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I'm evaluating Bacula as a centralized backup tool for a small network where users will turn machines on and off unpredictably. Some of the headless Linux boxes I need to back up are intended to be turned off by pressing the on/off-button on the case, without any way of telling the user to wait for a backup job to finish.

So, we don't know when backup jobs may run (anacron might help with this, right?) and we don't know whether they'll be allowed to finish.

Is Bacula a reasonable choice for such an environment?

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If the data is important enough to be backed up then don't allow the users to turn off the machines. – Mark Wagner Dec 28 '10 at 18:12
up vote 1 down vote accepted

bacula relies on a central "director" which handles all of the scheduling. If a system is down when bacula-director tries to get it (bacula-fd) to talk with the storage daemon (bacula-sd) then after a configured period of time, bacula will give up and mark the job as failed. If it is turned off during the job, it will almost certainly mark the job as failed.

As far as I know, once a job has failed, there is no mechanism for retrying or continuing it, bacula will start over again next time that job is scheduled.

I would suggest using rsync from the boxes to a central server then backup that central server to tape. In this case, rsync could be scheduled from cron on each box at whatever time is convenient as well as @reboot. If the system is shut down mid-rsync, it will finish on startup. When using a "push" backup like this, it's important to maintain backups of that central server because a corrupt client will push corrupt data to the server.

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Thanks for the reply. Can you elaborate on the effects of failed jobs -- will they be simply ignored or will such an event result in a corrupted Bacula database? – Rastloser Dec 29 '10 at 12:25
Since the director manages the database, as long as the director isn't turned off mid-job the database itself will be fine. I don't have many jobs that failed this way myself since we use it for server backups which don't get turned off at random. – DerfK Dec 29 '10 at 13:47

Bacula is more suitable for server use, try the Areca.

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While I don't know how Bacula handles this situation, I have just evaluated Backuppc with regard to "disappearing" clients. Backuppc uses plain rsync as its transport and can, thus, mark a backup as "partial" if a client is turned off in the middle of a running job. Recovering from such a situation works just fine.

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