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Let the Republic of China Backup your Linux and Windows PC

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cz_linuxlogoIf you find yourself, for whatever reason, using a Linux system at home you will be faced with an issue – How do I back this thing up?  Not just how do I backup my files – that’s easy – how to I backup this whole system?

This posting addresses a specific scenario.  Backup up a Linux system as disaster recovery to get to a known system in case of hard drive failure, massive changes to the operating system that renders it unusable, or simply to have a reference copy of an operating system in a known state or configuration.  Sometimes you want to move an operating system off to another media so you can use the resources (PC, hard drive, etc)  for something else.  All these applications of backup is to backup a complete system – an image backup of a hard drive – not a file-level backup. 

There is a huge difference between a file level backup and an operating system backup.  A file level backup will generally be insufficient to restore a Linux system to usable state in the case of a file system corruption or other disaster.

If you have any doubt as to how complex L/Unix backup can get, please read this excellent article: Backing up Linux and other Unix-like operating systems.

The Collective

When I was in college I sat down at a public shared computing cluster and hit the enter key to begin my “user experience”.  Along with some messages that went running across the screen indicating that the machine was refreshing itself for the next user (me) I saw this message.

Please wait – You are being assimilated in to the collective.

Wow.  All I wanted to do was use the computer and here I was being presented with a deep political and ideological statement.  Was it 1984 – again?  You know, the 1984 of George Orwell in a parallel dystopic universe?  Now what was I at the public computer cluster to do – what work did I need to get done?  I forgot – being assimilated into the collective was just too fascinating.

Really, this choice of words, which was most likely put in by a programmer (an Open Source programmer?) and got past final scrutiny by whatever product manager that allowed that to pass, simply indicated that the machine I was sitting at in the public computing cluster was being added to the campus network.

Microsoft

The next time I heard the phrase “You will be assimilated” it was in reference to Microsoft.  In short, one world, one government, one operating system.  Take that Steve Jobs and Apple!  Take that Linus Torvalds and Linux!

And so it goes, I was assimilated.  In the corporate world there is only one desktop operating system – and that is Microsoft.  I was assimilated.  I am the collective – I am a Microsoft shareholder.  Good for me!

The Republic of China –
National Center for High-Performance Computing

800px-flag_of_the_republic_of_china_svgIf you are outside the collective of Microsoft maybe you are inside another collective.  Maybe you have been assimilated into another collective – the Open Source collective and the world of Linux.

If you are in the Microsoft world and are faced with backing up a Linux system and don’t own a variety of pocket protectors and colored pens then you want a simple way to back up this beast.  Linux installed on a bare metal machine (not virtualized) does not use any file system that a backup system designed for Microsoft (NTFS) is going to understand.   So, what to do?

I ran across a good candidate Linux backup solution – Clonezilla

Clonezilla is from Tiawan – The Republic of China – The National Center for High Performance Computing

Clonezilla

Clonezilla is a slick program – you don’t need a pocket protector and a lot of command line switches to use it.  In one of it’s forms, Clonezilla is a stand alone bootable system based on Linux.  You don’t need to install anything on the PC (Linux system) that you want to back up – or on the target media or system.

I was able to test Clonezilla for disaster recovery backup and restore on a SuSe 11.1 system to different targets.  Clonezilla is very flexible.  I have so far only tested a few features – the features I need. 

I simply want to backup my Linux system for disaster recovery and to make reference images of various configured Linux distributions for later use on a particular machine.  It’s that simple and direct – these are my requirements.

Demo use of Clonezilla

Scenario:
Backup my SuSe Lunix 11.1 installed and configured system for a reference copy.  I want to be able to restore this ‘on demand” from the reference copy when I need it in the future.
The target is a 1 Terabyte external USB drive that I use for this purpose.  Just for fun, I tried a network backup option that Clonezilla supports – network backup to a Microsoft file share.

What follows is a set of images showing a demo of how to do this.
Click on any image to enlarge it in a new browser window

I downloaded the CD bootable version of Clonezilla from http://www.clonezilla.org/ (an ISO ) and burned a CD.

Insert the CD into the PC that has the Linux that you want to backup.  Your machine should boot and you will see this screen.  Welcome to Taiwan.  Choose your screen resolution and hit enter.  My monitor wil handle 1024 x 768

cz_logo
Two options are available. 
You can backup/restore to and from images or clone a partition
I want to backup the entire hard drive

cz_options

This program can do a lot.  You can backup/restore to/from a UBB device, ssh server, samba server, or nfs server.  So far we tried two of the options – to a local USB device and to a Microsoft file share.  The option samba_server is Linux-speak for SMB protocol that is Microsoft File Shares.

cz_sambachoose

The remainder of the screen shots will show Clonezilla backing up to a Microsoft fileshare (Samba option). 

Pocket Protector:ON
The target is a file share that I created on a Microsoft Visa machine.
The name of the file share I set up on Visa is called “images”

I checked the IP address of the Vista machine on my local network and it was 192.168.1.4.  You will need to know this for one of the upcoming screens.

