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TechTip: Easily Back Up Linux Hosts with Synbak

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Are you backed up? Linux backups couldn't be simpler if you use the open-source utility Synbak.

 

One of the most common mistakes anyone can make is not having a quality backup of data available at their disposal. I know it only took me one instance of deleting something that I didn't have a copy of to implement some form of backup system. For home use, I back up my Linux laptop weekly onto an external USB disk and also nightly across the network onto a desktop system with a RAID 1 200G mirror using Synbak. This ensures I have more than one location to pull data from in case I get excited and delete something that I thought I didn't need access to again.

 

In a similar but more complex approach at the office, multiple tiers of backups are available to the IT department's fingertips. Data is not only copied to tape and taken offsite, but also synched to multiple backup servers, also located offsite. This ensures that we have a disaster plan in case the apocalypse comes to destroy our data. While some custom applications write directly to tape, the majority of the backups performed are using the rsnapshot utility, running rsync over SSH (Secure Shell). While rsnapshot works wonders for sophisticated backup strategies, it offers a bit of a learning curve to set up and understand.

Synbak's Simpler Approach

Although I definitely suggest you check out rsnapshot for backups, Synbak offers an easy-to-implement backup solution that's perfect for home and small-to-medium-sized business use. Synbak needs to run on a Linux server, but it can back up data from other sources. Backups can be completed across rsync over SSH, the rsync daemon, SMB, and Common Internet File Systems (CIFS). Synbak also has the ability to connect to LDAP, MySQL, and Oracle databases to pull backups. You can then write the backups to disks, tape devices, or CD-RW/DVD-RW devices on the Synbak server. Two choices are available for the style of backup you would like: total or incremental backups.

 

I should take a moment to discuss connecting remotely to databases. While Synbak provides the ability to connect to LDAP, MySQL, and Oracle databases, Synbak doesn't assist you in setting up this remote access to the host. You will have to consult the appropriate database documentation on configuring access remotely.

 

The utility provides some very nice reporting features as well. Reports can be emailed to the appropriate administrators, and they can also be viewed across nicely formatted HTML pages. For the full feature list of the tool's ability, please visit the feature page.

Installing Synbak

Documentation is a bit lacking, but once you get it installed, the configuration files are pretty well documented. A few installation types are available, depending on what kind of Linux distribution you are running. The source code is available to install on any type of Linux server, or if you're running a Red Hat/Fedora variant, RPMs are available. Download the appropriate files from the downloads directory. Source RPMs are also available if you want to get involved with rebuilding your own.

 

To install from the source, follow these steps:

 

# tar -xzvf synbak-1.0.11.tar.gz

 

# cd synbak-1.0.11

 

# ./configure

 

# make

 

# make install

 

To install from RPM, follow this step:

 

# rpm -ivh synbak-1.0.11-2.noarch.rpm

Setting Up a Backup

The first time you run synbak from the command line, it creates a hidden share in your root directory that contains the necessary configuration files. For demonstration purposes, I'm going to use rsync over SSH as the procedure for backing up a remote Linux host. The -s option is the name of the job or backup, and the -m option is the method of backup. I use the hostname of the machine being backed up as the job name.

 

Other options for the backup method (-m) are as follows:

 

·        -m rsync—Access remote machines over SSH with rsync protocol

 

·        -m mysql—Connect to a host and dump all MySQL databases

 

·        -m oracle—Connect to a host and dump all Oracle databases

 

·        -m ldap—Connect to a host and dump all LDAP databases

 

Run the synbak command for the very first time.

 

# synbak -s hostname -m rsync

 

ERROR: '/root/.synbak/rsync' directory doesn't exist or it isn't accessible I just created it for you.

 

If this is a new backup system please remember to copy the '/root/.synbak/example.conf' config file in the '/root/.synbak/rsync' directory

example:

 

cp /root/.synbak/example.conf /root/.synbak/rsync/hostname.conf

 

Next, move into the directory that it just created and open up the example.conf file to see what options are available to you. You can then copy the file as the instructions on the command line mentioned.

 

# cd /root/.synbak

 

# cp /root/.synbak/example.conf /root/.synbak/rsync/hostname.conf

 

Just about every option in the configuration file has comments beside it explaining its meaning and use.

