Every once in a while, it seems I get the itch to try out backup software. I’ve had a few instances in the past where documents have been accidentally delete and I’ve been without a backup, but those times are few and far between. But obviously, having a backup system in place at the time would have been fantastic, to say the least! I’ve recently tried out two different backup solutions for Linux, Deja Dup and Back In Time. In this article I’ll be discussing Back In Time.
If you’ve ever used Time Machine, the built-in backup system in Mac OS X, then you’ll understand the idea behind Back In Time, even if the Linux version doesn’t have the catchy graphics. What it has, however, and what it is, is a solid backup solutions that, if used correctly and regularly, should be the end of lost files because of overwriting, deletion or corruption.
Using Back In Time is pretty simple. Maybe not as simple as Deja Dup, nor does it have as simple or friendly an interface, but it really gets the job done. When you start up Back In Time for the first time, you’ll need to set a few options in order to get started. The first option is where you’ll save your backup snapshots, and how often to perform scheduled backups (this can be every time you boot up, every five minutes, ten minutes, hour, day, week or month, or disabled entirely). You’ll also need to choose a set of files and folders you want Back In Time to monitor, as well as specific files and folders you want it to ignore.
Because backing up regularly, especially for someone who uses, modifies or creates a lot of documents, can take up a good deal of space, Back In Time offers automatic removal of old snapshots. You set the “older than” number, as well as choosing automatic deletion should the space on the drive where your snapshots are saved dip below a certain number. There is also a smart remove function (turned off by default), which keeps and deletes snapshots, so that your most recent ones are saved, but older ones are only kept selectively (one per week, one from two weeks ago, one per month for this year and last, and one per year from two years ago and older). There are other options as well, but the above will be enough to get you started.
Like every incremental backup utility, Back In Time’s first snapshot will be large, as it is everything you want backed up. From this point on, however, each additional snapshot will only save the differences between the original and the current state. In other words, only modified files will be backed up. So if you have a folder with three documents, two of which never change, but the third changes daily, each snapshot will show the updated version of the third file, while the first two will only appear in your initial snapshot.
The thing I like most about Back In Time is that it allows me to browse through my backed-up files. I do this in a built-in file browser that replicates the files and folders I want backed up. From here, to restore an older version of a file, you can simply highlight the file and click the little trash can icon (which is a little non-intuitive, but it looks to me as if the arrow is going OUT of the trash can, so I suppose the idea is that you’re reclaiming a deleted file… or something). You could also simply drag the file from the browser onto your desktop, or wherever you want it to go. The advantage to using the Trash can icon method is you have the option to replace the current file with the backed-up version, while the drag-and-drop method simply places it wherever you want.
All in all, I like Back In Time the best of all the Linux backup utilities I’ve used. It doesn’t beat the simplicity or ease of use of a program like Deja Dup, but the ability to browse through your files (and the ability to replace a deleted document without having to remember its exact name), make Back In Time a much more useful utility for me.