I also pre-checked on the Linux machine to be backed up if the Linux box could talk to the Microsoft Visa machine.  To test this I opened up a shell window and did a ping command to 192.168.1.4.  The reason to do this is to make sure that the Windows firewall is not blocking access to the fileshare.  If you have any doubt that your Windows machine is blocking incomming traffic it is best to do this easy “ping” check.  It takes only 15 seconds to make this check and will save you a lot of time if Clonezilla is unable to get to the windows file share over the network.

You should also make sure you have the permissions set up properly on the share.  For example, you might want to create a new account on the Windows machine (call it “netbackup”) and then create the share on the Windows machine and grant the user “netbackup” full control of the share.

The next thing Clonezilla is going to ask for is for the login of the user that has permission to the share.  In this case, for the test, I used the Administrator user.  This is ok for a single test but if you are going to use Clonezilla long term then you should set up a new user for this purpose and restrict access so the login you create only has access to the file share that you have set up for the purpose of network backup up with Clonezilla.

One more thing.  Clonezilla will expect to see a DHCP server from whic it will ask for an assingment of a IP address on the local network.  If you are not running a DHCP server as part of a router or stand alone DCHP server then you will need to manually assign the booted clonezilla machine an IP address.  It is also going to ask you for a network mask. 

If you are not familiar with any of the info in the preceeding paragraph I suggest you backup to an external USB drive rather than a network.  Backup to an external USB device works great and it’s a lot easier and simple process.
Pocket Protector: OFF

cz_asklogin

Clonezilla will now ask for the share name.  The default is “images”. I made it easy on myself by naming the Microsoft file share “images”.  Clonezilla will mount this share to write the backup.

cz_askshare

So what do you want to do.  You can copy a single partition or you can copy the whole disk including the MBR (Master Boot Record).  If you are making this backup for disaster recovery then copy the whole drive – assuming you have enough space on the target fileshare and you have enough network bandwidth to do this in a reasonable amount of time.

cz_savedisk

I am going to skip a few screens.  These are all options screens – I took all the defaults.
At this point. Clonezilla has everything it needs.  So we are going to be off and running.

Notice that Clonezilla is going to backup my whole disk ( hda ) and all the partitions ( 2,3,4). 

The allocated partition sizes total about 35 GB.  But Clonezilla will only backup used data blocks.  The allocated size and used size will be different.  So, for this case, we’ll be backing up maybe 4 GB of real data.

cz_readytogo
Now we are off and running.  

cz_running

At this point you are off and running.  This machine is on a 100 Mbs home network. 
We are getting a rate of about 550 MB /  minute transfer rate on an unloaded network.

The real time to backup a newly installed SuSe Linux 11.1 system with a good amount of software installed to the netowrk file share was about 15 minutes for all the partitions.

I did the same backup to an external 1 TB external USB drive and I got a rate of 400MB/minute.

So what do you get as your backup artifact ?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at the sreeen shot below.  (Click to enlarge)

This is a screen shot of the my Windows Vista machine opened to the shared folder wher Clonezilla wrote its backup.

Clonezilla has created a folder on the share “images” called “2009-02-14-14”.  In this folder are the backup artifacts.

Note the extensive amount of information that Clonezilla includes in the backup.  This is a great feature that allows the backup to be almost fully self-documenting.  Note that the MBR (Master Boot Record) is saved as well. 

 cz_artifacts

Great – So how do I Restore thuis Linux system ?

OK, so now you have the backup.  You can burn these file to a DVD or leave them on a file server.  You can copy these files to an external USB drive.  Put them where you want – copy the entire folder.  On the screens that I did not show in the demo, you can tell Clonezilla the max size of any backup file artifact.  So, if you intend to burn these backups to DVD then you should tell Clonezilla that the max size is 4 GB.  Clonezilla will split the files appropriately.

I tried a restore process using the same Microsoft file share and from a USB drive.  Simply insert the Clonezilla bootable CD in the PC you want to restore and select the restore menu.  Follow the prompts.  This exercise is left to the reader.

The Restore Glitch

I did encounter one problem.  On full disk restore Clonezilla restores the MBR.  On SuSe 11.1 Linux the boot loader is GRUB.  When I initially installed SuSe 11.1 I got a nice background with GRUB – a green colored screen. With the restored SuSe Linux 11.1 from Clonezilla that green background screen is gone.  GRUB comes up just like it did before with the same options – but no colored background.  So, the Clonezilla restore is not identical – something has changed.

Conclusion

So, the product from Taiwan and the Republic of China works great.  I was not able to test all the features as of yet.  The list of features and the versions of Clonezilla are extensive.  I need it for one purpose.  I want to be able to backup and restore disaster recovery and reference copies of various Linux distributions that I have installed and configured.

It took about 15 minutes to backup my fully configured and working SuSe 11.1 Linux system.  This is a good investment of time given that it would take much more time to diagnose and fix a major Linux problem during experimentation or software upgrades.

One world; one government.  Give the Republic of China National Center for High-Performance Computing Clonezilla backup software a test drive.  I am going to use it myself but I am not going to tell my Microsoft shareholder friends – they might get the idea I am not fully assimilated into the final part of the triad “;one operating system”

Resources

Backing up Linux and other Unix-like operating systems

http://www.clonezilla.org/

http://www.nchc.org.tw/en/collaborative_research/fsl/

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Written by frrl

February 15, 2009 at 4:39 am

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