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Comments for rdiff-backup

15 Dec 2005 12:00 bescoto

Re: vis a vi rsync?

I think rsync and rdiff-backup both have strengths and weaknesses. rsync is often significantly faster than rdiff-backup, while rdiff-backup can use much less memory and be less disk intensive on large directories because it does not build the entire filelist ahead of time. And I have had some people tell me that they couldn't get rsync to work on their system, but rdiff-backup worked fine (I'm sure the reverse is also true).

Maybe the biggest feature that rdiff-backup has that rsync doesn't (besides the whole incremental backup thing) is support for various optional filesystem features, and the ability to back them up to a filesystem of a different type.

For instance, rdiff-backup can back up a filesystem that has ACLs, extended attributes, and various owners/groups, to a filesystem that doesn't have ACLs, EAs, or root permissions. With rsync you would lose that information, including all ownership. With rdiff-backup, everything will be preserved when you restore.

Rsync-based programs like your backupbuddy will probably inherit most of the strengths/weaknesses of rsync. Also rdiff-backup will in general use less disk space because it compresses file changes over time. Also newer versions of rdiff-backup keep SHA1 checksums of all regular files around, which can help with security auditing or checking the integrity of existing backups.

But anyway I'm sure both programs have their pros and cons, and I encourage anyone reading this to test both out for themselves.

14 Dec 2005 00:27 mcrbids

vis a vi rsync?
Yeah, it's great. No problem, rsync is great, too! So, is this better than rsync? If so, why? Is it much better than rsync? Again, why?

I wrote Backup Buddy as a backup solution using rsync and PHP. I coordinate TB of data with this - is this better?

If it is better, why?

02 May 2005 22:06 srlamb

Networked, incremental backups are definitely the way to go.
Sending things to another machine is much easier and more
reliable than tape. And it sucks to pull a backup file only to
discover you'd screwed it up before making a backup.
rdiff-backup avoids these problems.

It's also the only such tool I've seen that can handle Mac
OS X resource forks. (With 0.13.2 or better, IIRC.) These are
more important than you'd think - Quicken, for example, stores
important data in them.

25 Mar 2005 21:38 bescoto

Re: rdiff-backup has SERIOUS PROBLEMS
Hi, I'm sorry your experiences with rdiff-backup were so bad. rdiff-backup's error policy is stated here (
As it says, rdiff-backup does make an effort to recover from different types of errors in different ways, to leave the database in a consistent state in the face of unrecoverable errors, and reverse failed backup sessions (effecting a kind of atomicity between sessions).

Unfortunately, rdiff-backup archives can get corrupted (e.g. by disk errors or bugs in rdiff-backup) beyond the program's ability to automatically repair them. In these cases manual repair is necessary. But this is true of any backup program. Just a reminder, if you are using the program for something important, please use the stable version. The current unstable version is really old and doesn't include many CVS fixes. And anyway it's unstable.

Anyway, how rdiff-backup responds to network problems is testable.. Start a session and simulate a failure by killing the client or server, or by taking down the network connection. Then see what happens to the next session.

19 Mar 2005 09:05 plaus

rdiff-backup has SERIOUS PROBLEMS
I've run rdiff-backup on a handful of systems, backing up on the same system, and remotely.

When a backup fails, rdiff essentially gives up responsibility for your backup's integrity. It will not preserve an operable, *usable* system state. It then becomes the admin's responsibility to *manually repair* the metadata which controls rdiff's behavior.

If you cannot successfully make those repairs, admins are advised in the documentation to *delete* the entire backup and start from scratch!

This is unacceptable. For rdiff-backup to become a serious and useful project, it needs to proactively take action when a failure occurs! For example, when there are network connectivity problems, rdiff-backup gives up and the backup is considered failed. *Further attempts* to backup will be rejected until you manually revert the metadata!

In other words: Don't go on vacation! When you've put your faith in rdiff-backup, and it fails while you're on that desert island, it will let you down: subsequent backups will fail too.

rsync is a much better solution, although you lose the sub-file increment capability of the rdiff algorithm. But disk space is cheap, and backups that repeatedly fail can cost you your job.

17 Mar 2005 09:18 dmw801

I have been using rdiff-backup with great success for about 2 years. It is by far the best backup program that I found after doing lots of looking. Handles backing up *nix filesystems to windows, and retains all "special" info (like ownership and permissions etc) in a separate file, so full backup can be done. Only transmits differences of changed files, so it's extremely efficient, AND it allows backup over ssh, so files stay secure when backing up over the internet from one *nix machine to another! Reverse incremental means you can just copy the most recently backed up version of a file from the backup directory, and if you want to restore from a previous backup, you can mess with the command line switches. Holy Toledo.. Ben Escoto, you're a genius. A must have for anyone and everyone! It's so good that I'm going to cry. They ought to make this standard with any linux distribution.

02 Mar 2003 15:52 swix

Great great tool
Using it daily (well, nightly) to backup some servers on a backup server and it works very well :-)


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