[kwlug-disc] Backups and Hard Disks

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Wed Aug 19 05:35:45 EDT 2009

On Tue, Aug 18, 2009 at 22:26, L.D. Paniak<ldpaniak at fourpisolutions.com> wrote:
> You can bring your backup media with you.  Most of what is on my laptop
> is fairly static data (VMs, music, "mature" files...). These are covered
> by the occasional "bare-metal" mondoarchive-type backups.  For
> everything else, you can automate very frequent backups to an 8/16/32GB
> SD card or usb stick.  Using rdiff-backup, you can build your own
> "time-machine".

I'm currently using backuppc for the rest of my network. It has the
added benefit of detecting duplicate files between multiple hosts. So
if you have a five machines running the same OS, all the OS parts are
pooled, cutting down on my storage needs. I've heard of rdiff-backup
and it looks rather interesting as well..

My network setup is basically the following: /home over NFS from my
server. I have 7 VMs that mount this, as well as my desktop (with
gigabit you never really notice it's not local). I used Unison to sync
with /home on the server (through ssh). It gave me the added benefit
of doing two-way syncs, so I could run a long download in screen on my
server and the next time I sync my file is ready for me on my laptop.
The downside is that concurrency really causes syncing to suck. For
example, I changed my .bash_history to .bash_history.$hostname due to
having unsolved conflicts if I was on two machines at once.

> Checking the SMART data on a hard drive regularly can also reduce
> surprises from creeping drive failure.  smartmontools is the package in
> deb-land.  Running smarctl regularly will give you a good idea if your
> drive is getting tired - before it grinds to a halt.

I have smart-notifier as part of my gnome-session, so I assume I would
be notified if there was an issue. In this case the disk was only 32
days old and died without warning (suspended, but it never came back).
If it was two days earlier I could have replaced it with NCIX. Now I
have to deal with Seagate, and unfortunately they send refurb units
back as replacements (but hey, if it works...)

> Doesn't help with
> falls, theft or having your laptop run over by a bus though...

That's what makes me wary of having only "local" backups, especially
if you store them in the same bag as the laptop. Call me paranoid, but
my server and NAS both run raid-1, and both of those get dumped to
tape every week, which I swap with a set I keep at my parents. Even my
"working" data is stored on redundant disks and backed up.

Chris Irwin
<chris at chrisirwin.ca>

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