If you are a user of Ubuntu Linux, like me, you know that only a small set of software is included on the CD or DVD. The rest of the software, including updates, are retrieved through the Internet. This is fine but what if something happens to your system, requiring you to have to rebuild your system? You can put yourself through the pain staking task of re-downloading all of the updates or you can put some safeguards in place and backup the updates to make the re-install go a bit smoother.
Solution One: APTonCD
APTonCD is a program you can download through the repositories, which allows you to backup the packages you have on your system to either a CD or DVD. It creates an ISO image of the packages, giving you the option to burn the image if desired. I highly recommend either burning the image to a disc or at least placing the image on a removable storage device. Keep the image somewhere safe, along with the installation CD/DVD.
Note: APTonCD includes itself in the backup of packages along with any packages on your system. A good idea is to do this at least monthly, especially if you are to add in new software on a regular basis. Make sure to label the discs accordingly.
Solution Two: Remastersys
Remastersys is a program which allows you to create a remastered system disc. The remastered disc can be a distributable livecd or a backup of your system (includes your personal items). I personally create livecd since I backup my personal items separately. This allows for me to share copies of the way my system is configured without my personal items.
Remastersys is not available through the Ubuntu Repositories but handled through an outside source. You will need to add the repository manually. Using the information on the remastersys page, follow the directions for adding software sources to Ubuntu.
Solution Three: Bash Script
If you are looking for a handy way to backup important items such as Firefox bookmarks or Thunderbird emails, check out the bash script setup for doing just that. The example used is for pidgin, but is easily editable for other programs as well. As with the other two solutions, it is a good idea to regularly place the backups on removable media (CD, DVD, External Hard Drive). I personally use this solution to backup several important programs used in my business.
Regardless of the solution you choose, at least back up your personal items and store the backup in a safe place for easy retrieval. Place the backup somewhere secure, such as a safety deposit box or in a waterproof, fireproof locked box.
Having lost many non-replaceable items over the years due to hard drive failure or issues I have caused myself, I have learned to make regular, proper backups. Many of my personal and business items are non-replaceable, but thankfully with a proper backup they are never completely gone for good.