Backup media choices for FreeBSD servers

Chris Kottaridis chriskot at
Tue Apr 24 04:57:58 UTC 2007

My decade old Loader Express with ten 40 GB tapes finally died a couple
of months ago. So, I just switched over to a different style. I don't
know how applicable it is to your situation. I have used amanda for
years to manage tape drives. In the latest version they support backup
to hard disk. They have a disk-chg script that acts like it's changing
a tape in a tape changer when really it's just pointing at a different
directory on the disk. It ends up writing what otherwise would be on
a tape to a file in that directory. But, it looks like a tape to amanda.

Since tapes get expensive and disks are relatively cheap I went out and
bought a 300 GB USB disk drive for about $90.00. Right now I have amanda
configured to back things up onto 6 "virtual tapes" each of about 40GB,
which matches the tape capacities I was using. The virtual tapes exist
on the 300 MB USB disk drive. That all seems to be working. So, I am
backing up 5 days a week onto a backup cycle of 6 tapes. I could mount
and unmount the USB disk before and after the backups to make them a
little more inaccessible when not performing a backup, but at the
moment I don't.

I also have an unused 8 port Power control unit that can be controlled
by network or serial port. So, eventually I plan on connecting the USB
disk drive to this power control unit and then modifying the disk-chg
script to turn on the power to the USB disk and then mount it. Once the
backup is done I'll unmount the disk drive and turn the power to the USB
disk drive off via the APC control. So, my backup device will only be
on-line during the backup itself. I can grow this by adding more
external USB devices and modifying the disk-chg script to turn on the
correct USB drive and mount it so I can have up to 8 USB devices,
assuming I use a 4 port USB adaptor since the hardware only has 2 USB
ports. I can add disks depending on how far back I want to save data.
Each 300 GB should be able to handle a weeks worth of data at the
current capacities.

Anyway, to just get the 1 week depth was an ~$90.00 solution for me, the
best I could find for a refurbished tape drive for my old tape changer
was ~$600.00,  and I can store things in the way I have been used to for
that last decade, using amanda. Since I have a spare APC controller
around I can expand on this at ~ $90.00 per week of backup desired, once
I've provided a little software glue.

Just a thought.

    Chris Kottaridis    (chriskot at

On Mon, 2007-04-23 at 17:01 -0700, L Goodwin wrote:
> I need to implement an automated backup facility on the FreeBSD file server I'm setting up for a client. It will have a software RAID 1 Mirror/Duplex that is made available to Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista Home Premium users as a Samba share.  I also plan to create system recovery disks (disk images) for the server and each Windows client. 
> This leaves backing up user data on some schedule. I've read "Backup Basics", but have some questions:
> Which is best backup media for a FreeBSD file server, based on known issues (or lack of) with each format? I need to decide between the following formats:
>  a) CD-R (or CD-RW?)
>  b) DVD-R (or CD-RW?)
>  c) Streaming tape (which format/standard?)
> Which is the best method for backing up data files on a Samba sharer FreeBSD?
> Handbook says dump is the only way to go.
> Is it possible to have a Windows client perform the backup files on the Samba share to a local Re-Writable CD or DVD drive? If the answer is YES, what are the pros and cons of a UNIX-based (data-file only) backup vs. a Windows-based one?
> Please add to my list of pros and cons:
> Windows Backup:
> PRO: Backup can be restored to a Windows drive while server is being fixed?
> CON: Users might forget to replace backup disk after using optical drive.
> FreeBSD Backup:
> PRO: Out of sight from users (server is in a storeroom).
> CON: Cannot restore backup to a Windows disk while server is being fixed?
> These are some of my other considerations:
>  1) Cost is a primary concern. Budget does not allow for a multi-drive solution. Best if client does not handle backups (change discs/tapes), so a solution that permits storing several backups to same disc/tape preferred.
> 2) I only want to back up user data (not the OS). Current user data occupies less than 1GB of drive space, and is expected to grow at a modest rate.
> 3) I do NOT have a writable CD or DVD drive (but can buy one if not too spendy).
> 4) I have an external SCSI connection, but very little "shelf" space.
> 5) The server does not have room for another internal device (except if swapping out the existing ATAPI CD-ROM drive).
> 6) I have an Ecrix Corporation Model VXI-1A SCSI internal tape drive that I assume is obsolete (comments appreciated). Anyway, I don't have room for it.
> 7) Have not yet settled on a backup schedule. May be weekly or monthly or ad-hoc, but daily is probably out of the question. The RAID 1 array is expected to provide some degree of protection in leieu of daily backups. Plan to back up all documents each time, rather than implement a two-tiered backup process.
> Thanks!
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