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I am familiar with using rsync for backups on Linux. However, in the event of a hard disk crash, I have been repeatedly told that with a new disk, install a latest version of the OS, then the data created (word processing files, accounting, etc.) then you are back to normal. However, what about all the configuration files stored in /etc and elsewhere? What about the applications I installed which were not part of a yum repo? I don't believe they can simply be copied back over a new installation or on different hardware without overwriting needs files by the OS?

I would greatly appreciate and kind and thoughtful reply to this, because this problem truly bothers me. I don't want to spend a day or two rebuilding a system by trying to remember which configurations need to be changed, cron jobs, applications installed, scripts, etc.

In addition, how do a document what has been installed on a Linux server? Sometimes you install a script, works great, and easily forget it was there. What should the method be? Create a "logbook" of all changes done to the server including each application? Sounds like there needs to be a better method.

Or should I not be using rsync for full backups like this, and look at something else which might do a bare metal store? Thanks in advance for your helpful reply!

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The log book method is the way we do it, actually. In SQL Server circles, we call it a "run book" and it's a detailed description of the configuration of the server. In other words, a detailed guide of the disaster recovery process, from bare metal to data recovery. For what it's worth, you'd probably do well with a "base install" recovery, plus differential backups. –  user3463 Jul 28 '12 at 6:30
    
Thanks for the comment, Randolph. Can you share the format of your "run book"? What is in it, besides I assume date and action? Also, do you keep the "run book" on a different file server or another place? Thank you! –  Edward_178118 Jul 28 '12 at 12:03
    
I've posted an answer for you with more detail. –  user3463 Jul 28 '12 at 16:44
    
If you made backups of the full filesystem, then you can simply restore that to a newly formatted disk and make it bootable. Has worked perfectly fine for me numerous times. –  eldering Jul 28 '12 at 17:58
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2 Answers

I use a run book, based on this old Microsoft TechNet article for SQL Server 2000.

Contents of a Run Book

A run book should contain all of the information you and your staff need to perform day-to-day operations and to respond to emergency situations. This information should include the following:

  • Resource information about the data center and its hardware and software

  • Process information, including step-by-step procedures for operational and emergency processes

The run book should contain all necessary information to enable a staff member to perform any process, from performing a backup to failing over to a remote site.

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Since I've been doing this a while, my version is quite heavily modified, but this is where I started. –  user3463 Jul 28 '12 at 16:45
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Thank you, Randolph! Excellent resource to start with. This also hopefully avoids panic situations in an emergency as well. –  Edward_178118 Jul 29 '12 at 11:57
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I use two strategies, depending on time, space and resources:

1) Physically mirror the disk (drop to single user mode and "cp /dev/sda /dev/sdb") and keep the drive somewhere else.

2) I use Mondo Rescue which creates bootable restore images which rebuilds the system back to the same state is was when I ran the backup.

Method (2) is faster for large drives that are not full of data. (1) is more reliable if the drives are identical.

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I forgot to mention that I maintain a run book as an OpenOffice document in an easily locatable location in my home directory. In there I document the scripts and tools that I customise, including command-line parameters, download URLs, etc. On other systems that I support, I use the same idea, and pass on the document to incoming sysadmins. –  KevinM Feb 14 '13 at 14:16
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