Life Preserver/9.2

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The built-in Life Preserver utility allows you to automate backups of your home directory. Backups are stored on a remote system; for the purposes of this section, we'll refer to the remote system as a backup server. Life Preserver uses SSH and rsync, meaning that the backup server must have SSH and rsync installed. If the backup server is another PC-BSD system, these are already installed and configured for you. If the remote system is running another operating system, you will have to ensure that SSH and rsync are installed and that SSH is listening for connections. Regardless of the operating system on the backup server, you will need to open TCP ports 22 and 873 using the firewall software installed on the backup server.

NOTE: you can also use FreeNAS, an open source NAS solution based on FreeBSD, as the backup server. Instructions for configuring FreeNAS to accept Life Preserver backups can be found in the September 2011 issue of BSD Magazine.

Life Preserver is not the only way to make a backup. For example, you may find it easier to drag and drop the files/directories that you wish to backup to an external device, such as a USB drive, using one of the file manager utilities listed File Managers. You'll also find a few PBIs of backup utilities using AppCafe®. The advantage of Life Preserver is that it allows you to easily schedule backups of your home directory to a backup server.

Creating a Backup

A shortcut to the Life Preserver utility, seen in Figure 7.9a, can be found in your system tray. This icon is animated and will indicate when a backup is taking place.

Figure 7.9a: Life Preserver Icon in System Tray


If you right-click the icon, the menu provides options to minimize (if the Life Preserver window is open), to perform a restore (if a backup exists), to start Life Preserver whenever the current user logs in, or to quit (remove the icon from the tray).

To start the backup wizard shown in Figure 7.9b, double-click the icon, or click Control Panel ➜ Life Preserver, or type life-preserver at the command line.

Figure 7.9b: Life Preserver Welcome Screen


Once you click the Get Started button, the Add New Life Preserver Wizard will launch, allowing you to configure a backup. Click Next to see the screen in Figure 7.9c:

Figure 7.9c: Remote Device Configuration Screen


You will need to input the following information:

Host Name: of the remote system that will store your backup. If the backup server is on your local network, the host name must be in your hosts file or in the database of the local DNS server. You may find it easier to instead input the IP address of the backup server as this will eliminate any host name resolution problems.

User Name: this user must have permission to log in to the system that will hold the backup. If the account does not already exist, you should create it first on the backup server.

SSH Port: port 22, the default port used by SSH is selected for you. You only need to change this if the remote system is using a non-standard port to listen for SSH connections. In that case, use the up/down arrows or type in the port number.

Note: if there is a firewall protecting the remote system, make sure that it allows connections to the specified port number from the IP address of the system that you wish to backup. If the backup server is running PC-BSD, you can use Firewall Manager to add an entry for SSH.

Once you click the Next button, you can decide whether or not to schedule regular backups, as seen in Figure 7.9d:

Figure 7.9d: Selection Screen to Automate Backups and Determine Their Frequency


By default, automatic backups are disabled, meaning you will have to manually start a backup when you wish to do so. If you decide to automate backups, you can choose to backup daily or weekly. After making your selection, click Next and you will see the informational message in Figure 7.9e:

Figure 7.9e: Life Preserver is Now Ready to Test the Connection to the SSH Server


Click the Finish button and a terminal will open where you can enter the password for the user account you specified, as seen in Figure 7.9f:

Figure 7.9f: Logging into the SSH Server


If this is the first time you have ssh'd to this host, you will have to type yes to accept the RSA key fingerprint before being prompted to type in the password. If the connection is successful, the terminal will close and your new preserver will be listed in the main panel, shown in Figure 7.9g:

Figure 7.9g: Life Preserver Shows a New Preserver


The entry contains the following information:

Preserver Name: will indicate the user account and IP address of the backup server.

Last Backup: will indicate whether or not the last backup was successful. If you chose to automate backups, the first backup will happen immediately. Otherwise, a backup will not occur until you press the Start button. How long the first backup takes depends upon the size of your home directory and the speed of your network. If the backup is unsuccessful, logs can be found in /usr/local/share/lifePreserver/preservers.

Frequency: will indicate disabled, daily, or weekly.

Status: running indicates that the backup is occurring now, otherwise will show as not running.

The backup will be stored on the remote system in the home directory of the user that was used by Life Preserver to login. The contents of the backup will be found in the life-preserver/<backup>/ subdirectory where <backup> is named according to the date and time stamp of the backup. The contents of the directory will mirror the directory structure of your home directory, making it very easy to find and restore individual files or directories from the backup server to your PC-BSD system.

Configuration Options

If you right-click a preserver and select Edit, you will see the configuration screen shown in Figure 7.9h.

Figure 7.9h: Life Preserver Configuration Options


This screen allows you to configure the following:

Number of backups to keep: make sure that there is enough disk space on the backup server to store this amount of backups. If you do daily backups, a setting of 7 will keep a week's worth. If you do weekly backups, a setting of 4 or 5 will keep about a month's worth.

Remove incomplete or failed backups: by default, Life Preserver attempts to conserve disk space on the backup server by removing any failed backups. Uncheck this box if you are troubleshooting Life Preserver.

Disable automatic backups: if this is selected, a backup will only occur when you manually press the Start button.

Backup daily: if this is selected, a backup will occur once per day.

Backup weekly: if this is selected, a backup will occur on the day of the week you select.

Remote directory: a subdirectory with the name you specify will be created in the home directory of the user that logs in to the SSH server; this is where backups will be stored. The default subdirectory name is life-preserver.

Modify include list: provides a graphical interface for adding files/directories to include in the backup. Clicking this button will open the List Editor seen in Figure 7.9i:

Modify exclude list: opens the List Editor for adding files/directories to exclude from backups.

Figure 7.9i: Adding Entries to the Include List


When using List Editor, be sure to type the full pathname to the file or directory that you wish to include or exclude from the backup.

Restoring a Backup

To restore files from a backup, right-click the preserver entry and select "Restore From". Life Preserver will query the backup server and show a list of available backups as seen in the example in Figure 7.9j:

Figure 7.9j: Selecting a Backup from the List of Available Backups


When reading the backup name, the number before the "T" is the date in YYYY-MM-DD format and the number after the T is the date stamp in HH_MM_SS format. Highlight the backup you wish to restore and click the "Select Backup" button to open the window seen in Figure 7.9k:

Figure 7.9k: Selecting the Files to Restore


If you wish to restore an individual file or directory, input its full path. In the example shown in Figure 7.9k, the user is restoring the directory /usr/home/dru/Documents--in other words, the Documents subfolder backed up from the home directory of the user named dru.

If you just input the name of the file or directory and click the Restore button, it will be restored to its original location and replace any files with the same name at that location.

If you instead check the "Restore Relative to specified directory" box, the selected file/directory will be restored to the location you specify.

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