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.

 

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.

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 (http://getbootstrap.com/ – 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).

Using btrfs on Linux to store raw image files in an efficient manner

Currently UrBackup is storing images of volumes as VHD (Virtual HardDisk) files. In UrBackup Server 1.4 the VHD file format was augmented with a custom compression. This combination gives following advantages over storing images as „raw“ files:

  1. Only used parts of the volumes are stored to the VHD files (sparse image)
  2. If the compression is enabled, the volume data is compressed
  3. Incremental image backups: A VHD file can reference another VHD file, so unchanged data does not have to be stored twice (differential image)

All this can be implemented with btrfs. Volume images can then be stored as raw files:

  1. There is a Linux system call to „punch holes“ into a file. Btrfs supports this. Using hole punching only the parts of the raw image file which are used are stored
  2. Btrfs has a compression feature
  3. You can copy a file on btrfs without copying the data the files contain. You can do this in a Linux console via „cp –reflink=always“. A file copied this way only adds another reference to the file data. The file only becomes a “real” copy at changed parts of the file (Copy on Write).

An incremental image backup can then be done like this: Create reflink of the last image backup, change the parts in the image file that have changed since the last image backup and then punch holes into the file to remove unused parts.

As you can see, this moves the implementation of compression, sparse image support and differential image support into btrfs, which is a good thing, because btrfs is starting to get widespread adoption.

The implementation using btrfs has several advantages:

  • The volumes are stored as raw files, which makes inter-operation easier. For example you can directly map the file to a Linux volume device, which makes the file look like a volume on a hard drive.
  • UrBackup can delete any image in the incremental backup chain and btrfs takes care of cleaning up the unused blocks. This makes running infinite incremental image backups viable. After the initial full backup you only need to make incremental image backups

The only disadvantage I saw till now is that UrBraw-copy-on-write-fileackup cannot accurately display the size of incremental image backups anymore. It always shows the size as if it was an uncompressed full image.

This new image file format will be available in UrBackup 1.5 if UrBackup is configured such that it uses btrfs.

Performance considerations for larger UrBackup server instances

If you are planning on setting up a larger UrBackup server instance you will find some hints about performance in this post. “Large” in this context is difficult to define, because it depends on the number of clients, the number of files and file sizes in the backups and the backup intervals.

If you plan on setting up a “larger” UrBackup instance you should keep the following things in mind:

  • UrBackup uses an internal (SQLite) database. This database could cause performance problems, especially with a large number of backed-up files and full file backups. The database should be stored on storage suited for databases.
  • UrBackup has some tuning options, but is nevertheless pretty optimized per default. You should only have to tune UrBackup in special circumstances. You will find information about the tuning options in the administration manual.
  • There are many platform options and each has its own considerations, so you should read up on the platform-specific performance considerations. For example you should not run FreeNAS virtualized.

Your system will almost certainly be IO limited. If you have a running system you can verify that by looking at the performance monitor on Windows, iostat on Linux and zfs iostat on FreeBSD. Often it is limited by random read/write performance (Input/Output operations per second).

If you want maximum IO performance following should therefore be the case:

  • The UrBackup database should be on an SSD. This should be a no-brainer, as this database does not get too large and SSDs are way faster than spinning disks. The random reads/writes are for example 900 times faster with a Samsung 840 Pro (97K IOPS).
  • The UrBackup database should not be on the same disk as the backup storage.
  • The UrBackup database should not be on a RAID-5, as this is not optimal for databases.
  • If the database is still the bottleneck (because it is a separate device you can find this out using iostat or an equivalent), you can use the “file entry cache” (see manual). This cache should be on a separate SSD, otherwise it will only cause more IO on the one device.
  • Save the filesystem metadata of your backup storage on an SSD and only the actual data on a spinning disk RAID-5/6 to get the maximum performance. This is only possible with btrfs on Linux.
  • Avoid full file backups. When doing a full file backup UrBackup has to load all files, calculate their hash value and look this value up in the database. This incurs a lot of IO on both the database and the backup storage (and the client). UrBackup can run an infinite amount of incremental file backups without any full file backups.
  • Optimize the maximum number of concurrent backups such that the throughput is maximized.

Ways to absolutely kill performance:

  • Save the UrBackup database on ZFS/btrfs on a spinning disk. Databases (those who use WAL or intent logging; including SQLite3) on ZFS/btrfs are a known pathological case for copy-on-write file systems. The database files get horribly fragmented. Btrfs has a (currently disabled per default, because it is not stable) background defragmentation for that, but ZFS does not.
  • Save the UrBackup database on a RAID-5. See http://www.baarf.com/.
  • A lot of full file backups.
  • Enable ZFS deduplication without having enough RAM for the dedup table. See here for a discussion.

