What are the Open Source Backup Offerings for SMBs?

By CIOReview | Friday, July 29, 2016
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The primitive man never patented the invention of the wheel; it would be absurd to wonder if this thought ever crossed his mind. In a humorous yet assuring tone, we could say that the wheel along with many other inventions from the primitive age embraced the underlying principle of being open source. Such is the beauty of the concept, which has manifested itself as a robust and wallet friendly option for many enterprises.

With open source, the absence of license fee or acquisition cost and the code being freely downloadable enables software enhancement with any desirable feature. This would however demand a broader technical knowledge from organization or they’d have to rely on open source vendors. The need to have a backup is imperative for SMBs and large businesses alike. Although open source model falls short in terms of support and enterprise specific customization, several open sources based vendors offer them on a paid basis; the typical revenue model for service providers in the ecosystem.

Used by business since 1991, Amanda (short for Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archiver) is the oldest open source software backup package and is available both, as a free community edition and fully supported enterprise edition. Initially developed at the University of Maryland and listed as a project on SourceForge.net in 1999, in 2007, a new distributor -- Zmanda -- retooled it into Amanda Enterprise. Amanda allows system administrators to set up a single backup server to back-up multiple hosts to a tape- or disk- or cloud-based storage system. Amanda uses native archival tools and can back-up a large number of workstations and servers running various versions of Linux, Unix (including OpenSolaris), Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows operating systems (Native Windows client and Samba). The most recent stable release is version 3.3.9, released on February 10, 2016.

Zmanda which offers commercialized distribution and support subscription has also expanded its support for Amanda with Zmanda Recovery Manager for MySQL, which provides online backup for MySQL database environments; and also offers tape, disk and cloud computing backup support through Amazon’s S3 service.

Bacula, a similar offering, was developed by the co-founder of Autodesk, Kern Sibbald. It stores data in its native format and offers enterprise features such as scheduling, automation and backup tracking, as well as media management. However, it does not include database agents, and it can be complex to set up. BackupPC (available from SourceForge.net) is offering suitable solution for smaller organizations. It supports both disk and tape, scheduled full and incremental backups, and can store those backups in a backup (archive) format such as Tar. BackupPC stores its backups in a snapshot-like tree structure and stores duplicated files as a links to a single copy of the file. Apart from these fully featured applications, firms can also roll their own script-driven backup application using tools such as Rsync utility, which is included in Linux distributions and focus on synchronizing data from one disk or location to other allowing customized backup options in tune to specific requirements. DeltaCopy is yet another lightweight open source offering focused on backing up Windows, Linux and Mac OS X laptops and desktops. It is freely available under GNU Public License version 3 along with source and is currently being maintained by Synametrics Technologies.

Organization with no dedicated IT department might find it difficult to manage an open source offering that demands a degree of commitment to the model. In fact, an open source initiative can well be regarded as an ideal situation to set up a modest in-house IT department as a valuable step towards expansion. On the other hand, if the organization houses employees with above-average computer skills then open source is indeed the bandwagon to jump on.