8.4.2.3. dump/restore: Not Recommended for Mounted File Systems!

The dump and restore programs are Linux equivalents to the UNIX programs of the same name. As such, many system administrators with UNIX experience may feel that dump and restore are viable candidates for a good backup program under Red Hat Enterprise Linux. However, one method of using dump can cause problems. Here is Linus Torvald's comment on the subject:
 From: Linus Torvalds To: Neil Conway Subject: Re: [PATCH] SMP race in ext2 - metadata corruption. Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 09:59:46 -0700 (PDT) Cc: Kernel Mailing List <linux-kernel At vger Dot kernel Dot org> [ linux-kernel added back as a cc ] On Fri, 27 Apr 2001, Neil Conway wrote: > > I'm surprised that dump is deprecated (by you at least ;-)). What to > use instead for backups on machines that can't umount disks regularly? Note that dump simply won't work reliably at all even in 2.4.x: the buffer cache and the page cache (where all the actual data is) are not coherent. This is only going to get even worse in 2.5.x, when the directories are moved into the page cache as well. So anybody who depends on "dump" getting backups right is already playing Russian roulette with their backups. It's not at all guaranteed to get the right results - you may end up having stale data in the buffer cache that ends up being "backed up". Dump was a stupid program in the first place. Leave it behind. > I've always thought "tar" was a bit undesirable (updates atimes or > ctimes for example). Right now, the cpio/tar/xxx solutions are definitely the best ones, and will work on multiple filesystems (another limitation of "dump"). Whatever problems they have, they are still better than the _guaranteed_(*) data corruptions of "dump". However, it may be that in the long run it would be advantageous to have a "filesystem maintenance interface" for doing things like backups and defragmentation.. Linus (*) Dump may work fine for you a thousand times. But it _will_ fail under the right circumstances. And there is nothing you can do about it. 
Given this problem, the use of dump/restore on mounted file systems is strongly discouraged. However, dump was originally designed to backup unmounted file systems; therefore, in situations where it is possible to take a file system offline with umount, dump remains a viable backup technology.