Best Practices for Linux Backup Every Administrator Should Know

Best Practices for Linux Backup Every Administrator Should Know

May 8

Linux is well known for its out of the box security, stability, and rock-solid reliability. But like any other OS, this platform is vulnerable to data loss sparked by:

  • Hardware failure
  •  Electrical surge
  •  Fire
  •  Physical theft
  •  IT security breach

If you’re a Linux administrator, knowing these best backup practices can help you avoid data loss and downtime, save time and money, and keep that sometimes cushy position in the IT department.

Plan to Backup

The importance of planning ahead is a universal best practice for backups. Planning is that critical stage where you identify all the key components of your strategy. What are you backing up? If it’s databases from MySQL or Postgre SQL, you’ll need to specifically plan around database backup utilities. What type of backups do you prefer? Full or incremental? How often do you need to run them? This plan should be laid out and carefully weaved into your daily IT operations.

Automate Where Possible

Some of the most powerful Linux backup utilities require you to go to work from the command line.

Tailor-made for Linux, StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect SPX is a perfect example of how the right tools can automate and streamline backup administration. SPX allows administrators to monitor scheduled backup jobs from the built-in job timeline feature, and quickly restore entire systems to either hardware or virtual environments in a matter of minutes. This level of automation proves handy for knocking out daily management tasks, and especially when disaster recovery goes into effect.

Invest in Backup Storage

A backup plan will likely force you to revisit your storage strategy. Backup software helps optimize storage by compressing files, but taming those copies is ultimately a matter of sound storage practices. You can build a solid foundation by connecting your Linux box to an external hard drive or NAS appliance. 1 TB external drives for the desktop or server can be found under $100 while NAS devices that support multiple TB drives can be found for around $400 more. Worried about the lack of platform support? Don’t be. The leading NAS vendors all make appliances for Linux.

Address Security Challenges

If you’re backing up mission-critical data, then you must be proactive in safeguarding it from threats at all times. Any backup data sent over the Internet, which is insecure by nature, should be encrypted during transit. You’ll also want the backups you store in a remote location under lock in key. One of the coolest admin features I’ve found on Linux is an encryption tool called Seahorse. From the simple interface, Seahorse lets you create and manage network passwords, PGP keys, and Secure Shell keys you can use to securely connect to other systems.

Protect Your Backups

Whether they’re on another partition or different machine altogether, housing all your backups onsite is counter-intuitive. Should disaster strike headquarters, years’ worth of hard work could go up in smoke.

This leaves you with two realistic options:

  1. Remove and transport: Removable media such as tape and DVDs offer a cheap way to beef up your backup strategy. Now you can supplement those local backups with copies you suck away in another data center or office. There’s the hassle of physically transporting and swapping out media, but hey, at least your data’s offsite.
  2. Network transfer. If you have access to a remote server, network transfer could be the most convenient way to get your backups offsite. Although the actual length of time varies depending on the size of your backups, the transfer process is fairly quick and initiating it is usually as simple as uploading files to a web server. Network transfer also speeds up recovery time by eliminating the need to locate and load up the physical media.

Test Your Backups

I can attest from personal experience that few feelings are more deflating than a failed data recovery attempt. On the bright side, those feelings of devastation and dreariness can be avoided by routinely testing your backups. Automation is good for cutting back on tedious processes that threaten to slow you down, but there are some responsibilities you just can’t run away from. Any information that is worth backing up on a disc, tape, or server is surely worth checking for accuracy every now and then.

Know your way around Linux? What other backup practices should be added to this list?

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