Synchronization and backup programs

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Intro

This wiki page contains information about various backup programs. It's a good idea to have regular backups of important data, most notably configuration files (/etc/*) and local pacman database (usually /var/lib/pacman/local/*).

Few words to end the introduction: before you start trying programs out, try to think about your needs, e.g. consider the following questions:

  • What backup medium do I have available?
    • cd / dvd
    • remote server (With what access? Ssh? Can I install some software on it (necessary for e.g. rsync-based solutions)?)
    • external harddrive
  • How often do I plan to backup?
    • daily?
    • weekly?
    • less often?
  • What goodies do I expect from the backup solution?
    • compression? (what algorithms?)
    • encryption? (gpg or something more straightforward?)
  • Most importantly: how do I plan to restore backups if needed?

All right, enough with this, let's see some options!

Incremental backups

The point with these is that they remember what has been backed up during the last run, and back up only what has changed. Great if you back up often.

Rsync-type backups

The main characteristic of this type of backups is that they maintain a copy of the directory you want to keep a backup of, together with files which describe how did the contents change from the last backup (the so-called 'diffs'). Hence, they are inherently incremental, but usually they don't have compression/encryption. On the other hand, a working copy of everything is immediately available, no decompression/decryption needed. Finally the way it works makes it hard to burn backups to cd/dvd..

command line based
gui based

Not rsync-based

They tend to create (big) archive files (like tar.bz2), and (of course) keep track of what's been archived. Now creating tar.bz2 or tar.gz archives has the advantage that you can extract the backups with just tar/bzip2/gzip, so you don't need to have the backup program around.

  • hdup (in extra repo; website; it's no longer developed, the author develops rdup now (below); but it's still a decent one):
    • creates tar.gz or tar.bz2 archives
    • supports gpg encryption
    • supports pushing over ssh
    • possible to specify more directories to backup
  • rdup (in AUR) successor to hdup: the program *just determines* which files have changed since the last backup. It's completely up to you what do you want to do with that list. Some helper scripts are supplied, and with them it supports:
    • creating tar.gz archives or rsync-type copy
    • encryption (gpg and usual strong (eg. blowfish)), also applies for rsync-type copy
    • compression (also for rsync-type copy)
  • duplicity (in community repo) is similar to hdup, supports tarring and encrypting. But:
    • the files backed up are "randomly" distributed between encrypted tar archives, which makes it harder to recover a particular file
    • you can backup just one directory at a time (while with hdup you can specify as many as you want in one backup profile)
  • dar (in community repo):
    • it uses its own format for archives (so you need to have it around when you want to restore)
    • supports splitting backups into more files by size
    • makefile-type config files, some custom scripts are available along with it
    • supports basic encryption (not gpg; but also strong, but you need to supply a password every time)
    • some gui tools for inspecting backups are also available (kdar)


Not incremental backups

  • "Just copy everything into one big archive, but support writing to cd/dvd"-type: backup-manager (in AUR)

Versioning systems

These are traditionally used for keeping track of software development; but if you want to have a simple way to manage your config files in one directory, it might be a good solution.