17.12 Backup Basics

The three major backup programs are dump(8), tar(1), and cpio(1).

17.12.1 Dump and Restore

The traditional UNIX® backup programs are dump and restore. They operate on the drive as a collection of disk blocks, below the abstractions of files, links and directories that are created by the file systems. dump backs up an entire file system on a device. It is unable to backup only part of a file system or a directory tree that spans more than one file system. dump does not write files and directories to tape, but rather writes the raw data blocks that comprise files and directories.

Note: If you use dump on your root directory, you would not back up /home, /usr or many other directories since these are typically mount points for other file systems or symbolic links into those file systems.

dump has quirks that remain from its early days in Version 6 of AT&T UNIX (circa 1975). The default parameters are suitable for 9-track tapes (6250 bpi), not the high-density media available today (up to 62,182 ftpi). These defaults must be overridden on the command line to utilize the capacity of current tape drives.

It is also possible to backup data across the network to a tape drive attached to another computer with rdump and rrestore. Both programs rely upon rcmd(3) and ruserok(3) to access the remote tape drive. Therefore, the user performing the backup must be listed in the .rhosts file on the remote computer. The arguments to rdump and rrestore must be suitable to use on the remote computer. When rdumping from a FreeBSD computer to an Exabyte tape drive connected to a Sun called komodo, use:

# /sbin/rdump 0dsbfu 54000 13000 126 komodo:/dev/nsa8 /dev/da0a 2>&1

Beware: there are security implications to allowing .rhosts authentication. Evaluate your situation carefully.

It is also possible to use dump and restore in a more secure fashion over ssh.

Example 17-1. Using dump over ssh

# /sbin/dump -0uan -f - /usr | gzip -2 | ssh -c blowfish \
          targetuser@targetmachine.example.com dd of=/mybigfiles/dump-usr-l0.gz

Or using dump's built-in method, setting the environment variable RSH:

Example 17-2. Using dump over ssh with RSH set

# RSH=/usr/bin/ssh /sbin/dump -0uan -f targetuser@targetmachine.example.com:/dev/sa0 /usr

17.12.2 tar

tar(1) also dates back to Version 6 of AT&T UNIX (circa 1975). tar operates in cooperation with the file system; it writes files and directories to tape. tar does not support the full range of options that are available from cpio(1), but it does not require the unusual command pipeline that cpio uses.

On FreeBSD 5.3 and later, both GNU tar and the default bsdtar are available. The GNU version can be invoked with gtar. It supports remote devices using the same syntax as rdump. To tar to an Exabyte tape drive connected to a Sun called komodo, use:

# /usr/bin/gtar cf komodo:/dev/nsa8 . 2>&1

The same could be accomplished with bsdtar by using a pipeline and rsh to send the data to a remote tape drive.

# tar cf - . | rsh hostname dd of=tape-device obs=20b

If you are worried about the security of backing up over a network you should use the ssh command instead of rsh.

17.12.3 cpio

cpio(1) is the original UNIX file interchange tape program for magnetic media. cpio has options (among many others) to perform byte-swapping, write a number of different archive formats, and pipe the data to other programs. This last feature makes cpio an excellent choice for installation media. cpio does not know how to walk the directory tree and a list of files must be provided through stdin.

cpio does not support backups across the network. You can use a pipeline and rsh to send the data to a remote tape drive.

# for f in directory_list; do
find $f >> backup.list
# cpio -v -o --format=newc < backup.list | ssh user@host "cat > backup_device"

Where directory_list is the list of directories you want to back up, user@host is the user/hostname combination that will be performing the backups, and backup_device is where the backups should be written to (e.g., /dev/nsa0).

17.12.4 pax

pax(1) is IEEE/POSIX®'s answer to tar and cpio. Over the years the various versions of tar and cpio have gotten slightly incompatible. So rather than fight it out to fully standardize them, POSIX created a new archive utility. pax attempts to read and write many of the various cpio and tar formats, plus new formats of its own. Its command set more resembles cpio than tar.

17.12.5 Amanda

Amanda (Advanced Maryland Network Disk Archiver) is a client/server backup system, rather than a single program. An Amanda server will backup to a single tape drive any number of computers that have Amanda clients and a network connection to the Amanda server. A common problem at sites with a number of large disks is that the length of time required to backup to data directly to tape exceeds the amount of time available for the task. Amanda solves this problem. Amanda can use a “holding disk” to backup several file systems at the same time. Amanda creates “archive sets”: a group of tapes used over a period of time to create full backups of all the file systems listed in Amanda's configuration file. The “archive set” also contains nightly incremental (or differential) backups of all the file systems. Restoring a damaged file system requires the most recent full backup and the incremental backups.

