|Unix Backup & Recovery|
|author||W. Curtis Preston|
|summary||Complete coverage of Unix backup and recovery, just like the title says|
The ScenarioYou're a system administrator suddenly tasked with handling the backup of all your employer's mission-critical data. Or maybe you've been handed a tape of questionable origin with the instructions "I need all the files off of this." Perhaps you're working on your company's disaster-recovery plan and are looking for advice about how to restore all the computers to operation in the event of catastrophe. Unix Backup & Recovery is a comprehensive volume designed to help with all of these tasks and many others.
What's BadWhile the organization of topics is clear, the sheer scope of the book prevents easy digestion of the material by the casual reader. Those expecting to read a chapter or two at random may find some of the concepts hard to follow unless they first read the full 65 pages of introductory material. Also, I would have liked to see a clearer discussion of the differences in procedure and general philosophy between a typical small shop (where tapes are organized based on the day the backup was made) and the kind of unique-volume labeling that tends to accompany larger systems or commercial backup products. Since a lot of Unix systems are being managed lately by people whose background is in smaller systems, making this kind of transition is a very important topic.
One part of the book's design may be good or bad depending on how you intend to read it. Areas deemed especially time-sensitive, like what features are included with which commercial backup system, are not addressed in the book. Instead, readers are referred to the author's backupcentral.com site for the latest information. While assuming that any Unix administrator has Internet access is probably not unreasonable, I found myself reading a lot of this book during spare moments while waiting for routine chores to complete. It was not helpful that I needed to access the Web site in order to follow the chapter I was reading while I waited for my car's oil to be changed.
What's GoodWith many years' worth of practical experience, several specialist contributors, and dozens of technical reviewers, this book leaves few stones unturned. No matter how experienced you are at managing backups, you could probably learn at least a few tricks from Curtis Preston and his crew. Normally discussions about backups are relegated to, at best, a single chapter in a Unix administration book. Unix Backup & Recovery is the first title I've ever seen that covers this territory in full detail. In fact, even if you aren't specifically a Unix administrator, the discussion of topics like the most common causes of system failure and how to pitch a more reliable backup scheme to management are very cross-platform. They're worth reading no matter what type of computer system you rely upon.
So What's In It For Me?The first two chapters of the book provide a real-world approach to backups that include often-unaddressed topics like the availability of the backup hardware in the future, dealing with off-site storage, and exactly how high the cost of poor backups can be. With that basis, the native Unix utilities (dump, cpio, and tar) are evaluated. One particularly good part of that coverage is a discussion of tape portability, and notes on how the GNU versions of those utilities stack up in that and other contexts. Even Unix administrators who aren't involved with backups regularly might find this chapter interesting, as the information about how to read an unfamiliar tape you've been given is alone is worth the price of the book if you're ever stuck in that situation.
For those looking to back up systems without much of a budget, a discussion of free backup tools ranges from writing scripts to automate the built-in Unix tools to coverage of the popular AMANDA backup system. The third section covers what to look for in a commercial backup product. This is light on specific recommendations, instead trying to educate the reader well enough to perform his or her own product selection. A somewhat related chapter covers the main ideas behind High Availability, which is obviously too big of a topic to cover fully in a 15-page section.
The next few chapters cover bare-metal backup and recovery, where the goal is to make a backup of the system capable of being used to create a new system in the event of a total failure. Many traditional solutions to this problem involve first re-installing the operating system, then restoring the backup. The author maintains this is a bad approach, and instead focuses on constructing a small bootable system (i.e. a Linux rescue floppy) capable of partitioning the drive and restoring the backup without laying down the OS first. SunOS/Solaris, Linux, Compaq True-64 Unix, HP-UX, IRIX and AIX are all covered.
Four chapters on database backup and recovery suggest how to integrate your backup solution with the database vendor's tools. Along with a general discussion aimed at bringing non-database administrators up to speed on DB lingo, separate chapters cover Informix, Oracle and Sybase. Finally, the three closing chapters to the book include miscellaneous information like backing up Rational's ClearCase product and selecting backup hardware, as well as some notes on upcoming trends.
Competent system administrators, either through forward thinking or past battle scars, develop a level of paranoia about their computers and how strongly their data should be protected that people outside the field find it hard to fathom. If you'd like to hone your own sense that everyone is out to get you, and know how to stop them, Unix Backup & Recovery is as good of an introduction to that topic as you'll find anywhere.
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Table of Contents
- Preparing for the Worst
- Backing It All Up
- Native Backup & Recovery Utilities
- Free Backup Utilities
- Commercial Backup Utilities
- High Availability
- Bare-Metal Backup & Recovery Methods: SunOS/Solaris
- Bare-Metal: Linux
- Bare-Metal: Compaq True-64 Unix
- Bare-Metal: HP-UX
- Bare-Metal: IRIX
- Bare-Metal: AIX
- Backing Up Databases
- Informix Backup & Recovery
- Oracle Backup & Recovery
- Sybase Backup & Recovery
- ClearCase Backup & Recovery
- Backup Hardware