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Simple disk to disk copy for easy recovery after drive failure

Posted on 2007-11-30
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I have a rented server at a hosting company.  If the mother board dies they will replace it.  If the disk dies they will replace that too.  What they won't replace is all the work that I have done to configure it.

I am interested in suggested solutions to a means of fairly rapid recovery after a catastrophic drive failure that requires a new drive.  

I thought that the simplest solution maybe a second disk to which I make an image copy on a regular basis, or better still update the image incrementally, periodically.  I can stick a second drive on the server for very little money.

Does this make sense as a solution or is there a better one?  Also, if this is the solution, then what software should I use to generate my backup?

I would like to add to this the ability to have a similar backup HERE, over the network.  This way if I needed a major move I could do that too.
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Question by:jhurst
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SwassLikeMe earned 280 total points
ID: 20383675
This totally depends on the amount of data we're talking about and the monthly allocated bandwidth you have with your hosting company.  Usually they consider backups to be part of the monthly transfer you have allocated to your account.

I would go with a second drive.  It will save you a lot of headaches.  That said, you'd still want a backup of your data locally (prior to publishing to the website).  If it fails, you can always copy your data back.

What type of access are you given to your webserver?
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by:rindi
ID: 20383716
DD or partimage, which is included on most LiveCD's would be good tools for that, but you'd need someone at the place where the server is to run either. Of course you can also run DD from your distro, but the partitions shouldn't be mounted, so again you'd require someone there to do it.

A good backup tool which will backup mounted partitions is rsync, but here you'd have to wait until the server is reinstalled, then restore your data.

http://samba.anu.edu.au/rsync/
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by:jhurst
ID: 20383853
Swass... - I have complete access to the server.  It is sort of mine.  Root, etc.  You are indeed correct that if I backup across the net it will use some of my bandwidth, as it happens that would be fine if only incremental.  But this is why I thought of the second disk.

So the question remains for you, if the disk is the way to go.  What software and will it be easy to restore/backdown if needed.

rindi - if I go the rsync way will I be able to back down even everything.  Right now I have: / and /boot in use.   Is what you are saying:
1) backup / using rsync

After a failure
1) get the host company to install a new drive and get the OS on there
2) restore /

Is it really as simple as that?  If so GREAT!
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by:SwassLikeMe
ID: 20384160
If you have a second disk, I would look at doing mirroring rather than simply using it as a second, independent disk.  Potentially you could have an issue that would require costly intervention from them if they were not mirrored, as you'd be really unable to boot from a simple backup disk.  Mirroring is accomplished by software RAID in Linux, or by hardware RAID if they actually have a hardware RAID controller in the system.

If you did want to send your data across the wire to your home/business system for backup purposes, I would recommend using something like rsync.  You can set this up securely, and have it do incremental block level changes, rather than shipping everything across the wire each time.

That said, in the case of doing the rsync with the RAID option also, I would not recommend doing your whole system, but only selective data that you changed.  The hardware or software RAID would give you the ability to keep a running system, where rsync would backup your data in case it was lost.

One potential issue with rsync is that it is a synchronized copy of the data remotely.  Consequently, making a change to a file in production and performing an rsync could cause your old file to be wiped out.  You could, however, do a backup of the rsync'd data locally on your workstation for archival purposes.
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by:jhurst
ID: 20384928
I am aware of rsync, should have mentioned that.  Already use it for the data on the server.

Now, I am liking this software raid idea.  Are you saying that we can actually use this to have a bootable disk ready to go and we would just need them to swap it in an we would bre ready to re-boot?  If so, this is EXACTLY what I want.

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by:PUNKY
PUNKY earned 220 total points
ID: 20385112
Raid is not backup solution. You should have backup to external media, in daily basic backup data, and keep them in safe place for any event that cause system failure.
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by:jhurst
ID: 20385192
I realize that Raid is not a backup solution - that is not what I am looking for.  As I said, I am already backing up this server using rsync to a machine that is here.  I am looking for a way that we can recover as quickly as possible after a disk crash, as the question says.  Why does RAID not achieve this punky?
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by:PUNKY
ID: 20385223
Oh, sorry I misread your posts, as you already know raid is not backup solution, and have backup using rsync, then Raid would be good for you plan. It will help to keep system running while one drive failed.
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by:jhurst
ID: 20385251
So, how tough is it to add software raid to my existing machine if I stick another drive on there?
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by:PUNKY
ID: 20385304
It is not tough but depending how your experience on Linux / Fedora. Only you can figure that out on your own system, I can only suggest and provide help links such as below though.

http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Software-RAID-HOWTO-7.html#ss7.6
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by:SwassLikeMe
ID: 20385406
Punky is spot on, that'll do it for you.  Whoever you give credit for the answer, be sure to credit the other(s) with assists.  He certainly more quickly responded to your follow-up than I did.
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by:jhurst
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These guys are GREAT!
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