I set up my third public Minecraft server for some friends using the vanilla minecraft_server.jar file until a friend told me about bukkit. I installed craftbukkit.jar on my Linux (CentOS) server and started using plug-ins.
I had the issue of the server crashing when I wasn't playing, due to plug-ins failing. My friends were unable to play, so I created a script with the basic start, stop, and restart parameters.
I created a cron job, ran every 15 minutes, to ensure maximal up-time of my server by checking to see if the server was running and start the server if it was stopped. I realized the world might disappear if there was a server problem, so I would need to back-up my files. I realized I could put all of my scripts into one file, creating my Minecraft server helper tools.
I posted the code on GitHub. The README file contains what you'll need to know to get started with the tool. If you're only looking for a way to automatically backup your Minecraft server, this tool will help you. I even provide my crontab file for you to use yourself. Having the helper for start, stop, restart, and status is extremely useful for server admins.
I'll add the tar.gz file here when I get around to it, so you'll need to download from GitHub for now.
I built the file pretty quickly, so I'm sure it can use work. Feel free to fork the project and improve it. I look forward to seeing what you make!