A Girl Called Amanda

Finally, my second piece of the Case of the Backup Lemon. This one is about a piece of open source software that makes a handy little backup utility on the right equipment. As mentioned in Part 1 of this story,  I inherited a decent machine and a horrible backup application at my new job as a System Admin. Faced with a vendor that had pretty much chucked us to the wind, I did some research and found Amanda by Zmanda. I had a tight budget and the need for critical data backup as well as a viable disaster recovery plan in a reasonable amount of time, it was exactly what I was looking for – It was free and ran on Linux. I had a nice machine with a 1.5 TB RAID array to run it on too w00t! (yes, I’m dropping the word of the year here…it’s all about the page rankings muhahahah.)

My first step was prepping the system, a solid yet older machine with an Intel Celeron 2.5ghz chip, 512MB of RAM, and a 1.5TB RAID 5 SCSI array. I installed Fedora Core 7 and configured it, which is like, way beyond the scope of this document. When it was ready, Zmanda has an excellent tutorial called “The 15 Min Backup Solution” you can check out here http://www.zmanda.com/quick-backup-setup.html .

Following this simple guide, I had Amanda up and running- although it took a lot more than 15 mins. There were a few hurdles, including initial problems with contacting servers in other subnets, adjusting the firewall for the ports Amanda tended to use and a couple of other things. All in all, things one would expect to see when introduced to your own network environment, but the configuration tends to need tweaking when faced with problems. The user forums were a help too when connections between the server and clients kept dropping, which turned out to be a configuration issue.

The initial server configuration is somewhat simple although the config file is fairly large with a ton of options. This can be a bit overwhelming to the novice user, but Nix dogs should have no problems. You can set it to backup to tape or a holding disk, which can be any piece of storage the system can see. In my case I of course used the 1.5TB array. With a small amount of it being used by the Linux OS, I had plenty of room on it.

Configuration of the client was a simple package install, and then setting up configuration parameters. The server and clients both need to be configured with a special amandahosts file and a few regular host files, as well as a few other system and config settings. Following the guide is the best bet to success though. You also setup a disklist on the server, which is a master list of all the servers/directories you want to backup. Backing up other Linux machines works well since Amanda will use the native client installed on the target machine.

When faced with backing up Windows machines you have two options. One is just to share the drive or directory on the Winblowz box and then give a backup service account admin rights over it. This is limiting a bit because it won’t backup open or system files. You could get around that by backing up a Shadow Copy volume though, another thing I’ve been meaning to implement. The other Windows option is a bit more elaborate involving a client and Cygwin. I decided not to bother with that part since a large part of my Windows data was static and I didn’t want to run Cygwin on every Windows system I wanted to backup.

Amanda can be configured to email reports of your backup jobs, so I have it set to send me the daily reports as soon as they’re done in the wee hours, that way when I get to my desk in the morning the report is waiting with all the shininess of a new email message. All that’s needed to run the backups is a cron job on the server that kicks off the amdump program. This allowed me to get some reliable backups on a zero buget, which is what this article has been all about. You can learn a whole lot more over at the Zmanda site, however I’ll soon be sunsetting Amanda possibly due to a new backup system and tape drive in our 2008 budget. It’s one kick ass free backup solution though.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *