TimeVault: A Smart Linux Backup Software

Posted by jun auza On 5/24/2011
For anyone who has owned a Mac in the past few years, it is unlikely that you are not familiar with the wonderful Time Machine backup system that Apple has implemented on Mac OS X. The beauty of this backup software is that the backups are taken in a differential manner rather than backing up the entire system with every backup. This means that you use your backup storage more effectively. This also means that you have more versions of your backed up data available for restoration.

In TimeVault, the developers have tried to create a similar system for Linux-based machines. Because Mac OS is based on a system similar to that of Linux, this is quite possible. Tools such as rsync allow you to do this. However, TimeVault wraps all the fine tools with a nice looking graphical front end. Let's take a look at TimeVault and take it for a test drive to see what it's capable of.


Installation:

As TimeVault is a pretty recent project, it has yet to make it into the RPM and DEB repositories of the popular distributions of Linux. However, you can still install it with ease. You need to download the latest binary release of the application from HERE. Once downloaded, double click the icon for the installation to begin. All the necessary dependencies can easily be fulfilled by your system's installer program.

So, as you can see, the installation process is pretty straightforward. It would be nice to be able to install the application using a tool such as the Synaptic Package Installer. I think it's a matter of time before it makes it to the mainstream repositories.


Configuration:

The next step after the installation is to launch and configure TimeVault. The configuration panel comes with four tabs. There are a number of options that are available for you to customize your backup process. In the General tab you can configure things like where you want to store the backups, and the upper limit for the backup size. The next tab, “Include”, is where you tell TimeVault what to backup. The third one is where you configure what files or folders it should “Exclude”. The last tab is titled “Expire”. This is where you can define the retention period of different files.


The choice of options is great, however, I felt that this could be quite overwhelming for users who are not very technically advanced. It would have been nice if Time Vault came with a simple and an advanced configuration panel. Or perhaps, if it used a wizard tool to help users run through this process.


Launch Your Backup:

The way you operate TimeVault is using a notifier icon, which sits in the bar at the top of your screen. To begin your first backup click on this icon and ask it to begin the backup process. As the backups happen you will be notified by a pop up from the notifier. This bit is pretty simple.

One of the shortfalls of the method used to backup in TimeVault is that you have little or no control over its scheduling. This means that you could be in the middle of important work, or a presentation when TimeVault decides it’s a good time to run its backup. There is no way to schedule or postpone a backup. All you can do is exit the application to stop the backup. This is a big drawback with using TimeVault on a computer you use on a daily basis.


Restoring Your Data:

Once you have backed up your data, it is critical for any good backup solution to allow you to restore it with ease. TimeVault comes with a fine graphical tool that allows you to browse your backups and then restore sections of your backup when you want to. The tool is called the Snapshot Browser, and it is quite handy. Another nice feature of TimeVault is its integration with the Nautilus file browser.


The Restore procedure works well, but it has certain limitations. However, TimeVault is one of the few GUI Linux backup system with a well thought out and functional restoration system in place. So kudos to the TimeVault team for that.


Verdict:

Overall TimeVault is a fine backup solution. It mostly worked correctly every time I used it. Although it's not packed with features, there are several useful ones. However, there are a few deficiencies such as the lack of scheduler that could be a deal breaker for some people. All in all, time Vault makes for a good application that is bound to improve as time goes by.




Written by: Sukrit Dhandhania, FOSS advocate and regular contributor for TechSource.

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