Top Three Open Source Data Backup Tools

This ar­ti­cle ex­am­ines three open source data backup so­lu­tions that are the best among the many avail­able.

OpenSource For You - - Contents - By Neetesh Mehro­tra The au­thor works at TCS as a sys­tems en­gi­neer, and his ar­eas of in­ter­est are Java de­vel­op­ment and au­to­ma­tion test­ing. For any queries, do con­tact him at mehro­

Open source data backup soft­ware has be­come quite pop­u­lar in re­cent times. One of the main rea­sons for this is that users have ac­cess to the code, which al­lows them to tweak the prod­uct. Open source tools are now be­ing used in data cen­tre en­vi­ron­ments be­cause they are low cost and pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity.

Let’s take a look at three open source backup soft­ware pack­ages that I con­sider the best. All three pro­vide sup­port for UNIX, Linux, Win­dows and Mac OS.


This is one of the old­est open source backup soft­ware pack­ages. It gets its name from the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land where it was orig­i­nally con­ceived. Amanda stands for the Ad­vanced Mary­land Disk Archive.

Amanda is a sched­ul­ing, au­to­ma­tion and track­ing pro­gram wrapped around na­tive backup tools like tar (for UNIX/Linux) and zip (for Win­dows). The data­base that tracks all back­ups al­lows you to re­store any file from a previous ver­sion of that file that was backed up by Amanda. This re­liance on na­tive backup tools comes with ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. The big­gest ad­van­tage, of course, is that you will never have a prob­lem read­ing an Amanda tape on any platform. The for­mats Amanda uses are eas­ily avail­able on any open-sys­tems platform. The big­gest dis­ad­van­tage is that some of these tools have lim­i­ta­tions (e.g., path length) and Amanda will in­herit those lim­i­ta­tions.

On an­other level, Amanda is a so­phis­ti­cated pro­gram that has a num­ber of en­ter­prise-level fea­tures, like au­to­mat­i­cally de­ter­min­ing when to run your full back­ups,

in­stead of hav­ing you sched­ule them. It’s also the only open source pack­age to have data­base agents for SQL Server, Ex­change, SharePoint and Or­a­cle, as well as the only backup pack­age to have an agent for MySQL and Ingress.

Amanda is now backed by Zmanda, and this com­pany has put its de­vel­op­ment into over­drive. Just a few months af­ter be­gin­ning op­er­a­tions, Zmanda has addressed ma­jor lim­i­ta­tions in the prod­uct that had hin­dered it for years.

Since then, it has been re­spon­si­ble for the addition of a lot of func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing those data­base agents.


Bac­ula was orig­i­nally writ­ten by Kern Sib­bald, who chose a very dif­fer­ent path from Amanda by writ­ing a cus­tom backup for­mat de­signed to over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of the na­tive tools. Sib­bald’s orig­i­nal goal was to write a tool that could take the place of the en­ter­prise tools he saw in the data cen­tre.

Bac­ula also has sched­ul­ing, au­to­ma­tion and track­ing of all back­ups, al­low­ing you to eas­ily re­store any file (or files) from a previous ver­sion. Like Amanda, it also has me­dia man­age­ment fea­tures that al­low you to use au­to­mated tape li­braries and per­form disk-to-disk back­ups.

As of this writ­ing, Bac­ula is only a file backup prod­uct and does not pro­vide any data­base agents. You can shut a data­base down and back up its files, but this is not a vi­able backup method for some data­bases.


Both Amanda and Bac­ula feel and be­have like con­ven­tional backup prod­ucts. They have sup­port for both disk and tape, sched­uled full and in­cre­men­tal back­ups, and they come in a ‘backup for­mat’. Back­upPC, on the other hand, is a disk-only backup tool that for­ever per­forms in­cre­men­tal back­ups, and stores those back­ups in their na­tive for­mat in a snap­shot-like tree struc­ture that is avail­able via a GUI. Like Bac­ula, it’s a file-only backup tool and its in­cre­men­tal na­ture might be ham­pered by back­ing up large data­base files. How­ever, it’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing al­ter­na­tive for file data. Back­upPC’s sin­gle most im­pos­ing fea­ture is that it does file-level de-du­pli­ca­tion. If you have a file du­pli­cated any­where in your en­vi­ron­ment, it will find that du­pli­cate and re­place it with a link to the orig­i­nal file.

Which one should you use?

Choos­ing a data backup tool en­tirely de­pends on the pur­pose. If you want the least pro­pri­etary backup for­mat then go for Back­upPC. If data­base agents are a big driver, you can choose Amanda. Or if you want a prod­uct that’s de­signed like a typ­i­cal com­mer­cial backup ap­pli­ca­tion, then opt for Bac­ula. One more im­por­tant as­pect is that both Back­upPC and Amanda need the Linux server to con­trol backup and Bac­ula has a Win­dows server to do the same.

All three prod­ucts are very pop­u­lar. Which one you choose de­pends on what you need. The re­ally nice thing about all three tools is that they can be down­loaded free of cost. So you can decide which one is bet­ter for you af­ter try­ing out all three.

Fig­ure 2: Bac­ula ad­min page

Fig­ure 1: Se­lect­ing files and fold­ers for file sys­tem backup

Fig­ure 3: Back­upPC server sta­tus

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