LISA '03 Abstract
Pp. 7-14 of the Proceedings
Further Torture: More Testing of Backup and Archive Programs
Elizabeth D. Zwicky, Great Circle Associates
Every system administrator depends on some set of programs for
making secondary copies of data, as backups for disaster recovery or
as archives for long term storage. These programs, like all other
programs, have bugs. The important thing for system administrators to
know is where those bugs are.
Some years ago I did testing on backup and archive programs, and
found that failures were extremely common and that the documented
limitations of programs did not match their actual limitations.
Curious to see how the situation had changed, I put together a new set
of tests, and found that programs had improved significantly, but that
undocumented failures were still common.
In the previous tests, almost every program crashed outright at
some point, and dump significantly out-performed all other
contenders. In addition, many programs other than the backup and
archive programs failed catastrophically (most notably fsck on
many platforms, and the kernel on one platform). Few programs other
than dump backed up devices, making them incapable of backing
up and restoring a functional operating system. In the new tests,
crashes are rare, and more programs function as backups of entire
systems, but failures in backup and archive programs are still
widespread, and dump is not inherently more reliable than
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