Book Review: Tarsnap Mastery Online Backup For the Truly Paranoid

Book Review: Tarsnap Mastery Online Backup For the Truly Paranoid

It is always a good idea to keep backups of all of your data in multiple places. Every Linux or Unix sysadmin needs to master the art of backups if they want to keep their data forever.

Most seasoned sysadmins recommend and follow the 3-2-1 rule:

  1. At least three copies of data
  2. In two different formats
  3. With one of those copies off-site

What is a Tarsnap service?

A Tarsnap service is a secure online backup system for Linux, OSX, *BSD or UNIX-like system. They encrypt and store data in Amazon S3. The services also use rsync-like algorithms, and only backup data that has been changed since the last dump. The backups are protected by a security key only known to a backup operator or sysadmin.

Tarsnap Mastery book

To use Tarsnap perfectly and feel secure about your backups, I recommend the “Tarsnap Mastery” book by Michael W. Lucas. It is no secret that I’m a big fan of his book series and this book didn’t disappoint.

The book talks about Tarsnap services and includes real life examples of service. It starts with describing backup problems in a large scale IT environment such as tapes, virtual environments, most common backup strategies, deduplication, tarsanp basics, online backup security, and more.

The book teaches you how to install tarsnap on Linux, *BSD, Apple OS X, and few other platforms. Once installed you will learn how to make backups and restore them as needed. The book also explains how it’s important that you regularly rotate your backups and keep dumping data automatically to the cloud using cron service.

I enjoyed the information on creating backup check points and resuming interrupted archives, as my Macbook air dies sometimes due to internet connection failure or battery life. The last chapter explains how to build and test a production ready FAMP stack (FreeBSD, Apache, MySQL and PHP). You need to build a shell script to backup MySQL, hook it into tarsnap, and automate it via cron. Further, this chapter explains how to restore the system in case of disk failure or data loss, and how to verify data integrity.

Sure you will find most of the information mentioned in this book throughout tarsnap’s website, manpages, or mailing lists, but not in one handy guide. I think this book is a great way to feel confident about backing up your data securely in cloud or through off-site backups, without compromising security or burning your pocket with enterprise grade products from IT vendors. If you use a Unix-like system I highly recommend Tarsnap service and “Tarsnap Mastery”.

Book Info:

* Title: Tarsnap Mastery: Online Backups for the Truly Paranoid.
* Author: Michael W. Lucas
* Publisher: Tilted Windmill Press.
* Length: 154 pages.
* Target: System administrators, programmers, or geeks interested in online backup using Tarsnap cloud service.
* Rating: 5/5
* Disclaimer: Tilted Windmill Press sent us a review copy.
* Purchase online at Amazon (Kindle Edition).


  1. Like his other books, very easy to read and understand.
  2. Very in depth.
  3. Dedicated the whole book to one service.


  1. I felt like you most definitely need some basic Unix command-line knowledge.


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