Symbolically linking directories during incremental file backups

current_hardlinking_schema

Current hard linking incremental file backup schema

Currently files which are unchanged between incremental file backups are hard linked. This means there exist more than one file paths for the same data. The advantages are

  • The operating systems takes care of managing the data. If there are no file entries pointing at the data it deletes it. Removing a backup means removing a folder.
  • Every file backup looks like a full backup on the backup server. This makes restoring and browsing file backups really easy.

But there are some issues in some cases:

  • On some filesystems and/or slow hard disks the hard link operations are slow (NTFS) and are the bottleneck during backups.
  • Some filesystems only have a limited amount of available file entries (ext e.g.).

With a lot of unchanged files between incremental backups it is almost certain the hard linking operation is the bottleneck.

To improve this situation UrBackup server 1.4 will create symlinks to large directories which are completely unchanged during incremental backups. This avoids a lot of the hard linking operations.

symlinking_schema

Symlinking large unchanged directories to a pooled directory

If, during incremental backups, a large unchanged directory is detected it is moved into a client specific directory pool. Then a symbolic link in the current and last backup to the directory in the pool is created. If the last backup already contains a link to the pool a symlink in the current backup is created to the pooled directory. Because the operating system does not count how many symbolic links point to a directory, the number of symlinks per pooled directory is saved into UrBackups internal database. If a backup is deleted and has symlinks the relevant entries in the database are removed. If there are no entries for the directory in the database the pooled directory is removed.

There are some caveats:

  • There are now symbolic links in the backups. Some tools may not be able to handle them, or need to be told how to handle them.
  • If you rename the backup folder all symbolic links are invalidated and won’t work anymore. The UrBackup server has a tool to fix that, but it will be slow.
  • The reference counting of symbolic links has some tricky corner cases and needs some testing.
  • You cannot just delete file backups anymore as then pooled directories may not be deleted. The UrBackup server includes a tool to detect that, but this might be slow with an increasing amount of directories in the pool.

The symbolic linking of large unchanged directories will be the default behavior in UrBackup server 1.4, though you will be able to deactivate it in the advanced settings. UrBackup server will not symlink directories on btrfs, as there the snapshotting provides a superior method to do fast backups.

New Features in UrBackup Server 1.3

It has been a while and there are now a lot new features in UrBackup Server 1.3.

Users of the web interface can download a Client specific installer directly from the server now. The installer has the UrBackup Server information embedded, such that the client automatically connects to the server once it is installed. I’ve also published a script that connects to a UrBackup server, creates a client named like the local computer and then downloads and executes the client installer. This enables a one click setup experience for Internet clients.

The new live log lets you see what the UrBackup server is currently busy with. You can either see all debug level log messages or client specific log messages.

 

 

You can see which files the UrBackup Server is currently working on and the usual log messages which you can also view afterwards via web interface or on the client.

 

A “hidden” feature is now accessible via web interface: You can disable any type of backup for any client.


More fine grained permissions
for the client allow you to prevent the users from starting full file backups, but still allow incremental file backups.

 

The soft client quota allows you to limit the amount of storage each client can use. During the nightly cleanup UrBackup deletes the client’s backups until the storage usage is within the bounds prescribed by the soft client quota. Other than a percentage value you can also use something like “20G” as soft client quota.


You can now have separate backup windows for incremental/full file/image backups.

 


Client-side file hashes
prevent the re-transfer of files that are already on the server, e.g., because another client has the same file. In some situations this drastically reduces the bandwidth requirements and speeds up file backups over Internet.


If you have performance problems with file backups the new file entry cache may help you. If the file entry cache is enabled file entries (a mapping from file hash to file paths) are cached in a separate database which may speed up backups. The caches are automatically created and destroyed if this setting is changed (and the server restarted), but creation may take a long time. LMDB makes heavy use of memory mapped files and is therefore only advisable on a 64bit operating system. It does also create a very large sparse file on Windows. When in doubt use the SQLite cache.

 

 

Backup server for the raspberry pi

Binaries of UrBackup for Raspian are available now here (Update: See the nighlty builds or the “wheezy” folder of Debian of the official releases). Performance isn’t that good on the raspberry pi, obviously. I’d avoid using any kind of compression, for example.

