Home Backup tools CYA – System Snapshot And Restore Utility For Linux
system snapshot and restore

CYA – System Snapshot And Restore Utility For Linux

By sk

CYA, stands for Cover Your Assets, is a free, open source system snapshot and restore utility for any Unix-like operating systems that uses BASH shell. Cya is portable and supports many popular filesystems such as EXT2/3/4, XFS, UFS, GPFS, reiserFS, JFS, BtrFS, and ZFS etc. Please note that Cya will not backup the actual user data. It only backups and restores the operating system itself. Cya is actually a system restore utility. By default, it will backup all key directories like /bin/, /lib/, /usr/, /var/ and several others. You can, however, define your own directories and files path to include in the backup, so Cya will pick those up as well. Also, it is possible define some directories/files to skip from the backup. For example, you can skip /var/logs/ if you don't log files. Cya actually uses Rsync backup method under the hood. However, Cya is little bit easier than Rsync when creating rolling backups.

When restoring your operating system, Cya will rollback the OS using your backup profile which you created earlier. You can either restore the entire system or any specific directories only. You can also easily access the backup files even without a complete rollback using your terminal or file manager. Another notable feature is we can generate a custom recovery script to automate the mounting of your system partition(s) when you restore off a live CD, USB, or network image. In a nutshell, CYA can help you to restore your system to previous state when you end-up with a broken system caused by software update, configuration changes and intrusions/hacks etc.

Install CYA

Installing CYA is trivial. All you have to do is download Cya binary and put it in your system path.

$ git clone https://github.com/cleverwise/cya.git

This will clone the latest cya version in a directory called cya in your current working directory.

Next, copy the cya binary to your path or wherever you want.

$ sudo cp cya/cya /usr/local/bin/

It is that simple. CYA has been installed! Now let us go ahead and create snapshots.

Creating Snapshots

Before creating any snapshots/backups, create a recovery script using command:

$ cya script
☀ Cover Your Ass(ets) v2.2 ☀

ACTION ⯮ Generating Recovery Script

Generating Linux recovery script ... 
Checking sudo permissions...

IMPORTANT: This script will ONLY mount / and /home. Thus if you are storing data on another mount point open the recovery.sh script and add the additional mount point command where necessary. This is also a best guess and should be tested before an emergency to verify it works as desired.

‣ Disclaimer: CYA offers zero guarantees as improper usage can cause undesired results
‣ Notice: Proper usage can correct unauthorized changes to system from attacks

The above command will create a directory named "/home/cya/" and save the recovery.sh file in it.

$ ls /home/cya/
cya cya.conf LAST_RUN points recovery.sh

Save the resulting recovery.sh file in your USB drive which we are going to use it later when restoring backups. This script will help you to setup a chrooted environment and mount drives when you rollback your system.

Now, let us create snapshots.

To create a standard rolling backup, run:

$ cya save

The above command will keep three backups before overwriting.

Sample output:

☀ Cover Your Ass(ets) v2.2 ☀

ACTION ⯮ Standard Backup

Checking sudo permissions...
[sudo] password for sk: 
We need to create /home/cya/points/1 ... done
Backing up /bin/ ... complete
Backing up /boot/ ... complete
Backing up /etc/ ... complete
Backing up /lib/ ... complete
Backing up /lib64/ ... complete
Backing up /opt/ ... complete
Backing up /root/ ... complete
Backing up /sbin/ ... complete
Backing up /snap/ ... complete
Backing up /usr/ ... complete
Backing up /initrd.img ... complete
Backing up /initrd.img.old ... complete
Backing up /vmlinuz ... complete
Backing up /vmlinuz.old ... complete
Write out date file ... complete
Update rotation file ... complete

‣ Disclaimer: CYA offers zero guarantees as improper usage can cause undesired results
‣ Notice: Proper usage can correct unauthorized changes to system from attacks

You can view the contents of the newly created snapshot, under /home/cya/points/ location.

$ ls /home/cya/points/1/
bin cya-date initrd.img lib opt sbin usr vmlinuz
boot etc initrd.img.old lib64 root snap var vmlinuz.old

To create a backup with a custom name that will not be overwritten, run:

$ cya keep name BACKUP_NAME

Replace BACKUP_NAME with your own name.

