Clear OS – An Alternative to SBS?

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Part five of a six part series looking at ClearOS, one of the major commercial alternatives to Small Business Server.  In this post I look backup and recovery.  Be sure to read part one for an overview of ClearOS and part two for an introduction to the installation process. Part three looks at the domain and file sharing. Part Four covers messaging solutions.

Part Five: Backup And Recovery

One important aspect of any server solution is the ability to restore the data in case of an accidental deletion, restore the server in case of a hardware failure, or recover from corruption.  Unfortunately, this is on aspect where ClearOS is truly lacking.  While there is a native backup utility in the marketplace, this only covers the configuration files.  Let’s take a quick look at how Linux works, and how it configures the operating system.  In Linux, ALL the system configuration information is stored in small, flat text files.  Everything you need can be restored by just replacing the text file.  So, for Clear OS to natively backup these files, all it needs to do is to locate the configuration files, and copy them to an external disk.  ClearOS installs the configuration backup by default and you can manually backup the systems settings.

If you want to backup data or mailboxes on the server, you are instructed to purchase the Remote Server Backup Utility.  This has a small, but recurring cost of $5 a year.  Storage must be purchased separately; 50 GB is $250GB per year.  Other size increments are available as well.

This being Linux, you do not need the ClearOS offsite storage to backup the data.  You just have to manually configure it from a shell.  Using cron jobs and rsync you can easily backup your data to an external USB disk or network drive, but you have to configure it all manually.  There are no Volume Shadow Copy options on Linux, so if a file is open, you will have to skip the file.

If you are using Zarafa, the ClearCenter Remote Server Backup will backup your mailboxes as well.  If you do not want to do it using the ClearCenter paid option, Zarafa has detailed documentation procedures on how to create a “dump” of the MySQL database where the mail is stored.

While I am appreciative of the options that ClearOs gives you, disaster recovery is not a topic for the faint of heart.  If you want a complete, local backup of your data and mailboxes you will be required to set up the configuration manually in the shell.  There are many third party applications and scripts that should get you going, and never forget, test, test, test your backup and restore procedure.

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