Image mounting in UrBackup Server 2.1.x

UrBackup 2.1.x can now mount image backups. That is, it lists the image backups it has on the web interface, you can browse into them and e.g. download files or directories as a ZIP file.
I am particularly proud that this works on Linux as well as on Windows with both raw image files and VHD(z) files. On FreeBSD it only works with raw image files currently. The screenshots are from a Windows UrBackup server.

On Linux it uses libguestfs-tools to mount images in a sandboxed virtual machine. On Windows/FreeBSD mounting a hostile image may be a dangerous operation.

How I backup LVM volumes on my Xen server

I’ve got a Xen server which runs a couple of Linux and Windows VMs. The VMs are stored in LVM volumes on a LVM volume group which is on a bcache device. The bcache device consists of a mirrored SSD pair (using mdraid) as cache and a mirrored HDD pair (also using mdraid) as backing storage. The SSD caching gives a nice performance boost, but nowadays I would go with SSD storage only, because bcache caused some problems (did not play nice with udev during boot).
The Windows VMs are backed up by installing the UrBackup client in the VMs. To restore I’d need to boot the restore CD in Xen or restore the Windows images via command line in the hypervisor.
The Linux VMs are backed up at hypervisor level in the Xen dom0 (which is Debian in this case) using LVM snapshots. To create and remove LVM snapshots I have following snapshot creation and removal script (the volume group on which the volumes are is mirror-vg).

Snapshot creation script at /usr/local/etc/urbackup/create_filesystem_snapshot:

set -e
if [[ $VOLNAME == "" ]]; then
        echo "No volume name specified"
        exit 1
if [[ $VOLNAME == "other-data" ]]; then
if [[ $SNAP_UID == "" ]]; then
        echo "No snapshot uid specified"
        exit 1
lvcreate -l100%FREE -s -n $SNAP_UID /dev/$VGNAME/$VOLNAME
trap 'test $SUCCESS = 1 || lvremove -f /dev/$VGNAME/$SNAP_UID' EXIT
mkdir -p /mnt/urbackup_snaps/${SNAP_UID}
mount -o ro /dev/$VGNAME/$SNAP_UID /mnt/urbackup_snaps/${SNAP_UID}
echo "SNAPSHOT=/mnt/urbackup_snaps/$SNAP_UID"
exit 0

Snapshot removal script at /usr/local/etc/urbackup/remove_filesystem_snapshot:

set -e
if [[ $SNAP_UID == "" ]]; then
        echo "No snapshot uid specified"
        exit 1
if [[ "$SNAP_MOUNTPOINT" == "" ]]; then
        echo "Snapshot mountpoint is empty"
        exit 1
if ! test -e $SNAP_MOUNTPOINT; then
        echo "Snapshot at $SNAP_MOUNTPOINT was already removed"
        exit 0
if ! df -T -P | egrep "${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT}\$" > /dev/null 2>&1; then
        echo "Snapshot is not mounted. Already removed"
        rmdir "${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT}"
        exit 0
if lsblk -r --output "NAME,MOUNTPOINT" --paths > /dev/null 2>&1; then
        VOLNAME=`lsblk -r --output "NAME,MOUNTPOINT" --paths | egrep " ${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT}\$" | head -n 1 | tr -s " " | cut -d" " -f1`
        VOLNAME=`lsblk -r --output "NAME,MOUNTPOINT" | egrep " ${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT}\$" | head -n 1 | tr -s " " | cut -d" " -f1`
if [ "x$VOLNAME" = x ]; then
    echo "Could not find LVM volume for mountpoint ${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT}"
    exit 1
if [ ! -e "$VOLNAME" ]; then
    echo "LVM volume for mountpoint ${SNAP_MOUNTPOINT} does not exist"
    exit 1
echo "Unmounting $VOLNAME at /mnt/urbackup_snaps/${SNAP_UID}..."
if ! umount /mnt/urbackup_snaps/${SNAP_UID}; then
        sleep 10
        umount /mnt/urbackup_snaps/${SNAP_UID}
echo "Destroying LVM snapshot $VOLNAME..."
lvremove -f "$VOLNAME"

The snapshot scripts are specified via the file /usr/local/etc/urbackup/snapshot.cfg:


Then I have a virtual client for each LVM volume that needs to be backed up. I have put those virtual clients in a settings group with the default path to backup “/|root/require_snapshot”.

