Introducing the Zentyal configuration backup

Communication, Community members, Development  Tagged , , , , , , 4 Comments »

I am sure that I don’t need to drill you about the importance of backing up your system. Ideally the whole system is backed up, but this costs time and space.

However, as very convenient shortcut, there is an easy (and free) way of backing up the Zentyal server configuration. With this configuration backup you can quickly restore your Zentyal server to a production state. And it does not need to be the same box, you can also use the configuration backup to apply the configuration to a new server.

The configuration backup also includes all the user and group accounts so your users can continue logging in to the services they use.

There are several ways to make and restore the configuration backup. The more versatile is to use Zentyal Cloud Service that comes with the Free Account registration: this way the backup will reside in the cloud and you could apply it to any of your Zentyal boxes. You can get a free account here.

To access to this feature in the web interface, you must click in System -> Import/Export configuration. A console interface is also available through the programs ‘/usr/share/zentyal/make-backup’ and ‘/usr/share/zentyal/restore-backup’.

How this works?

To the curious among us, let me explain its internal workings. The backup is just an archive file in TAR format, that includes the files describing the configuration.

First, the backup process writes some files with metadata, like the current date or the packages installed in the system. Then it loops through the installed modules making each one to dump its configuration.

Remember that the configuration values we see reflected in the web interface are stored in a Redis backend. So each module must dump its Redis keys and value to a file. However the Redis keys are not sufficient for all modules. Remember that the users and its related data are stored in LDAP. In this case the users module does a dump of the full directory in LDIF format.

Likewise the samba module dumps its internal database and the modules which use OpenSSL certificates to store them in the backup archive.

When the backup is finished, it is stored in your local file system: you can download or restore it from the Zentyal web interface.

For restoring a backup the same process is run in reverse, picking each of the files and importing them to our Zentyal system.

Configuration backup and the Backup module

As you may known Zentyal also has a file backup module which allows you to set the files to be backed up, the destination of the backup and its frequency.

A configuration backup is added to the backup of the selected files to have better recovery odds.

Backup in the cloud

One problem remains in this configuration backup schema and it is to store it in a remote, always-accessible location. The location which meets these requirements is the Internet, now dubbed cloud.

Zentyal Remote offers this service. It checks daily your Zentyal configuration and the contents of the LDAP directory, if it finds any changes, it makes automatically a backup and sends it to the cloud.

The number of simultaneous held backups depends on the type of edition you have. A community edition with Free Account can store one configuration backup, a Small Bussiness or Enterprise edition can have up to seven configuration backups. Furthermore, the seven configuration backup-limit only applies to automatic backups, you can have as many manual backups as you like.

Once you have your backup in the cloud, you can restore it in any of your subscribed Zentyal servers using the web interface.

Post written by Javier Amor Garcia

A post by Julio José García Martín

Zentyal Community Interview: Christian

Communication, Community members No Comments »

Zentyal Forum Moderator Christian

Name or Forum nick:


I’m familiar with Zentyal project since:

August 2009

I contribute to Zentyal project:

As Zentyal forum moderator, my main contribution is obviously forum. I’m spending more and more time on IRC and published my first “How To” some days ago.

What’s your very first memory of computers?

As far as I remember, it was long time ago (beginning of 80’s), with Sinclair Z81. My very first steps with Basic system. It was more matter of curiosity than computing and it never became my hobby. Few years later, I worked for a company running ICL System 25 then S39 for their CAPM: my very first real close contact with computers and network. At the same time, I assembled my first 8080 personal computer (yes, one with 5 1/4″ floppy).

What was the first Linux-based program you ever used?

Frankly, I don’t remember, although it’s not that old. Aside platforms I was working on as system administrator (S/36, AS/400 and mainframes) I mainly utilized Windows OS based computers (starting with 2.11) and discovered Solaris before Linux. I tried to compile my first Linux kernel sometime beginning of 2000’s but never really used it after I succeeded because it was too much time consuming ;-)!

Finally first Linux program I used was openWRT and then DD-WRT in order to get more control over my Linksys router. This pushed me to look again at Linux: I had a quick try with RedHat then switched to Debian and next Ubuntu which was at this time stable enough for me to run it full time on my main PC. Since I’m running it for anything I need except video editing.