To create a backup with a custom name that will overwrite, do:

$ cya keep name BACKUP_NAME overwrite

To create a backup and archive it, run:

$ cya keep name BACKUP_NAME archive

This command will store the backups in /home/cya/archives location.

By default, CYA will store its configuration in /home/cya/ directory and the snapshots with a custom name will be stored in /home/cya/points/BACKUP_NAME location. We can change these settings by editing the CYA configuration file stored at /home/cya/cya.conf.

Like I already said, CYA will not backup user data by default. It will only backup the important system files. You can, however, include your own directories or files along with system files. Say for example, if you wanted to add the directory named /home/sk/Downloads directory in the backup, edit /home/cya/cya.conf file:

$ vi /home/cya/cya.conf

Define your directory data path that you wanted to include in the backup like below.

MYDATA_mybackup="/home/sk/Downloads/ /mnt/backup/sk/"

Please be mindful that both source and destination directories should end with a trailing slash. As per the above configuration, CYA will copy all the contents of /home/sk/Downloads/ directory and save them in /mnt/backup/sk/(assuming you already created this) directory. Here mybackup is the profile name. Hit ESC and type :wq to save and close the file.

Now let us backup the contents of /home/sk/Downloads/ directory. To do so, you need to enter the profile name (i.e mybackup in my case) with the cya mydata command like below:

$ cya mydata mybackup

Similarly, you can include multiple user data with a different profile names. All profile names must be unique.

Exclude directories

Some times, you may not want to backup all system files. You might want to exclude some unimportant such as log files. For example, if you don't want to include /var/tmp/ and /var/logs/ directories, add the following in /home/cya/cya.conf file.

EXCLUDE_/var/=”tmp/ logs/”

Similarly, you can specify all directories one by one that you want to exclude from the backup. Once done, save and close the file.

Add specific files to the backup

Instead of creating a backup of whole directory, you can include a specific files from a directory. To do so, add the path of your files one by one in /home/cya/cya.conf file.


Restore your system

Remember, we already create a recovery script named recovery.sh and saved it in an USB drive? We will need it now to restore our broken system.

Boot your system with any live bootable CD/DVD, USB drive. The developer of CYA recommends to use a live boot environment from same major version as your installed environment! For example if you use Ubuntu 18.04 system, then use Ubuntu 18.04 live media.

Once you're in the live system, mount the USB drive that contains the recovery.sh script. Once you mounted the drive(s), your system's / and /home will be mounted to the /mnt/cya directory. This is made really easy and handled automatically by the recovery.sh script for Linux users.

Then, start the restore process using command:

$ sudo /mnt/cya/home/cya/cya restore

Just follow the onscreen instructions. Once the restoration is done, remove the live media and unmount the drives and finally, reboot your system.

What if you don't have or lost recovery script? No problem, we still can restore our broken system.

Boot the live media. From the live session, create a directory to mount the drive(s).

$ sudo mkdir -p /mnt/cya

Then, mount your / and /home (if on another partition) into the /mnt/cya directory.

$ sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/cya
$ sudo mount /dev/sda3 /mnt/cya/home

Replace /dev/sda1 and /dev/sda3 with your correct partitions (Use fdisk -l command to find your partitions).

Finally, start the restoration process using command:

$ sudo /mnt/cya/home/cya/cya restore

Once the recovery is completed, unmount all mounted partitions and remove install media and reboot your system.

At this stage, you might get a working system. I deleted some important libraries in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server. I successfully restored it to the working state by using CYA utility.

Recommended read:

Schedule CYA backup

It is always recommended to use crontab to schedule the CYA snapshot process at regular interval. You can setup a cron job using root or setup a user that doesn't need to enter a sudo password.

The example entry below will run cya at every Monday at 2:05 am with output dumped into /dev/null.

5 2 * * 1 /home/USER/bin/cya save >/dev/null 2>&1


Unlike Systemback and other system restore utilities, Cya is not a distribution-specific restore utility. It supports many Linux operating systems that uses BASH. It is one of the must-have applications in your arsenal. Install it right away and create snapshots. You won't regret when you accidentally crashed your Linux system.


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