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Do Automated Cross-Platform Network Backups The Easy Way, Part 1

BackupPC Overview

June 23, 2006

Computer stores are chock-full of all manner of backup software and network storage appliances of varying quality, usefulness, and ease of use. Do you really need some expensive commercial product? Probably not. Backing up Linux/UNIX systems is easy, and *nix comes with everything you need. Backing up Windows systems can get expensive, what with all those per-user and concurrent and per-machine blah blah licensing, and cross-platform backups can drive even strong admins to develop substance abuse habits. But don't run out and start one just yet, even though you'll be able to afford it, because this two-part series is going to show you how to perform the two primary types of backups the easy and cheap way: data files on a mixed LAN, and custom operating system images for fast bare-metal restores.

BackupPC is a great backup program that requires no client software, backs up Unix, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows hosts, and is easy to set up and maintain. Take the money budgeted for backup software and put it into some good-quality backup server hardware instead. Then set up automated network backups on a central server, and put your feet up and relax. Except when people are looking--don't make it look too easy.

You can make bare-metal *nix restores with Knoppix, or any live-bootable Linux disk, and BackupPC. Windows bare-metal restores require some additional software, which we'll get to shortly.

BackupPC is yet another excellent program from the FOSS world that is efficient, sophisticated, and saves the bacons of Windows and *nix admins alike. Written in Perl, it makes clever use of existing programs like rsync, Samba, and tar, which is not novel, as most Linux-y backup programs do this. What sets it apart are these features:

  • Excellent Web-based graphical administration interface
  • Supports either command-line or graphical administration
  • Performs bare-metal *nix restores
  • Allows users to restore their own files
  • Ease of use
  • Stores identical files in common pools to save space
  • No client-side software required
  • Supports intermittently-connected clients, like laptops
  • Supports DHCP
  • Good documentation