Target Audience
Non Features
Backup Schema
Use Case
Backup Medium Formats
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ignis: the heat-strengthened backup tool

ignis is a special backup program for the SOHO sector. It implements a full-backup strategy, a mix between the backup schemes of GFS and Tower of Hanoi. It is meant for backing up onto DVDs or simular media. Normally, it is called via cron to perform the backups and checks. Reports are sent via mail. The ignis project is licensed under the GPL (v2 or later) !

Target Audience

If you have following scenario ignis is the backup solution for you:
  • all the important data fits onto one medium, e.g: DVD-RAM (only full backups onto one medium per run is supported)
  • the backup should run unattended e.g. once a week on a fixed day
  • the backup is done on a Linux system (other Unixes have not been tested so far) which is running at least always at the time the automatic backup is done
  • the backup operator which changes the mediums is not able or too lazy to do more than that (changing the mediums)
In short ignis is the backup solution for the SOHO sector. Only the setup needs to be done by someone with experience with Linux, the operation can be done just by knowing how to read mails and change the mediums. So its perfect for you (where your girlfriend (or boyfriend) is the backup operator) or for your (even windows using) friend/customer, which has a small company with a Linux file server.



ignis 0.5 released

  • ignis does not use packet writing anymore as it is not 100% stable under current linux kernels, it now burns multible sessions onto the medium
  • tar archives can now be splitted into more than one file (avoiding the 2gb limit per file on dvds)
  • Sources are available from: http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/ignis/ignis-0.5.tar.bz2
  • Any bug reports, comments, feature requests are welcomed.


ignis 0.4 released

  • everything thats written onto the medium is now checked against the md5 sum of the original data
  • signing with a private key is now possible
  • the metadata is now encrypted/signed and/or stored with the same compression as the data
  • initial work on the recovery tool has started. e.g. it is now possible to search for a file and get a list of all available versions on the media.
  • option for ejecting the medium befor every usages, for bad braindead hardware
  • udf formating allows you to choose the type of udf fs
  • many bug fixes and better error handling
  • Sources are available from: http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/ignis/ignis-0.4.tar.bz2
  • Any bug reports, comments, feature requests are welcomed.


New version of the homepage is online, which contains now some information on how to prepare the system for the using of packet writing for DVD-RW and DVD+RW.


ignis 0.3 released

  • supports now tar, tar.gz and tar.bz2 as backup methods
  • supports now also gpg for symmetric or public key encryption
  • new metadata system implemented which will make it possible to search files without inserting the mediums
  • the config used to backup will be also onto the medium so ignis can be recovered after a harddisk failure
  • Sources are available from: http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/ignis/ignis-0.3.tar.bz2
  • Any bug reports, comments, feature requests are welcomed.


start of this webpage.


ignis 0.2 released


Not all wanted features have been implemented so far, specially the ones which are not 100% needed as e.g. the recovery can be easily done without ignis tools with any system and standard open source tools, like tar, gzip, bzip2 and gnupg. But these features are on the TODO list and hopefully this text block can be changed soon.
The main work is done on DVD+RW and DVD-RAM (as the I use those mediums also for my backups) but the program works also with DVD-RW or even CD-RW. That said the program is used at several location as productive backup solution with DVD writers.

  • unattended backup onto a removable mainstream medium like DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW or CD-RW
  • easy recovery as the data can be read by any computer which can make use of the medium and can read from ISO file systems (directcopy backup method) or by the use of standard tools like tar, gzip, bzip2 and gnupg – depending on the method used to backup.
  • summary email after backup reporting which medium was used and which is the next
  • check function which reports via email some time before the backup is scheduled if everything is ready (1 or 2 days)
  • separated email addresses can be specified for info and error mails. (operator vs administrator)
  • md5 sums are generated and the written data is verified after writing
  • multiple backup locations and methods are supported e.g. directcopy, tar (+ gzip/bzip2) (+gnupg)
  • a recovery program to restore, search, list and show the history of previously backuped files.

Non Features

Following features will not be implemented as these are out of the target area of this project – so do not request them. ;-)

  • support of tape mediums – use amanda instead – it is a good tool for companies that want to backup on tapes
  • support for ftp upload of the backup – use duplicity
  • support for backup to disk – use rsnapshot which by the way can be combined great with ignis – see scenarios)


  • root access on a computer with an e.g. DVD writer on a somewhat current Linux distribution (tested with Ubuntu Server 6.06 and Debian Sarge and 2.6er kernel)
  • python and dvd+rw-tools installed
  • tar, gzip, bzip2, gnupgp installed (optional)
  • 15 backup mediums (default)


The install is quite simple:

  1. extract the archive (release tarball):
    $ tar -jxvf ignis-<VER>.tar.bz2
    checkout the code from svn:
    $ svn export https://svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/ignis/trunk
  2. install the program:
    $ sudo make install
  3. now configure
    $ sudo vim /etc/ignis.ini

Q: Why the name ignis?
A:  Ignis means fire in Latin and as we are burning DVD with heat, I thought it is a great name for this program.

