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Ubuntu backup options and tools today

Independent backup expert Brien Posey discusses the options and tools available for Ubuntu backup today in this Expert Answer.

Are specialized backup tools necessary to back up systems running the Ubuntu operating system? Or can they be backed up with any backup software?

There is no shortage of utilities for backing up Ubuntu. The Ubuntu backup documentation lists a number of different utilities, such as Rsync, BackupPC and SimpleBackupSuite. Some of these tools are graphical, while others are command-line tools. There are also differences in the tools with regard to whether they perform raw backups or file backups, and with regard to the level of backup automation that the utilities provide.

Some of the major backup players also offer Ubuntu backup support. For example, CommVault offers support for Ubuntu versions 8.04, 8.10, 9.04, 9.10 and 10.04 LTS. Similarly, EMC Networker also supports Ubuntu.

The problem is, however, that support for Ubuntu among the major backup players is limited at best. Many backup vendors do not offer Ubuntu support beyond that of generic Linux support or generic virtual machine (VM) support. Other backup vendors do provide Ubuntu support, but might support only older versions of the operating system. That being the case, an organization cannot simply assume that an Ubuntu agent is going to be available for the backup application that they are currently using.

Some organizations choose to run Ubuntu within a VM and create backups at the host level as a way of avoiding the problems associated with Ubuntu backups.

Microsoft, for example, has begun supporting Linux VMs in a manner similar to its support of Windows VMs, thereby making it possible to make online backups of Linux VMs that are running on top of Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V.

It is worth noting, however, that although such backups are consistent at the file level, they offer no application consistency. For machines running Linux applications, it is likely going to be more effective to use a Linux-specific backup tool than to try to use a more mainstream backup product or to perform a hypervisor backup.

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