How to Create and Restore Backups of Your Ubuntu PC

Computers are not reliable, no matter what your computer vendors will tell you. They have a habit of crashing at the most critical of times. And when they crash they take with them all the hard work you have put in for weeks and maybe months. It could be your professional work or your school assignments. The only realistic guard you have against these crashes are backups. Making regular backups gives you the layer of protection, and it does not come with too much added effort. Simple Backup, or sBackup, is a fine backup solution for Linux computers. It allows you to configure what you want backed up, and once configured, it can take regular backups for you. A key feature that this particular solution also provides, which many backup solutions don’t seem to, is a the ability to help you restore your data easily. Let’s look at how to install and setup sBackup on your Ubuntu computer.

Installing sBackup

Most recent releases of Ubuntu Linux have sBackup as part of their default apt-get repositories. You can either install sBackup by executing the command

sudo apt-get install sbackup

or download and install it using the Synaptic Package Manager. Launch Synaptic and search for sBackup. Click on the file to install it and hit the Apply button to complete the installation. Both of these methods will download and install any and all dependancies for you.

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Once the installation is complete sBackup will appear in the System menu. Click on the System menu at the top of your screen and navigate to Administration. Here you should see two new items – Simple Backup Config and Simple Backup Restore.

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Configuration

Let’s begin by configuring sBackup. Click on the Simple Backup Config item in the System menu to launch it. You will see a pane like in the screenshot below launch. The pane has several tabs, one for each element to be configured. The first choice you need to make is whether you want to execute you backups manually or let sBackup run them for you at a scheduled interval. In the General tab you will be presented with three options. The first option is to use the presets that the sBackup team has chosen for you. With this option some of the important directories such as /home and /var will be backed up for you at a regular interval. The second option allows you to specify what exactly is backed up and at what interval. The third one allows you complete control, but you need to run the backups yourself. Let’s go with the second option and customize the backups and schedule them ourselves.

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The next two tabs let you decide what is included and excluded from the backups. The default set of directories included is a good start. You can add to this any other directories that you use. You can add directories or even individual files. For example, I use a custom directory to store my project files. This is located at /opt/projects. To add this directory I click on the Add Directory button and indicate which directory I want added. Similarly you can customize the list of directories or files that should be excluded from your backup. sBackup allows you to select these files based on file size or using regular expressions, which is quite cool.

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Move on to the Destination tab. This is an important step. The default location of the backups is at /var/backup. I don’t think the smartest idea to store your backups on the same machine as the one being backed up, especially if this is the only backup you have of your files. sBackup has a remote backup options which is what I recommend using if you have access to a remote server. You can configure your backups using SCP (secure copy is basically copying over SSH) or FTP. The other option is to backup on an external hard drive. But then you need to make sure that the hard drive is connected to your computer whenever your backups are scheduled. It would have been useful to have an option to backup locally on a daily basis, and then store one weekly backup on a remote server – perhaps it will be added in a new version :)

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The Time tab is an important one. This lets you configure the frequency of your backups. Note that the daily backups are incremental, which means that only the files that have changed will get backed up. There’s also a setting at the bottom of the pane which lets you set how often sBackup should take a full backup. This is set to 21 days by default. I like to take a weekly backup, as I don’t want my bandwidth to get choked. However, if you are taking a backup locally or to a local hard drive that is connected at all times, you can set it to daily.

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The last tab is the Purge tab. This tab lets you set the retention period of old backups. I would leave this to the recommended setting which is the Logarithmic one. The details of this option are explained on the pane itself.

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Remember to click the Save button once you are done setting things up. That’s it. Close the config pane and watch your backups being taken.

Recovering Old Backup

Your backups have been set up and are running fine. Suddenly your computer decides to freeze and restoring a backup is your only option. Let’s look at how you can recover your data from the backups taken with sBackup. Launch the Simple Backup Restore item from the System menu. If you have used the default location to store your backups you should be able to view a list of available backups. If not, guide sBackup to the location of your backups and it will display a full list to you. Now you can browse the files from the available backups and restore the file you like by selecting the file and clicking on the Restore or Restore As option.

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What I really like about Simple backup is, as the name suggests, just how simple it is. Don’t be fool by its simplicity, it is also very powerful. I particularly like how user friendly the restore option is. Over all this is very useful software and I highly recommend it to all Linux users.

1 thought on “How to Create and Restore Backups of Your Ubuntu PC”

  1. I only backup my data files and for that I use Windows SyncBack and Wine. Works just fine for me and how I use an USB backup drive if (when – it will *certainly* come) the *BAD* moment appears it is only needed to plug it on another PC «et voilà» all files and tree structure are there. No need for another Ubuntu PC or sRestore to work again. Just as easy as put the drive in my pocket, get a laptop, go to office, plug the drive and sit at the desk to begin working.
    :-)

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