August 26, 2009

Time Machine for Linux

The final entry in our series of backup articles will cover Linux. There are a variety of programs available for Linux in most categories, and backup programs are no exception. The tools to have a backup program like Time Machine on Linux have actually been available for quite some time. However some technical know how was required to use them. Fortunately there are several programs that put it all together in a simple interface.

rsync: If you’ll bear with me for a moment we’re going to discuss the basics behind these applications, if you prefer not to know feel free to skip this paragraph. The framework for a Time Machine like functionality has been built into Linux for some time and boils down to one program: rsync.

It was originally designed to copy files across the network as efficiently as possible. It compares the differences between existing files in the source and destination directories and only transmits those compressed differences over the network. It can be used just as efficiently on one computer to backup from one drive to another.

The programs I’m going to mention below are basically front ends that make it easier to use, however for the technically inclined there are quite a few articles out there on using rsync as your backup solution, like this one:

The easy way: There are now several easy to use applications that provide similar functionality to Time Machine. If you’re using any of the following Linux distros chances are you already have access to one or more of them: Ubuntu, Fedora/Redhat, Debian, or Mandriva. Your mileage may vary, however I found that the easiest to use was Back In Time.

It’s not difficult to setup, and integrates well with both Gnome and KDE. You can use it to backup both your regular user files, and it installs a shortcut so you can run it as root to backup the entire system. Finally, you can also schedule backups to run on a regular basis, ensuring that you’re covered at all times.

Alternatives: Of course one of the nice things about Linux is the variety of programs. If you don’t like Back In Time, or want to try more than one program before deciding, there are two other well established alternatives, TimeVault and flyback. Both are based on similar principles and allow you to schedule backups with specific settings.

Linux is a very stable operating system, but that doesn’t make it immune to hardware failures. It’s just as important to backup your important files on Linux as it is on any other operating system. My advice is to research your options and pick the program you feel most comfortable with. Do you already have a Linux backup solution? Share it in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. That's great, a friend just switched to Linux so I sent her this article. Thanks.