Backup alternative: sbackup

sbackup is a backup program emerging from a Summer of Code project. It was dedicated to tightly integrate with Ubuntu but can also run on other platforms. In contrast to often used backup services like Amanda sbackup focuses on the user of the machine.

Basically, sbackup is a GUI to create a set of scripts. These scripts are started by a daemon which itself is started by cron. The cron entry is generated by the GUI. The backup scripts are working on a diff base.
This is nothing new, everyone with some skills in using the command line can set up something similar. But not everyone has such skills, and it can take more time as you would like to spend on something so boring but necessary.
And, of course, the main advantage is the really impressive GUI:

sbackup - general

The GUI focuses on ease of use and can be used even by beginner users. But if you are an expert sbackup suits you also because there is an advanced option as well. Only if you pick that option you are faced with the more detailed configuration elements. These elements are again designed with the user in mind: easy to understand but sufficient for the task.

sbackup - include

Here you just include the directories you want to backup. Nothing else to see because there is nothing else to do. Exclusions are reserved for the next element.

sbackup - exclude

As you see the exclusions element features several different options: exclusion by a file size, exclusion by a file type (ok, that seems to be limited to the file extension at the moment; unfortunate), exclusion by path and even exclusion by regexp. Again, it should fulfil almost all needs.

sbackup - destination

The destination element shows something I always missed with other solutions: the ssh support. That also shows the main difference to other solutions relying on network exported directories: in this part the program is a “pushing client”. Amanda for example is more a “dragging server”.

The next element, the time configuration part, gives you the power over the cron entry. Nice made, but I’m not sure if this is developed by sbackup or if other applications had such slick interface for cron before. Anyway, it does exactly what it is supposed to do.

sbackup - time

Last but not least you can define the way how old backups are deleted. They can be deleted after a certain amount of time, or can be deleted on a logarithmic scale, which I think is quite nice.

sbackup - purging

I’m pretty impressed with sbackup since it really shows how a good an clean backup interface should be done and can be done. Of course several features (backup to CD/DVD, encryption, etc.) are missing yet, however the current roadmap lists these topics. Hopefully the author keeps the project alive to address all these parts. (He also should try to keep his wiki clean from spam, btw.)

I first noticed sbackup in this review at the “Only Ubuntu Linux” blog. Thanks for that detailed review.
But since sbackup is focused on Ubuntu there are no Fedora packages available yet. I put together a spec file to compile an x86 rpm and the srpm, but these are far from perfect. For example, the menu entry (I hardly use menus) still uses a sudo – and Fedora normally does not ship with a sudo configured in such a way. So only use the packages to test the tool or to improve the spec file. Feel free to submit it to Fedora extras, btw., I would love to have it in the repositories.
If you use these packages, start sbackup as root with the command simple-backup-config.


12 thoughts on “Backup alternative: sbackup”

  1. I must have a different relationship with reality than most who’ve used this program. I’ve used SB to backup my laptop (running Ubuntu Gutsy, with SB version 0.10.4) over ftp remote. It seems to back files up fine. But when I want to restore my files, Sbackup cannot find the backup files, even when I download the .ful file and put it in my home folder and point directly to it. I get “error: no backups found in target directory”. When I try to uncompress the .tgz file manually, I get an unexpected EOF error in all my backups. The files seem to be corrupt. My HD crashed last week and I’m in a world of hurt – I cannot recommend this program to anyone.

  2. Did you check back with the developers to check what the problem might be?
    But every backup solution has to follow rule number one: test the backup to ensure it is working properly! :/

  3. You’re right, liquidat. Ultimately, it’s my own darn fault for not deconstructing one of the backups to make sure that it is, in fact, readable. I hope that others learn from my mistake – I certainly have!

  4. dsundin: But I wouldn’t give it up entirely yet! The sbackup community seems to be pretty friendly, so check with them on IRC if the problem can be solved!

  5. I downloaded sbackup_0.10.5.tar.gz to my RHEL 5 i386 system and only had to make two changes.

    1. # tar -zxvf sbackup_0.10.5.tar.gz
    2. # cd sbackup-0.10.5
    3. # vi sbackup.desktop
    Exec=su-to-root -X -c /usr/sbin/simple-backup-config
    4. # vi srestore.desktop
    Exec=su-to-root -X -c /usr/sbin/simple-restore-gnome
    5. # vi Makefile
    ifndef DESTDIR
    DESTDIR = /usr/local
    ifndef DESTDIR
    DESTDIR = /usr
    6. # make install
    7. GUI -> Applications -> System Tools -> Simple Backup Config

  6. Oh yeah..

    Works great, uses /etc/cron.d/sbackup if you use a custom or precise schedule, standard crontab format, falls back to anacron if you use the ‘simply’ schedule option.

    Once its scheduled you can do whatever to the crontab file sbackup.. its just a good backup task editor and scheduler

    Neat thing is it create lots of meta data around the standard compressed tar gz file that could be useful

    Now the sbackup restore tool is just as neato.

    You do have to select the “Available backups” control drop down before it shows you anything.. but then the list shows right up.

    The ‘Restore’ and ‘Restore as..’ buttons allow you to restore precisely back to the orign, or to an alternative directory.

    And the really nice thing is the GUI is complimented with CLI versions of the tools.

    I’ve read the CLI tools accept -c to specify configuration files so in theory you could run more than one backup schedule

    Very nice tools

  7. I recently needed sbackup to restore data after having wiped a huge directory by mistake, and the only thing I did not like about the srestore GUI is that on my machine, after selecting the files and pressing “restore” a little empty window would open, nothing else, while the bigger one in the background goes grey.
    Lots of patience and confidence (and the hard drive lights that went on) made me do what was best: nothing.

    Everything went fine, but at the end of the restore
    (especially if the PC went into “sleep” mode during restore), I would finally have the message in the small window “restore in progress” which was missing before, but the window had not closed, although the restore was done.

    small restores would also have the empty message window, but it would close when finished and the background window goes from grey to black again.

    A bit confusing, this is, I would prefer some file/byte count, more “talk” on the screen, but the program did it’s job well.


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