How did you end up as Zentyal user?

Some years ago I started playing with Kurobox as NAS. Pretty active community there with people explaining ho to install Debian on this minimalist ARM platform. I jumped in the pool, played with Debian on KuroBox and this lead me to mini-ITX sized PC. Having decided to use it as my Internet gateway at home, I made multiple tries with zeroShell, Clark Connect, pfSense… I finally end up with basic Ubuntu server and my own set of components (postfix, ldap, samba), reproducing what I’m used to design at the office ;-).

It was very efficient and flexible but delegating administration (at this time, I was traveling a lot) appeared to be the main issue. Looking for something more “end-user” oriented, I discovered eBox, decided to give a try and since I’m still running Zentyal as Internet gateway platform. My NAS is still running Samba, not yet Zentyal, because there is a couple of design choices that I don’t fully share but this may evolve.

Why do you contribute to open source projects, such as Zentyal?

First, and mainly, because I like the “community” concept permitting to explain your own view, share your experience and learn from others. Zentyal is obviously not the only forum I’m contributing to, but because this covers technical aspects I’m quite comfortable with (working as an IT architect for large company since years) and it’s maybe the one I’m currently more involved in.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learnt from open source/Linux projects?

“Other people may have different, but still very valid, if not better view than your own.”

What is the biggest mistake open source users make?

To me, there is not one but at least three main mistakes:

  • Open source means free.
  • More and more willingness to just mimic Windows instead of analyzing and describing needs in order to find suitable solution.
  • Lack of understanding at concepts level before starting to implement and use components.

More and more users, moving from Windows world, are targeting Linux only because they want to reproduce with open source what they have with Windows, but for free. Because of the nature of open source, multiple components are available to cover similar needs. This requires maybe better technical understanding of involved concept, but this necessary effort is often not made. Hopefully there is still a lot of people balancing this with in-depth knowledge they are prone to share.

What is the most frustrating / rewarding thing about open source projects?

If question relates to community and forum, I feel very frustrated by two kind of topics:

  • “It doesn’t work, please help asap!” I hate people mixing up “community based forum” and “helpdesk with SLA”, furthermore not being able to explain what their problem or error message is.
  • Any topic leading to unproductive fight. Forum is the right place to share ideas and even have different views. This may result in some conflicting exchanges, which is fine as long as this is respectful.

On the other hand, forums and community based projects are very interesting and motivating thanks to knowledge you may acquire, from technical standpoint first but also because of people explaining why they have different needs, different view different way of solving similar problem. I learn a lot from this.

What’s the (best) thing about Zentyal for you?

For sure the concept that is to hide behind simple, unified and somehow “end-user” oriented interface complex settings.

What new feature/improvement would you like to see introduced to Zentyal 3.0?

I’m perhaps one of the few ones not asking for any new feature. My very first reaction is often to reject, as first approach, adding of any new component to Zentyal. I would rather vote for more limited scope (e.g. only infrastructure gateway) with improved features for these few components:

  • DNS with replication capability.
  • LDAP with easier set up in master/slave mode (too much restrictions and issues as of today).
  • More DHCP options.
  • Better clean up (but also no end-user data deletion without warning) when settings change.

And definitely openness. Zentyal as open source platform should provide more flexibility with components it involves to make it open to external programs:

  • Capability to use CA as true CA, not for Zentyal servers only.
  • Capability to use LDAP for external clients.

Last but not least, resource footprint does matter: with current design, running Zentyal on small platform is difficult because of some quite rather heavy components: replacing HTTP server with lighter equivalent (and permitting BTW to run Apache as “business web server” if needed) may help.

Who would you like to know better from the Zentyal community? What would you like to ask him?

Rather than asking only one community member, face to face meeting is really what I’m expecting. I will unfortunately not be able to join Zentyal summit in November, being already busy at this date, but this is definitely the kind of event I’m awaiting for. Go ahead guys and I’ll do my best to attend to the next one.

A post by Heidi Vilppola

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