The tape archiver, better known as tar, is one of the older backup programs in existence.

It's not very good at automated incremental backups (for which bacula is a good choice), but it can be useful for "let's take a quick snapshot of the current system" type of situations.

As I'm preparing to head off to debconf tomorrow, I'm taking a backup of my n-1 laptop (which still contains some data that I don't want to lose) so it can be reinstalled and used by the Debconf video team. While I could use a "proper" backup system, running tar to a large hard disk is much easier.

By default, however, tar won't preserve everything, so it is usually a good idea to add some extra options. This is what I' mrunning currently:

sudo tar cvpaSf player.local:carillon.tgz --rmt-command=/usr/sbin/rmt --one-file-system /

which breaks down to create tar archive, verbose output, preserve permissions, automatically determine compression based on file extension, handle Sparse files efficiently, write to a file on a remote host using /usr/sbin/rmt as the rmt program, don't descend into a separate filesystem (since I don't want /proc and /sys etc to be backed up), and back up my root partition.

Since I don't believe there's any value to separate file systems on a laptop, this will back up the entire contents of my n-1 laptop to the carillon.tgz in my home directory on player.local.