 

backup_source = /home /etc #Directories to backup

 

backup_destination = /backup/$system #Specify where to store

 

Follow along for every option that you want to set. If you don't want incremental backups (meaning you'll get one full backup and then each subsequent run grabs only the changed files), then set that option to no. This will keep x amount of full backups for the number you specify in the following parameter. If you prefer incrementals, change this option to read yes.

 

backup_incremental = no #Full backsup, not incremental

 

backup_erase_after = 5 #Keeps 5 full backups at a time

 

The next line specifies the user name and password used to connect to the remote client. This topic is beyond the scope of this article, but I would suggest setting up passwordless SSH keys across your host and server so that passwords are not kept in plain-text files. There are tons of resources for setting this up, but here's just one SSH key-generation guide I found on Google. This not only ensures that remote hosts can connect to one another, but also offers some security in doing so.

 

backup_remote_uri = ssh://root@host/ #With keys setup

 

If you want email reports, change the options to yes and make sure you change the email address to your own. You can change the options for standard output reporting as well. I suggest the following if you're going to report across email. This will suppress standard output on the command line and leave reporting to sending you an email. Your mileage may vary, depending on how you tackle logging with Linux.

 

report_stdout = no #Set to no once you have it running

 

report_stdout_on_errors = yes

 

report_email = yes

 

report_email_on_errors = yes

 

report_email_rcpt = This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The very last option in the file is whether or not to create pretty HTML files in order for you to check on the status or keep a history of backups that have completed or failed. This requires a working installation of Apache on your Linux server. Specify the paths to the files with the following options.

 

report_html_destination = /var/www/html/admin/log/backup

 

report_html_uri = http://localhost/admin/log/backup

 

The last step before running Synbak is to create the necessary paths as you filled them out in the configuration above if you chose to allow HTML reporting.

 

Create the paths for the backup_destination and report_html_destination:

 

# mkdir -p /backup/hostname

 

# mkdir -p /var/www/html/admin/log/backup

Running Backups

If you have everything configured properly, as shown above, you can go ahead and run the backup from the command line to test it out.

 

# synbak -s hostname -m rsync

 

If you have the standard output reporting turned off above, you'll receive no output. You can turn this on and off as you test out the backups. To verify that the backups are indeed there, change to the backup directory and take a look. You should also receive an email giving you the results of what just occurred. If you've created the HTML files, you can go to your URL, such as http://synbakserver/admin/log/backup/. If you drill down through the links, you'll eventually get something that looks similar to Figure 1.

 

synbak_web_report--122107.png

 

Figure 1: Here's your Synbak report. (Click image to enlarge.)

Scheduling Backups

The very last step is to ensure that backups run nightly without having to manually execute the command at the shell. To accomplish this, you'll need to make an entry in the Linux crontab file. To view a sample, check at the top of your hostname.conf file. Otherwise, something simple like the following example will schedule a nightly run. Open up crontab and add the following lines. Notice the MAILTO line: Ensure the quotations are there as displayed. This makes sure that the errors are suppressed, since you already set up error reporting within Synbak.

 

# crontab -e

 

MAILTO=""

 

00   2   *   *   *   /usr/bin/synbak -s hostname -m rsync

 

Write and quit this file by typing :wq and hitting Enter. This will execute the command on the host every morning at 2:00 a.m.

Uncomplicated Backups

If you do a search on Google for "Linux backups," exactly 1,940,000 results are returned. It can be somewhat intimidating to set up and implement backups, especially in a Linux environment. While utilities such as rsnapshot, Bacula, and Amanda offer excellent enterprise-level backup solutions, they can sometimes be overkill for smaller applications. Synbak offers a simple approach to ensure your data is protected.

 

I had the opportunity to chat via email with Synbak's author, Ugo Viti. Ugo gave me the news that a new version will be available soon and also passed along a pre-release of Version 1.0.12 to test out. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email him directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Max Hetrick

Max Hetrick is an Information Systems Assistant for an electric utility. He has experience with installation and maintenance of both Windows and Linux operating systems from the PC to server levels. Max is also an open-source software advocate. He welcomes all comments and can be reached at maxhetrick@verizon.net.

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    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.