Updated: June 4, 2009
Being able to suffer a disaster and recover quickly thereafter is the manifest of good planning. Even if we're only talking about desktop use, to say nothing of businesses, the need to preserve years of work, art, passion, family legacy, intellectual property, and any other dear, irreplaceable data is paramount. The difference between a minor fuss of wasting a few minutes recovering after a crisis, whether it is hardware failure, theft or plain mistakes, and days or weeks of grueling pain trying to salvage years of precious digital data lies in careful preparation.
We do this by identifying our needs and risks and adjusting accordingly. Most people keep data on CD/DVDs, some use external hard disks and tapes, while some opt for online backups. Either way, we make sure there's a backup ready once the storm is over.
Therefore, choosing the right backup solution is probably the most important phase of all. Backup software needs to be reliable, first and foremost, robust and versatile, and offer the user enough flexibility to recover even if physical setup and configurations change dramatically.
Mondo fits the bill.
Mondo is a powerful, free rescue & recovery solution, used by numerous companies worldwide. It can backup data to local disk, removable media of all sorts, tapes, other machines and servers, and NFS areas. It also supports multiple filesystems, covering practically all UNIX formats (HW/SW RAID and LVM included), VFAT (FAT32) and will also work with NTFS.
To make things even better, Mondo allows creation of bootable rescue floppies or CDs, so you can use Mondo and backed up archives on any machine, including those without any partition table on local disks.
Best of all, you can also use it at home. Mondo runs on all major distributions, including RedHat- and Debian-based, SUSE or Gentoo.
Alongside CloneZilla and Remastersys, Mondo is another great solution that should help you maintain the integrity of your data no matter what happens, extending the redundancy and flexibility of your setup.
Let's see what we can do with it.
Mondo comes included in the repositories of popular distributions. Just look it up in the package manager.
Mondo can be used in vivo, without having to halt the installed operating system or unmount the partitions. This makes it very useful for machines that cannot be downtimed easily.
Mondo needs to be run with root permissions. The interface is a simple, text-based wizard, with options laid out in clear detail. The usage is rather self-evident, nevertheless, we will go through each step.
You need to execute Mondo from the command line - later on, you can create shortcuts as you see fit. There are two binaries available:
We need the first option for now. Later, we'll take a look at the recovery. Your first step is to choose the backup destination. If you go with CD/DVD, make sure you have the media in the tray.
Step two is to choose the directory where backup archives in the form of bootable ISO images will be kept.
Next, choose the compression:
You can limit the size of each ISO to make them fit onto CD/DVDs. You should probably go with 650-700MB for greatest compatibility.
Choose the prefix you want to give your images so you can identify them more easily.
Backup path tells you what data you wish to backup. If you choose the root (/) directory, everything will be backed up. You can also limit the backups to smaller subsets, like home directories, for instance. In either case, Mondo will backup the partition table (MBR).
You can also exclude data, if you wish:
Verifying images is also quite useful, especially if you're backing up sensitive, critical data.
Next, you'll get a kernel warning, which in most cases should not concern you. You're most likely running stable, standard kernels.
Confirm your choices and proceed.
Mondo will start working:
This will take a while depending on the size of your data and processor powers. I found Mondo to be comparable in speed to CloneZilla, even though it's running inside the system.
Once done, Mondo will create images in two locations: your image directory, as specified above, and /var/cache/mindi. We will talk about Mindi soon.
Mindi is Yin to Mondo's Yang. Mondo is responsible for creating backups. Mindi is responsible for creating bootable images, with the backed up data. Mondo invokes Mindi whenever it runs. But you can also use Mindi individually.
Running Mindi is similar to Mondo, even simpler. You need to answer a few Y/N questions inside the terminal. Mindi will ask you whether you want to use your own kernel for building the boot disks and which bootloader to choose.
If you choose your own kernel, it might not run well on other hardware, especially if it's a less known, custom-built version. However, if you're using a distro known to have good hardware compatibility, with the generic default options, then by all means, use it.
Mindi will run for a few seconds.
Here we have the output in /var/cache/mindi. Notice the mondorescue.iso we created earlier.
Rather simple and easy!
This is the last stage of working with Mondo (Mindi) - recovery. It's just like what we did before, in reverse.
It will ask you to insert removable media (like CDs or DVDs), so the software can recognize them as viable sources for recovery. Then, the actual recovery process will begin, in friendly stages. Your first step will be to choose the backup source.
And so forth, just as we did during the Backup. However, with one difference. Restoring data might require the destination to be unmounted, which is why you should recover systems from the bootable media. Recovering user data can be done live.
Mondo won't win any beauty contents any time soon, but it surely wins the simplicity contents. It's dead simple to use, even to newbies. It's friendly and robust and works great with a range of kernels and filesystems. It's reliable, with good quality of backed up archives.
The ability to create bootable images with every backup is a great bonus. This allows you to mass-deploy your backups on multiple systems simultaneously, without depending on third-party operating systems (like CloneZilla, SystemRescueCD or others). You use your own kernel, with every backup bundled with it.
Mondo is a highly useful solution to keeping your systems healthy in the long run. I highly recommend it. This article was inspired by a friend's suggestion. Thanks, Dany!