Best Backup Tool For Budding Networks

One thing I have been doing for many years now, decades even, is backing up and restoring data.  It’s easy to backup stuff at home, simply copy your valuable bits and bytes to an external hard drive or write them to a CD-R or DVD-R.  This makes backups easy, though a bit cumbersome, especially as hard drives and data requirements get bigger and bigger.  Think about all the digital content we have nowadays versus just a few years ago.  Movies, music, games and more that get purchased and downloaded right off the net mean more and more gigabytes to backup.

Screenshot of BackupPC software

Screenshot of BackupPC software

Still though, for saving the critical stuff like documents and pictures, CD’s and DVD’s are OK.  But what about when you have more than one computer?  With prices falling and computer technology getting more and more prevalent in the home, it’s not un-common for households to have at least two computers in the form of a desktop and laptop.  However, I am seeing more and more households with computers for mom and dad, the kids, grandparents and then some laptops on top of all that!  Whew!  Now we are getting into one major pile of work to try and back all that up.

In the commercial world where you are backing up a data center full of servers and/or cubes laden with workstations, you buy commercial software like Veritas Backup Exec or NetBackup or Arcserve, etc.  Throw your data onto tapes inside a robotic tape library and manage it all from one central console.  Now, that’s all well and good, but it’s very expensive and doesn’t exactly fit in the average home very well.

So, where does that leave people like me and I am sure many of you out there that still have several computers to backup?  We are caught in a kind of in between place.  Well, I am going to share some good stuff that I have found, and actually have been very impressed with.

In looking for backup solutions for home, I stumbled across an open source project called BackupPC. I decided to give this a try on my main machine running Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron).  In essence, I have now made my main computer my master backup server by installing this software.  I have a 1 Terabyte external hard drive that I was already using to backup data on to, and now it’s my target for the backup software to write to as well (in a separate directory structure so it’s not destructive to data I already have there).

The software package installed via the apt package system, so it was easy to install, it has a nice web based GUI front end for managing the system and so far, I haven’t seen a noticeable load on my computer by having it running in the background.  Although if I did, or if I just wanted to make it separate, it wouldn’t be hard or expensive to build up an older box, install Ubuntu and this software and go to town.

Now I am going to share with you some very nice features that I have found in this software.  First off, this software quickly impressed me by how logically it was laid out.  On top of that you can connect to almost any client be it Linux, UNIX, Windows, etc.  You have several options for backing up files from your clients, and it’s all done without a software install on the client by utilizing things like SMB (Samba or Windows Shares), rsync (see previous post about this cool tool), tar (for local files), and more.  The instructions and documentation are straight forward and well written, and I had this puppy up and running in no time.

When you dig into it a little deeper, you will see that you can setup global options, but override them on a per client basis if need be.  You can schedule jobs, fulls, incrementals, verify afterwards, get detailed reports and more.  All the while backing up over the network to my external hard drive.  No tapes to buy, no tapes to change or rotate, and with external drives you can even swap them out and carry one off site for disaster recovery.  You do plan for DR, right???  Shoot, this software comes close to beating some of the big names in commercial software, and it just might after I get even more familiar with it.  I wish I had this years ago when I was running an ISP and our budget called for tar and ftp for our backup solutions.  Best of all, this is open source and absolutely free.  You just can’t beat that my friends.

The next phase of backups is restoring your files that you backed up.  Guess what?  They have you covered there too.  You can restore right down to the file level, now ain’t that great?  I could probably go on and on about this software, and I might even post an update after a while.  Give a perspective after I have a few months of using it under my belt.  In the end though, I highly recommend this software if you need a nice, smooth, inexpensive backup solution for your small office or home office, etc.  Check it out, and if you like it like I do, drop the dev team a donation to say thanks for the good stuff!  Enjoy!!

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