Ben Laurie blathering


While I was out of the country (of course) my backup machine died, with a flaky root filesystem. I’d been expecting this to happen since the disk had been showing errors for some time, so I already had a new disk ready to replace it. I’ve used Amanda for backups for so long I can’t remember when I started, but lately both The Bunker and FreeBMD have started using Bacula, so I decided to give it a go.

This turned out to be a great idea! Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Works with Vista – Yes, my kids both have Vista machines. I’d completely failed to get them working with Amanda, which needs to be able to see their disks via SMB. In contrast, Bacula runs an agent on each machine.
  • Can span tapes – Amanda can’t deal with a backup that is bigger than a tape. Bacula has no issue with that at all. Obviously with Amanda this means you can’t safely have a filesystem larger than your tape, or you have to jump through some pretty large hoops. With Bacula I can have filesystems any size I want.
  • Uses tapes efficiently – perhaps arguable, this one. Amanda kinda heuristically tries to fill the tapes, so you get full backups as often as is possible, and in any case always uses a full tape each day. Bacula instead uses a rigid full/incremental schedule (as defined by you). This means you probably get full backups less often, but uses far less tape, since Bacula is quite happy to append to the tape until it is full. So far I’ve been running about 2 weeks and have used 3.5 tapes, as opposed to Amanda’s 14.
  • You can see what is going on! – Bacula has an interactive utility that shows what it is up to. This is very useful when setting up, especially since you can schedule individual backup runs to happen right now instead of their scheduled time.

Add to that the fact that from having nothing installed (not even an OS) to having Bacula running only took me a few hours, and most of that was waiting for things to install, thanks to FreeBSD and their ports system.

That said, there is one thing I’m not superkeen about with Bacula: its has a pretty arcane configuration system. I’m sure there are reasons for the strange way it is subdivided, but they are not apparent to me.


  1. Arcane? Subdivided?

    Can you elaborate please?

    Comment by Dan Langilel — 26 Sep 2007 @ 10:11

  2. Sure. The main one that puzzled me was that in order to back up some machine, I have to create three separate entries, a Job, which points to a Client and a FileSet. Since it seems to me that there is almost always only one of each, I wonder why I can’t define them in a single entry?

    Also, why JobDefs but not FileSetDefs or ClientDefs?

    The Messages entries are also fairly obscure, and don’t leave me confident that messages won’t be missed somehow.

    Another thing that I thought was weird (and in a sense I am arguing against myself here) was that the FileSet was defined on the director machine and not on the client; it seems to me that at least having the option to let the client choose what was backed up makes sense.

    Oh … I forgot to say that Bacula is fast! My backups are done in typically under an hour, whereas the same job could take Amanda well over 24 hours.

    Comment by Ben — 26 Sep 2007 @ 11:15

  3. Watch out for Bacula’s idea of an ‘OK’ backup though:

    Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 01:04:48 +0100
    Subject: Bacula: Backup OK of equality-fd Differential

    24-Oct 01:04 liberty-dir: Start Backup JobId 262, Job=Equality_Trac.2007-10-24_01.00.01
    24-Oct 01:04 equality-fd: Could not stat /raid/trac-backup: ERR=No such file or directory
    24-Oct 01:04 liberty-sd: Job write elapsed time = 00:00:01, Transfer rate = 0 bytes/second
    24-Oct 01:04 liberty-dir: Bacula 2.0.3 (06Mar07): 24-Oct-2007 01:04:48
    JobId: 262
    Job: Equality_Trac.2007-10-24_01.00.01
    Backup Level: Differential, since=2007-08-30 01:00:37
    FD Files Written: 0
    SD Files Written: 0
    FD Bytes Written: 0 (0 B)
    SD Bytes Written: 0 (0 B)
    Rate: 0.0 KB/s

    Note combination of happy subject line, unhappy FD message, zero transfer stats…

    Comment by lemon — 26 Oct 2007 @ 15:42

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