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The Ultimate in Paranoid Backup Solutions (Friday, April 7, 2006)

So I haven't updated in while, as I've been busy with work, midterms, projects, and other stuff. However, I will never ever again go through the hell that has been my life since my recent hardware failure. To accomplish this, I have purchased an 300 GB SATA hard drive (well, actually it's closer to 280 GB, because Seagate's marketing department thinks a gigabyte is a power of ten instead of a power of two) and a slick Coolmax SATA USB chassis -- which came with every conceivable cable, mounting hardware, and even a screwdriver! All that, and it worked perfectly right out of the box with my Ubuntu Breezy installation -- just plug it in and go.

So my new drive is divided into three types of stuff. The first group is for personal (i.e. non-business related) static data -- music and video and stuff that doesn't change or go back to my company when they steal my laptop. The second group, is a set of images of the drive partitions in their current state, that I can use for a baseline restore if the hard drive ever fails again. I created the images using a delightful piece of software called partimage, and which was kind enough to leave out empty parts of the partitions, and compress the rest, and as a bonus, break the resulting image into nice bite-sized chunks -- an even dozen, sized to fit on CDs... or all twelve on one dual-layer DVD if I break down and by another new toy.

The last group is for a live mirror and incremental backups, using a piece of software called rdiff-backup. This creates a complete copy of my file system on the external drive, and then (thanks to a cron job), updates the mirror daily, keeping track of diffs, so not only do I have a snapshot of my system, but I can also recover daily versions of files going back to the original snapshot. And I should be able to periodically drop the incremental records to CD, to backup the backup, so to speak.

Edit (4:34 PM): Okay, so rdiff-backup doesn't do quite what I thought it does. It keeps backwards increments. Which means that given the current mirror, and the increment files, I can go backwards to any version that existed before. While this is useful, and I'm keeping it around for versioning and system roll-back, it does not allow me to create one full backup, and then lots of little subsequent backups, which I can then store on archival media, like CD or DVD.

So... I found another little project from the same folks that brought us rdiff-backup, which is called duplicity. It's kinda sorta similar to rdiff-backup, except that it does forward increments, meaning that you start with a baseline version, and it generates diffs based on what it was before each time. That way, I can maintain a slowly growing library of CDs necessary for a complete recovery. It is important to note that duplicity was only recently updated in February, 2006, after a very long quiet spell. The Debian and Ubuntu package of duplicity are based on the older version, so I would recommend installing from source, rather than using apt, until those packages are updated. It depends on python, python-dev, librsync and librsync-dev, but then the installer works like a charm.

—Brian (4/7/2006 12:31 AM)
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