Backup Schema

The backup schema is a mixture between GFS and Tower of Hanoi, which is optimized for the SOHO sector. It provides a cost effective backup solution with default only 15 mediums, but with which you get 180 week (~3.5 years) back, if you use it once a week. For the following discussion we talk about the default usage of 15 mediums:

This schema uses 3 classes (A, B, C) with each 5 mediums (A0-A4, B0-B4, C0-C4). Following rule defines which ID should be used next. All IDs from the class A need to be used before the next/first ID of class B can be used and all IDs from class B need to be used before the next/first ID from class C can be used. This simple rule leads to the following cycle:

A0 ... A4, B0, A0 ... A4, B1 ... B4, A0 ... A4, C0 ... B0 ... B4 ... C1 ... C4

Within the ignis releases you find a protocol that can be used for the full 180 runs cycle. (ignis_backup_protocoll-01.pdf)

Use Case


A customer/friend comes to you for help. He owns a small company with 1 employee and both have their own PCs, but the data exchange is complicated and data security is no existent as both users are plain Office users with no idea how to do a backup. He has heard that an server could help, but he needs a really cheap and completely easy to use solution. He tells you after some questions that he has 500mb office documents and the same amount of emails and the amount should grow almost linear. (You of course checked that ;-) )


You go for a cheap shuttle barebone, which is small and silent (both very important for this area), with a DVD-RAM capable DVD writer (+ the other standard stuff, but no monitor or keyboard – use your own for installing). All together with 15 DVD-RAM mediums you get everything easily for under 600 Euro. You install Ubuntu server (5 years maintenance for free) with samba as file server with 2 shares (“data” is read/write and “snapshot” read only). As IMAP and SMTP server you use courier which comes also with sqwebmail as setup free webmail client. You specially use a maildir based IMAP server, which is faster and much better to backup. On the existing hardware router you forward the SSH and HTTPS ports to the server. After you did setup the standard virus/spam stuff (clamav, sanitizer, spamassassin) you install/configure fetchmail to get the mails from the various accounts they both have (and you wonder how they checked them regularly before). Next you configure/migrate the 2 clients to the new server and copy the office documents into the data share. Now your friend/customer is ready to work with the new system, and you have the time to build the snapshot and backup solution.

As first you install rsnapshot and configure it to make daily/weekly/monthly (on request even hourly) snapshots of the user directories (for the imap mailboxes and the private samba share), the data share and of course of /etc, /root, /usr/local. After this your friend/customer can restore an old version of a file just by going to the snapshot share and copy it back. As files in a rsnapshot snapshot have the same permissions/owner/group as the original files there is no problem with the user directories.

And now at last you are ready to install/configure ignis. You just setup one backup location, the “daily.0” directory of the rsnapshot snapshots with the directcopy method. This is only followed by labeling the DVD mediums with ignis and a marker stick, and the usage of both of their mail addresses for info and error mails and yours only for error mails.

Your friend/customer must now only exchange the DVDs according to the mails and/or the protocol list once a week. He is able to do the recovery on his own – he just needs to put the DVD into his Windows PC and copy the files he needs with the explorer and that up to 3,5 years back. After you told him that it is a good idea to place the DVDs at another location than the server you are clear to go.


All this gives your friend/customer a really cheap solution, which provides much more data security than the typical SOHO solution together with a great usability.

Backup Medium Formats

All DVD formats (DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD+RW) and CD-RW are supported. It is important to note that burning onto DVD-RAM mediums does not work on my USB DVD burner, but works if i connect the DVD burner directly to the PC - so the usb bridge can not handle it. It is therefore recommend to test with one medium before buying all. With this commands you can fully erase the mediums:


# dvd+rw-format -force /dev/sr0
* DVDRW/-RAM format utility by <appro@fy.chalmers.se>, version 4.10.
* 4.7GB DVD+RW media detected.
* formatting 100.0%


# dvd+rw-format -force=full /dev/sr0
* DVDRW/-RAM format utility by <appro@fy.chalmers.se>, version 4.10.
* 4.7GB DVD-RW media in Sequential mode detected.
* formatting 100.0%

I recommend the use of DVD-RAM if it is possible. DVD-RAM is maybe not that well know as the others so here are some facts:

  • it was developed from the beginning for disk like access and data transport (the other two are not, they are for burning a set of files with a special program)
  • there are combo writers which are able to write with all three formats at the same price as those which support only + and – RW. e.g. Asus, HP, LG and some LiteOn DVD writers and more - maybe you have already one ;-)
  • DVD-RAM writers verify everything they have written onto the medium – so at least this drive can read it ;-) - + and – does not verify on its own. (ignis does a own check also)
  • the mediums are a little bit more expensive than the DVD(+/-)RW, but you need only e.g. 15 mediums
  • the DVD-RAM medium can normally be read for a longer period of time than the other two formats

So in short, for backups DVD-RAM mediums are the better format but support for the other two is also provided. For a closer look at the DVD-RAM read following wikipedia article.


Robert Penz