For restore I need to recreate the LVM volume. Create a file system on it (e.g. with mkfs.ext4) mount it in the hypervisor and then restore via.

urbackupclientctl restore-start --virtual-client VOLUMENAME -b last –map-from / --map-to /mnt/localmountpoint

Windows Backup API support in UrBackup 2.1.x

UrBackup 2.1.x has more completselect_windows_componentse Windows Backup API support. Previously the backup API was only used to create snapshots of the specified paths to backup (volume shadow copy snapshots). Now it does a so called component level backup, if configured to do so. You can select the components to backup via the client user interface and then the selected components automatically communicate to UrBackup which files need to be backed up, and on restore it communicates where the files should be restored and if e.g. services should be restarted during/after restore.select_restore_components

This works with applications which in turn support the Windows Backup API, such as for example Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Hyper-V, Oracle DB on Windows.

Testing backup and resrestore_componentstore with those different applications is now the big item on the to-do list. Every help and pointers to applications where backup or restore is broken will be helpful.

Visual Studio 2015 runtime and MSI installer

If you are using the MSI installer to install either UrBackup Client or Server on Windows there is a potential problem you might run into.

Starting with Visual Studio 2015, with which UrBackup Client/Server 2.x are compiled, Microsoft decided to split the Visual Studio runtime into a operating system level component (Universal Runtime) and another “normal” runtime component, wheras earlier it was only a “normal” runtime component.
The operating system component is installed via Windows Update and cannot be installed by a MSI installer. With Windows 10 it is always installed, but with Windows Vista or 8.1 the system needs to be up to date in order for the system component to be present (KB2999226), otherwise UrBackup will not start.

Another work-around is to use the .EXE (NSIS) Installer which includes the operating system compontent. Installation depends on Windows Update functioning correctly (which it may not).

Let’s just say this change does not make the software developer’s and user’s life easier.

New in UrBackup 2.0.x

Wactivitieseb interface modernization. The web interface was a little bit utilitarian which gave many people the wrong impression. With the help of mombojuice the web interface was improved such that it looks much more modern and professional. Many small improvements were made as well. For example the dates are now formatted according to browser locale, backups can be started via drop-down menu and the live log of a running backup can be directly accessed from the activities screen.

Improved file deduplication. Completely reworked the file deduplication and file backup statistics calculation. This should be much faster, scalable and reliable now.

File lastmodifiedbackup improvements. File meta-data such as last modified time and file permissions are now backed up on all supported client systems (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X). Supporting more exotic file system features such as sparse files UrBackup is now a fully featured file backup solution.

File backup restore. To restore the file meta-data UrBackup has now an integrated file restore. The file restore reuses client-side hashes, if present, and transfers only differences, such that restoring folders with only few changes since the restored backup is fast.

access_backupsDirect backup access. If configured, the backed up file permissions are used to allow clients direct access to their files with only minimal configuration. On Windows there is a shortcut in Explorer which directly opens the relevant/file folder in the browser. There is a new list view which shows a file/folder in all backups. For files, hashes are used to show when the file content changed (versions).

image_backup_settingsImage backup improvements. UrBackup supports GPT formatted disks now and the restore CD boots on UEFI firmware devices (also with secure boot enabled). In combination with btrfs, UrBackup supports an incremental forever style image backup and image backups over 2TB. For VHD/VHDZ UrBackup has now settings to base incremental backups on the last or last full image backup. Full image backups can be configured to be synthetic full backups transferring only changes since the last image backup.

Significant security improvements. Forward secrecy for Internet clients via ECDH and Internet client security improvement by using AES-GCM. Switch from DSA to ECDSA for client update and server identity signatures. Web server/restore CD login now uses PBKDF2.

Mac OS X client. There is nowmac_backup_running a UrBackup Client for Mac OS X. This client is fully featured, excluding image backup (like Linux client). The Mac OS X client can be used as a technically superior backup solution to Time Machine.

Improved command line. Mainlttyy for Linux all command line usage has been significantly improved. This includes the command line client (urbackupclientctl), the server command line (urbackupsrv) and the restore client.

Linux file system snapshotting. Snapshotting now also works on Linux and is fully integrated. A portable Linux client includes snapshot scripts for LVM, dattobd and btrfs which work without changes in most cases.

