Tonic for your Backup Woes: CD Backups In Linux (Part One)

As hard drives and networks grow, maintaining efficient backups without going crazy becomes more of a challenge. Carla Schroder offers insight on using CD writers in Linux to aid in your backup projects.

 By Carla Schroder
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As hard drives and networks grow, maintaining good backups without going bananas becomes more of a challenge. A good tool to add to your backup kit is a CD writer. Even when a CD-R/RW is too small for a complete backup scheme, it comes in handy for smaller, specialized uses. Part 1 of this two-part series will tell how to use CD writers in Linux, while Part 2 will cover automating backups with scripts using tools like tar and rsync.

CD writers have dropped in price enough to make sense as CD-ROM drive replacements. Because restoring from a CD is fast and easy, I like using CD-R/RWs to backup server configurations and to backup the data of users with sensitive, mission-critical information. CDs can be read on any computer, whereas restoring from tape is a complicated process, to say the least. Users who can be trusted to manage their own CD backups make life a little easier for the overworked sysadmin.

Consider long-term archiving. Because CD-ROMs are nearly universal, CD-Rs make sense for longer-term storage. Of course 5.25" floppy disks were nearly universal once upon a time as well, proving there are no guarantees!

You've probably heard that CD-RWs are not readable in all drives. Any modern CD drive should have multiread capability, which is easy enough to test. DVD drives are especially precise and should be able to read any disk. If you have an important disk that has been damaged, try reading it in a DVD drive.

I recommend using either SCSI or IDE/ATAPI interfaces, while avoiding parallel port and USB. Parallel port burners are a pain no matter what operating system they are on. You'll need the 2.4.18 kernel or later of Linux for good USB support, and even then I'm not convinced that USB would be fast enough for regular use. And while Firewire sounds marvelous, it can be especially tricky to get functioning properly (if you can make it work, let me know and you can star in a future article). Newer drives are best; any drive over 3 years old is suspect, as there's been considerable improvement in the technology over the last few years.

Page 2: SCSI Emulation

This article was originally published on Jan 8, 2003
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