at the Administration/Backup page on, and I've looked closely at Bacula, DAR and backup2l.

For the first situation, I liked backup2l's notion of multiple levels, but found that to restore a single file could require reassembling a single huge archive because the program is unaware that the backup archive has been split to fit on DVDs. So backup2l is out. DAR is better about that, but it just writes files out to disk and doesn't have anything to do with writing files out to DVD and managing the media. I could write my own code to handle this, but I'm hard pressed to find the time. I'm hoping to find something that integrates everything.

For the second situation, Backula might work if I use the tape library because it seems more oriented toward tape drives than DVDs. If I don't use the tape library, then I don't have any better idea than I do for the first situation.

I'd be happy to get pointers to specific programs, commercial or non-commercial, that I should consider.


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How about a USB Hard drive

by TonytheTiger In reply to Backup Programs

or two? They're relatively inexpensive, and you don't have to open the computer to install it.

As to software, I think there are several inexpensive or even free backup and drive mirroring solutions. Check or tucows and I'm sure you'll find dozens of possibilities.

There was one, I don't remember where I seen it, that was simply VBScript front end for the standard Windows backup.

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by wkorfhage In reply to How about a USB Hard driv ...

Thanks, but I'm looking not for disk mirroring, but for backup to some type of removable storage, a backup that will let me restore a file from some point in the past. I'm asking here because I have yet to find anything suitable.

In the case of the school, DVD would be a pefectly reasonable backup medium. In the case of my personal server, I may well have to use IDE hard drives as the backup medium until Blu-Ray or other higher capacity formats come out.

I've been doing some more research, and scdbackup or Mondo Rescue look lke they might work.

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I wasn't talking about mirroring,

by TonytheTiger In reply to

though we do that too. Most backup programs have a 'backup to disk' feature (even Windows Backup). We use it all the time. The USB drives can be treated just like like tapes (except you don't have to rewind them :)). The backup program will create ".bkf" files on the target drive, and each day, week, etc, can be a different name, assumedly the date, so it should be easy to find.

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I've been looking into this myself

by stress junkie In reply to I wasn't talking about mi ...

External USB attached disks are pretty affordable. Yesterday they appeared to cost about US $1.00/gigabyte to $1.50/gigabyte. I recently purchased a Seagate portable 100 GB USB disk that I am starting to use for XP and Linux backups. I'll use it for W2K backups also when I put my W2K disk back into my Linux machine.

It seems like an excellent solution for backups. It costs less than tapes. It is faster than tapes. It holds more data than DVD. I expect that I will soon be recommending this to my small business customers for their daily backups. I would still recommend dual layer DVD for long term archives, especially if they are legally required to be WORM media backups.

I chose an external hard drive with the word "portable" in it's name hoping that it implied that it would be more rugged than other external USB attached hard drives. I expect to find that this isn't necessarily true, but we'll see. I don't have the financial resources to test twenty or more different brands and models. I know Seagate makes good hard drives so I got my first external hard drive from them.

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I agree with stress junkie

by Jimmy Z In reply to I've been looking into th ...

I also recommend external hard drives to my clients along with a small inexpensive program (29.95) called Second Copy. This program is very versitile and you can schedule your backups whatever time you feel like. You can make a simple copy of your data from source to destination, exact copy of your data which will delete files that were deleted on the original, you can schedule a move of data from one location to another, you can do a simple copy to a compressed zip file, you can do an exact copy to a compressed zip file and lastly you can do a synchronization of your data from the original to the backup.

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Second Copy

by Shanghai Sam In reply to I agree with stress junki ...

I'd go with this as well. I've been using it for backups for a couple years now. Works great, no problems.

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Bacula does DVDs in the latest beta version

by techrepublic-1234@mailinator In reply to Backup Programs

Bacula got some DVD writting support in the latest development versions (ie 1.37.1. You might want to check that out.

Also note that Bacula is under constant development and feedback to the mailing lists ( is very welcome.

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I just looked at the Bacula home page

by stress junkie In reply to Bacula does DVDs in the l ...

Your post makes it seem that you are connected with the Bacula project so I'm going to word this post using that point of view.

Wow. I'm really impressed with the stated functionality of Bacula. I am one of the very few IT people that thinks backups are critical. (I'm not counting the TR community.) The desription of Bacula on your home page gives me the impression that it is extremely comparable to Veritas Netbackup Datacenter software. I'm a big fan of Netbackup in business. Your support of tape libraries and autoloaders, bar codes on tape labels, multivolume backups, and multiple concurrent backup streams looks really excellent. Lastly, the area for Bacula shows that you support a lot of popular platforms. That's also excellent and rare for backup software. One of the reasons that we used Veritas at my last "real" job was that it ran on all of the platforms in the enterprise.

I will definitely test drive the Bacula software. If it does everything that the web site says it will do then I will recommend it to everyone. I'm particularly interested in the DVD capability that you mentioned.

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by wkorfhage In reply to Bacula does DVDs in the l ...

I am trying to figure out how to use Bacula in this way. One annoyance is that doing this is undocumented, except in email threads, and requires external programs, too. There's a lot of pieces to understand/assemble.

An alternative program I found is Box Backup (, which stores data on files, but not tapes, and it is still pretty young.

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For Situation #1...

by Prolifiq In reply to Backup Programs

Your DVD solution for Situation #1 can work if you limit your full backups (shared & home data) to once per week - say, on a Friday afternoon - and just run incrementals or differentials during the week. This should save you some space (and money) on those DVDs. And you won't have to swap them as often, since you say the full backups will take up approx. < 1 GB.

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