Setup instructions:

First setup the backup storage. I suggest using btrfs. Plug in a USB-hard disk and create a partition, e.g. using cfdisk. Then install btrfs and create the filesystem:

apt-get update
apt-get install btrfs-tools
mkfs.btrfs /dev/sda1
mkdir /media/backup

Add an entry to /etc/fstab to automatically mount the USB-hard disk:

/dev/sda1 /media/backup btrfs defaults,nossd 0 0

Then mount the hard disk:

mount /media/backup

Download the UrBackup server package and install it:

wget http://sourceforge.net/projects/urbackup/files/Server/1.2RC/urbackup-server_1.2-1_armhf.deb/download
dpkg -i urbackup-server_1.2-1_armhf.deb

Resolve the dependencies:

apt-get -f install

Enter e.g. /media/backup/urbackup when it asks for the backup storage path.

UrBackup server should run now and automatically backup clients as soon as you install the UrBackup client on one of your PCs in the local network (from here). If you want to change any settings you should go to the web interface. Let 192.168.0.42 be the IP of your raspberry pi. You can then access the web interface of UrBackup via typing http://192.168.0.42:55414 into your address bar. If you want to access your files you should share /media/backup/urbackup e.g. via samba. There are guides on how to install samba on a raspberry pi (here for example).

Sidenote: I’ve heard that it runs even better on a Cubieboard. It has a SATA-port so the USB-Bottlenet is gone. Unfortunately, they’re even harder to get than Raspberry Pis.

File Backup Storage with Btrfs Snapshots

The Linux kernel 3.6 finally added a feature to btrfs which I needed to easily implement a snapshot file backup storage. This feature will be automatically enabled if the backup storage path points to a btrfs file system and btrfs supports cross-sub-volume reflinks.

A backup with snapshots works like this:

  • Every file backup is put into a separate sub-volume, i.e., a file backup with a name like “121102-1010” is not a normal folder any more. It is a sub-volume in the btrfs file system.
  • Btrfs can make snapshots of sub-volumes. On an incremental backup UrBackup creates a snapshot with the usual name like “121102-2210”. The snapshot has the contents of the last file backup. This snapshot operation is very fast, because no files have to be copied or file entries created. Btrfs does not internally create another copy of the file tree. It only creates copies of parts that we change in the future.
  • UrBackup deletes all the files in the snapshot that have changed or have been deleted since the last backup.
  • Then UrBackup loads the files that have changed or are new. If a file was changed UrBackup only writes changed parts of the file causing btrfs to only save the blocks in the file that are actually different.
  • Once the backup has to be removed UrBackup simply deletes the whole sub-volume.

This has several advantages:

  • Snapshot creation is very fast, causing faster incremental backups.
  • Deleting the file backups is way faster because not every file has to be deleted.
  • Only data that has changed in files between incremental backups is stored in the file system. This drastically reduces the storage requirements, e.g, for large database files.

The cross-device reflinks enable UrBackup to store same files which occur on different sub-volumes only once. On other filesystems this is done using hard links, but those only work on the same file system. Because the Linux kernel sees the sub-volume as a different file system the cross-device reflinks have to be used. There is no disadvantage in using them instead of hard links.

Status of next major version

I’m releasing UrBackup Server 0.26.1 and Client 0.40.1 soon. They do have only minor bug fixes and additionally a Russian translation.

The next major version, which will probably be 1.0, will have following new features:

First of all you will be able to start and stop backups from the server web interface.

 

Then I reorganized the settings, both on the server web interface and on the client. You can also see the new bandwidth throttling feature which can limit the bandwidth usage of the backup server, both globally and for each client.

 

I added a few features to the new internet mode, described in the last post. Per default UrBackup does not do full file backups or image backups with an internet connection, but it can be enabled. Total global backup speed and backup speeds for each client can be set separately from the local backup speed. You can e.g. use this on the client to prevent UrBackup from using all your bandwidth. Additionally to being able to encrypt the transfer over internet UrBackup can now also compress it.

 

 

 

There is a new feature which lets you archive certain backups in certain intervals. Archived backups are not deleted during cleanups, until they are not archived anymore. Additionally to the automated archival you can also manually archive and un-archive certain file backups simply by clicking on them. For now only file backups can be archived.

 

This should be the major improvements. The are some minor ones as well.

Everything except the internet mode is ready for testing, so if anyone wants to help send me a mail at martin@urbackup.org or drop by in the forums and I will upload the appropriate builds.