The configuration file provides fine control of backups and the network traffic that Amanda generates. Amanda will use any of the above backup programs to write the data to tape. Amanda is available as either a port or a package, it is not installed by default.

17.12.6 Do Nothing

“Do nothing” is not a computer program, but it is the most widely used backup strategy. There are no initial costs. There is no backup schedule to follow. Just say no. If something happens to your data, grin and bear it!

If your time and your data is worth little to nothing, then “Do nothing” is the most suitable backup program for your computer. But beware, UNIX is a useful tool, you may find that within six months you have a collection of files that are valuable to you.

“Do nothing” is the correct backup method for /usr/obj and other directory trees that can be exactly recreated by your computer. An example is the files that comprise the HTML or PostScript® version of this Handbook. These document formats have been created from SGML input files. Creating backups of the HTML or PostScript files is not necessary. The SGML files are backed up regularly.

17.12.7 Which Backup Program Is Best?

dump(8) Period. Elizabeth D. Zwicky torture tested all the backup programs discussed here. The clear choice for preserving all your data and all the peculiarities of UNIX file systems is dump. Elizabeth created file systems containing a large variety of unusual conditions (and some not so unusual ones) and tested each program by doing a backup and restore of those file systems. The peculiarities included: files with holes, files with holes and a block of nulls, files with funny characters in their names, unreadable and unwritable files, devices, files that change size during the backup, files that are created/deleted during the backup and more. She presented the results at LISA V in Oct. 1991. See torture-testing Backup and Archive Programs.

17.12.8 Emergency Restore Procedure Before the Disaster

There are only four steps that you need to perform in preparation for any disaster that may occur.

First, print the disklabel from each of your disks (e.g. disklabel da0 | lpr), your file system table (/etc/fstab) and all boot messages, two copies of each.

Second, determine that the boot and fix-it floppies (boot.flp and fixit.flp) have all your devices. The easiest way to check is to reboot your machine with the boot floppy in the floppy drive and check the boot messages. If all your devices are listed and functional, skip on to step three.

Otherwise, you have to create two custom bootable floppies which have a kernel that can mount all of your disks and access your tape drive. These floppies must contain: fdisk, disklabel, newfs, mount, and whichever backup program you use. These programs must be statically linked. If you use dump, the floppy must contain restore.

Third, create backup tapes regularly. Any changes that you make after your last backup may be irretrievably lost. Write-protect the backup tapes.

Fourth, test the floppies (either boot.flp and fixit.flp or the two custom bootable floppies you made in step two.) and backup tapes. Make notes of the procedure. Store these notes with the bootable floppy, the printouts and the backup tapes. You will be so distraught when restoring that the notes may prevent you from destroying your backup tapes (How? In place of tar xvf /dev/sa0, you might accidentally type tar cvf /dev/sa0 and over-write your backup tape).

For an added measure of security, make bootable floppies and two backup tapes each time. Store one of each at a remote location. A remote location is NOT the basement of the same office building. A number of firms in the World Trade Center learned this lesson the hard way. A remote location should be physically separated from your computers and disk drives by a significant distance.

Example 17-3. A Script for Creating a Bootable Floppy

# create a restore floppy
# format the floppy

fdformat -q fd0
if [ $? -ne 0 ]
     echo "Bad floppy, please use a new one"
     exit 1

# place boot blocks on the floppy
disklabel -w -B /dev/fd0c fd1440

# newfs the one and only partition
newfs -t 2 -u 18 -l 1 -c 40 -i 5120 -m 5 -o space /dev/fd0a

# mount the new floppy
mount /dev/fd0a /mnt

# create required directories
mkdir /mnt/dev
mkdir /mnt/bin
mkdir /mnt/sbin
mkdir /mnt/etc
mkdir /mnt/root
mkdir /mnt/mnt          # for the root partition
mkdir /mnt/tmp
mkdir /mnt/var

