Best procedure for full backup of live system

Steve Bertrand steve at
Thu Oct 15 06:42:22 UTC 2009

Nerius Landys wrote:
> My server is increasingly having important work stored on it, and I
> need to start taking backups of a lot of directories, especially
> /home, /opt, /etc, /usr/local/etc, and maybe others.  The ideal backup
> (and what I've done in the past) is to take a full low-level dd image
> of the disk while the system is down (this is easy to do in a
> situation where you have dual boot). 

...but you've found recently that it isn't scalable.

> Or, since the output of dd would
> take up tons of space and would only be usable on an identical hard
> drive, use "dump" to take the backup while the machine is turned off
> (again easy to do on a dual boot).  But now, I cannot bring down the
> machine.  My plan is to do a tar gzip of / on the fly, and pipe that
> to ssh (remote machine).  However, the system is live, and files will
> be in the progress of changing.

...quick hack, tested example ( recommended for a quick fix only. do a
proper archive )


%mkdir arch && ls | grep arch

%echo "blah, blah" >> arch/file.txt

%cat !$
cat arch/file.txt
blah, blah

# now, even though this is a ~ example, I use / all the time... tarball
/home/steve/arch directory ( and contents ) to a different server:

%tar -cvzf - arch | ssh steve at ' cat > arch_test.tar.gz'

a arch
a arch/file.txt

... after key-auth ( or password auth ) to remote SSH server, on the
remote server:


%ll | grep arch
-rw-r--r--  1 steve  steve      10240 Oct 15 02:16 arch_test.tar.gz

%mkdir restore-test
%mv arch_test.tar.gz restore-test/
%cd !$
cd restore-test/
%tar -xzvf arch_test.tar.gz
x arch/
x arch/file.txt

%cd arch
total 1
-rw-r--r--  1 steve  steve  11 Oct 15 02:17 file.txt

... booya, restored, on a remote server...look:

%cat file.txt
blah, blah

...Just like that!

If I've missed something, forgive me. I swear that doing a 'backup' to a
remote location with a FreeBSD box is honestly *nearly* as easy to this
Canadian as packing snow into an iceball to hit the bus with ;)


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