Lots of other changes. Proper symbolic link backup. Virtual clients allow you to backup different sets of files at different intervals and max/min amounts. Simultaneous image and file backups. Different backup speeds and backup intervals at different times. Improved Internet transfer compression. New hashing method where the server only needs to hash changed parts of a file.


Can you use the last modified file time on Windows as change indicator for incremental file backups?

Short answer: No.

If your backup software is using the last modified time on Windows as the only indication if a file changed or not the backup software will miss some changed files.

The first issue is that Windows does not update the last modified time until the file is closed by the program writing to it. To work around that your program will need to track which files are open when a shadow copy is created.

The second less known issue is that last modified times are not changed at all if a file is modified by memory mapping it and then modifying it via memory mapping. This isn’t just an edge case – Windows itself creates such files, as well as e.g. Microsoft Exchange and other performance sensitive applications.

UrBackup handles both cases during incremental backups, many other backup software does not.

Start of UrBackup 2.0 beta phase

UrBackup Server/Client/Restore 2.0.0 beta was recently released. This marks the beginning of the UrBackup 2.0 beta phase.

See the forums for download links and discussion.

UrBackup 2.0 marks the beginning of UrBackup having no major limitations. If you still find some please start a discussion in the forums. The next beta version will also properly support sparse file backup.

Switched main page and download site to SSL

Letsencrypt is in public beta now. As promised I switched the main page as well as the download site to SSL. The main page redirects to HTTPS and therefore cannot be accessed without SSL anymore.

The Letsencrypt certificate causes the main page to not work with Windows XP anymore. That are 2,6% of all visitors to that page. They are working on a fix for that issue, though. Let me know if there are any other problems.

By always being on a SSL-protected site you can be certain you are getting the official UrBackup binaries even if an attacker is able to modify your network traffic.

Progress update on the next major UrBackup version

Currently the next major UrBackup version is kind of close to getting finished. There are a few major work in progress areas. Once they are finished and I have done some overall testing I will release a beta version.

The major changes in the new version are:

  • Completely reworked the file deduplication and file backup statistics calculation. This should be much faster, scalable and reliable now.
  • The Copy-on-Write image backups on btrfs mentioned in the last post. Synthetic full backups for the VHD/VHDZ file format and settings for basing image backups on the last full or last incremental backup (differential/incremental).
  • File backups include file metadata including file modification time, ACLs, alternate data streams etc.
  • Backup of streaming data. E.g. the output of “mysqldump”/”pg_dump”. I plan to add basic backup scripts for popular Open Source databases to the client
  • New file restore feature which restores file backups and properly restores the file meta-data
  • The ACLs/file permissions are used to enable users to directly access backups on the web interface from the explorer on the clients (via right click -> Access/Restore backups)
  • Proper backups of symbolic links. Symbolic links which point to folders/files which are backed up are backed up as symbolic links and symbolic links which point outside of the selected backup set are followed/not followed depending on a setting
  • The web interface has been bootstrapified ( – mombojuice did the work) and looks much more modern now
  • Simultaneous image and file backups
  • Backup and restore EFI boot sector and partition on UEFI systems. Restore CD that boots with UEFI firmware
  • Client for Mac OS X
  • Forward secrecy for Internet clients via ECDH and Internet client security improvement by using AES-GCM
  • Switch from DSA to ECDSA for client update and server identity signatures

Still to do:

  • Lot’s of testing and bug fixing
  • Backup and restore of file meta-data on Mac OS X and Linux
  • Symbolic link backup handling on Mac OS X and Linux
  • Automatic client update for Mac OS X like for Windows
  • Restoring files which are in use on Windows (via restarting)
  • Update Documentation

Remaining UrBackup limitations (to be done after with a subsequent version):

  • Recognize hard links and backup the files only once
  • Backup only used areas of sparse files
  • Continuous file backup

Once the “to do”s are done this is a big step forward for UrBackup. Having streaming file backups and incremental, differential, synthetic full and full image backups basically allows you to implement pretty much every backup strategy with UrBackup. The only thing missing is the continuous file backup and I already started work on that.

For example you could use UrBackup instead of TimeMachine on Mac OS X and do a full system restore via the file restore feature (this is not implemented at all – it is just an example what it might be able to do). You probably don’t even need an image of your Windows system partition but can restore it via the file backup restore (albeit inefficiently, because the hard links in C:\windows\winsxs are not handled properly).