# populate the directories
if [ ! -x /sys/compile/MINI/kernel ]
     cat &lt;&lt; EOM
The MINI kernel does not exist, please create one.
Here is an example config file:
# MINI -- A kernel to get FreeBSD onto a disk.
machine         "i386"
cpu             "I486_CPU"
ident           MINI
maxusers        5

options         INET                    # needed for _tcp _icmpstat _ipstat
                                        #            _udpstat _tcpstat _udb
options         FFS                     #Berkeley Fast File System
options         FAT_CURSOR              #block cursor in syscons or pccons
options         SCSI_DELAY=15           #Be pessimistic about Joe SCSI device
options         NCONS=2                 #1 virtual consoles
options         USERCONFIG              #Allow user configuration with -c XXX

config          kernel  root on da0 swap on da0 and da1 dumps on da0

device          isa0
device          pci0

device          fdc0    at isa? port "IO_FD1" bio irq 6 drq 2 vector fdintr
device          fd0 at fdc0 drive 0

device          ncr0

device          scbus0

device          sc0 at isa? port "IO_KBD" tty irq 1 vector scintr
device          npx0    at isa? port "IO_NPX" irq 13 vector npxintr

device          da0
device          da1
device          da2

device          sa0

pseudo-device   loop            # required by INET
pseudo-device   gzip            # Exec gzipped a.out's
     exit 1

cp -f /sys/compile/MINI/kernel /mnt

gzip -c -best /sbin/init &gt; /mnt/sbin/init
gzip -c -best /sbin/fsck &gt; /mnt/sbin/fsck
gzip -c -best /sbin/mount &gt; /mnt/sbin/mount
gzip -c -best /sbin/halt &gt; /mnt/sbin/halt
gzip -c -best /sbin/restore &gt; /mnt/sbin/restore

gzip -c -best /bin/sh &gt; /mnt/bin/sh
gzip -c -best /bin/sync &gt; /mnt/bin/sync

cp /root/.profile /mnt/root

cp -f /dev/MAKEDEV /mnt/dev
chmod 755 /mnt/dev/MAKEDEV

chmod 500 /mnt/sbin/init
chmod 555 /mnt/sbin/fsck /mnt/sbin/mount /mnt/sbin/halt
chmod 555 /mnt/bin/sh /mnt/bin/sync
chmod 6555 /mnt/sbin/restore

# create the devices nodes
cd /mnt/dev
./MAKEDEV pty0
cd /

# create minimum file system table
cat &gt; /mnt/etc/fstab &lt;&lt;EOM
/dev/fd0a    /    ufs    rw  1  1

# create minimum passwd file
cat &gt; /mnt/etc/passwd &lt;&lt;EOM
root:*:0:0:Charlie &:/root:/bin/sh

cat &gt; /mnt/etc/master.passwd &lt;&lt;EOM
root::0:0::0:0:Charlie &:/root:/bin/sh

chmod 600 /mnt/etc/master.passwd
chmod 644 /mnt/etc/passwd
/usr/sbin/pwd_mkdb -d/mnt/etc /mnt/etc/master.passwd

# umount the floppy and inform the user
/sbin/umount /mnt
echo "The floppy has been unmounted and is now ready." After the Disaster

The key question is: did your hardware survive? You have been doing regular backups so there is no need to worry about the software.

If the hardware has been damaged, the parts should be replaced before attempting to use the computer.

If your hardware is okay, check your floppies. If you are using a custom boot floppy, boot single-user (type -s at the boot: prompt). Skip the following paragraph.

If you are using the boot.flp and fixit.flp floppies, keep reading. Insert the boot.flp floppy in the first floppy drive and boot the computer. The original install menu will be displayed on the screen. Select the Fixit--Repair mode with CDROM or floppy. option. Insert the fixit.flp when prompted. restore and the other programs that you need are located in /mnt2/rescue (/mnt2/stand for FreeBSD versions older than 5.2).

Recover each file system separately.

Try to mount (e.g. mount /dev/da0a /mnt) the root partition of your first disk. If the disklabel was damaged, use disklabel to re-partition and label the disk to match the label that you printed and saved. Use newfs to re-create the file systems. Re-mount the root partition of the floppy read-write (mount -u -o rw /mnt). Use your backup program and backup tapes to recover the data for this file system (e.g. restore vrf /dev/sa0). Unmount the file system (e.g. umount /mnt). Repeat for each file system that was damaged.

Once your system is running, backup your data onto new tapes. Whatever caused the crash or data loss may strike again. Another hour spent now may save you from further distress later.

This, and other documents, can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/doc/.

For questions about FreeBSD, read the documentation before contacting <questions@FreeBSD.org>.
For questions about this documentation, e-mail <doc@FreeBSD.org>.