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I have a box running Centos4.5, apache, php, mysql and several other bits and bobs I've added. Because eventually I want to be able to manage a remote server I only use puTTY to access it.
To get to this point has taken many hours and I'm concious a slip up could destroy my setup. So is there a way to make a perfect copy of the system (including the OS) like Ghost for Windows?
Almost all of these programs can copy EXT2 and EXT3 partitions.
If you're using something fancier than EXT2/3 your choices will be more limited.
I use Paragon Drive Copy myself.
I also use Paragon Partition manager on Linux disks which is very useful to resize partitions. My old ghost version isn't capable of resizing partitions during the copy process.
rsync: I would not use this program, its primarily for network use like if you want to sync a directory to another system its insecure and slow.
dump: this is a great tool for backing up filesystems from disk to disk or disk to tape. I would say a great choice for backups.
dd: dd is one of the best tools for cloning a hard drive, it is a bit by bit hard drive clone tool. So lets say you have a 250g drive you would need another 250g drive so you can clone the primary 250g drive. If drive one fails all you need to do is move drive 2 (the DD clone) into drive one's position, then boot the system. Boom your backup!
cpio: This is like a "tar" but is better for backups IMO. It supports network backups so you can backup one system to another.
tar: Well tar is great and supports network backups as well.
I would never backup data over an insecure connection, look into how to tunnel tar and cpio over ssh its quite easy.
These are the low level tools available for free, but there are some great free backup tools as well, specifically Amanda (look it up on freshmeat.net).
if you want to sync a directory to another system its insecure and slow
If you run rsync over ssh it's secure. And while rsync is most often used over "slower" networks, where its incremental ability is most important, it runs fine disk-to-disk as well, or over fast local networks.