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Raspberry Pi Backup Server

I completed my first Raspberry Pi project today. Nothing particularly cleaver, but useful. I have been meaning to get the vexed question of backups in hand for years and the Pi helped me do it.

The basic idea is a permanent backup server connected to a tape drive which is responsible for automatically archiving my valuable (and not so valuable) data. The software to do this exists in the form of Bacula. As the developers themselves say It comes in the night and sucks the essence from your discs. What the Pi brings to the party is a power efficient way of having that permanently running machine.


The hardware is pretty simple. All that was needed was a case in which to keep the Pi and a power supply to run it. I did decide to try and make something a bit more finished than a bread-board project though. To that end I provided proper sockets, a breaker and power indicator on the front panel. This pushed up the cost of the project but not by too much and I feel it makes the whole thing look a bit more proper.

This first image shows the enclosure prepared, the power supply installed and everything wired up.

Ready to Receive the Pi

Then it was just a simple job of adding the Pi. Of course this is a Model B, not a Master Pi so I had to resort to sticky pads to mount the thing.

All Done

Later I decided to add a real-time clock module from CJE Micros. Although there is no problem with the Pi getting time from NTP each time it boots that does leave you dependent on your Internet connection. It is fairly important that a backup server know what the time is so I decided to lash out the £10.

Real-time Clock


I started with the stock Raspbian distribution and proceed to aptitude purge ... the packages for all those things like Scratch which are great for the Pi's intended purpose of teaching but just take up space on a server. If anyone knows of a server build of Raspbian I would be interested to know.

Once the OS had been stripped back to the bare bones (who needs X on a server?) I installed the Bacula packages. The setup up of Bacula is always a little time consuming. Getting the various daemons configured and talking to each other is a bit fiddly. However within a couple of evenings I had made my first backup.

Future Work

I am coming to the conclusion that I need a small laptop hard disc drive in the server to act as scratch space. The current solution of using the SD Card will just lead to premature wearing out of the card. The 3A of the power supply should be plenty to drive the Pi at about an Amp and a 5V laptop hard disc drive, also around an Amp.


There have been problems with USB under the Pi's Debian distribution but these have evidently been overcome as I have been able to archive and restore without corruption.

The Tower of Storage Power

I imagine there will be a few more kinks to be ironed out but the project is basically complete and working. Now my data will be stored to tape in case of calamity. Of course keeping the tapes next to the tape drive, while convenient, wont help me in a fire situation.

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RPI Backup Server

Did you overclock the pi?

Re: RPI Backup Server

No, it's as it came. Quite fast enough for a job performed mostly when I'm not there.

Can you describe the hardware?

What type of tape drive is it? USB? SAS? SATA (I'm not aware of SATA tape drives). If SAS (or SATA) is it controlled via the GPIO pins on the Pi?

I've been looking to do exactly this, and I'm not sure how to control the tape drive remotely. And frankly, I don't quite grok SAS or SCSI.


Re: Can you describe the hardware?

I imagine you could bit-bang a SATA interface using the GPIO lines although you might need some electronics to convert levels. It would be a hell of a lot of work though. Much easier to use a board which provided the interface natively.

Fortunately I didn't have to do that as the tape drive is a USB device. That's why I brought a USB socket out to the rear panel. That's what it plugs into.

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