Backup software

Being a system administrator part of my job deals with backing up and restoring things. In order to find the best tool for the job, I’ve played with a number of solutions. Here is a list of programs that I remember together with some pros and cons for each one.

  • GNU tar. This is an excellent piece of software, but if you have more then 5-10 machines to backup with different operating systems, setting up tar would be a more or less complicated task. For 5-10 hosts though it is very close to an ideal solution.

    GNU tar has a massive list of options for backing up and restoring files. It is easily scriptable and can use both files and tapes as backup media. There is no direct support for tape libraries though.
  • HP OmniBack. This is a commercial product, which HP incorporated into its OpenView suite. It used to cost a somewhat substential amount of money. Licensing scheme was not very flexible too. It took me some time to figure out which exactly licenses we needed and how many of each. As long as it worked it was OK, but it was terrible when any problem occured. Partially, because it had an ugly graphical interface. Maybe that was just me, but I was the one responsible for the whole thing. So it was thrown out.
  • NovaStor NovaNet. This is also a commercial solution which is rather good. It can handle Novell Netware, Microsoft Windows, and Linux hosts. Pricing is reasonable and there is licensing is clear. I’ve used to administrate NovaNet for about 2 years. It is an excellent solution for a network of about 10-50 hosts. It gets pretty messy afterwards.
  • Amanda. This is a free and open source solution which works better then all of the above so far. Amanda actually uses either GNU tar or dump to do the work, but it also provides an excellent set of utilities for setting up, managing, monitoring, and tuning backup/restore tasks for a variety of UNIX based operating systems (Linux included). There are few minor problems that I have with Amanda which are well-known: poor support for Windows hosts, inability of backing up files of sizes bigger then single tape capacity and poor or non-existent support for using several tape drives simultaneoously for the same backup/restore job. These are minors though.

There were also a number of solutions that I haven’t try due to a price tag attached. Such as few Veritas products. On the other hand, there are few programs that I haven’t tried because I didn’t have time yet or because I only recently learned of them. One of these is Bacula.

Bacula web site lists an interesting set of features, that are comparable with the Amanda solution that I use now. Particlarly interesting is support for Microsoft Windows hosts, since I have few of these to backup too. I’ve searched the web for someone’s impressions, but was not very successful. I guess I’ll have to find time in the near future to play with Bacula.

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