Automatic backups over the LAN

Last modified on 2018-01-21

Make incremental and automatic backups of a home folder to a local server using SSH + rsync + cron.

Let’s go!

Server is a raised-from-the-dead netbook on the home network. Client desktop is configured to perform a daily sync of its $HOME to server.

0. Server and Client: SSH keys

Create cryptographic keys and disable password logins to make traffic between server and client more secure.

1. Server: backup directory

Create a directory to store the backup …

mkdir -p /path/to/backup                                             

2. Client: hosts alias

Set the IP address and hostname of server in /etc/hosts. Sample entry …    netbook.lan

3. Client: sync

Test syncing $HOME/ to netbook.lan:/path/to/backup/ with the rsync --dry-run option. Example …

rsync --dry-run --archive --delete --verbose $HOME/ netbook.lan:/path/to/backup/

If everything checks out OK drop --dry-run and re-run the command to make a proper backup.

4. Client: script

Start piling on the options to rsync and the command quickly becomes awkward and easy to get wrong. Option --delete is useful but can generate unpleasant surprises. A few things I --exclude from a $HOME sync are [Cc]ache and [Tt]rash and [Tt]humbnails, and pay attention to the trailing forward-slash / on directories.

I create a shell script that makes use of the keychain utility to manage SSH keys for password-less logins to servers and place in $HOME/bin. Sample …

SYNC_OPT="--archive --verbose --delete"
EXCLUDE_OPT="--exclude=*[Cc]ache*/ --exclude=*[Tt]rash*/ --exclude=local/ \

. ${HOME}/.keychain/${HOSTNAME}-sh                                              

Source: - A more complete script that verifies that DESTINATION exists; adds option to include (and exclude) items from a config file.

5. Client: automate

Automate the backups by running crontab -e and creating a cron job. Sample entry runs the backup script daily at 02:30 …

# m h  dom mon dow   command
30 2 * * * . /home/USERNAME/.keychain/$(/bin/hostname)-sh; /home/USERNAME/bin/ netbook.lan:/path/to/backup/

6. Server: rsnapshot

Use the rsync powers of rsnapshot to make daily, weekly, and monthly incremental backups of data.

🐧 Part of the HOME slash bin and Linux Home Server projects.

Happy hacking!