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We have a handful of hosted servers running RHEL4 and RHEL5 and would like to backup some key folders (I'm thinking /var /srv and /etc) to a local server we have in house.

The local server is running Ubuntu 9.10 Server edition.

I'm looking for a free (preferably OSS) way to grab (or push) incremental backups to my local server and once a month or so, make a new snapshot for incremental updates in between snapshots.

Also, while I'm comfortable with using a command line, others may need to use the system in the future, and I would like some kind of graphical or web interface to browse the backup repository.


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migrated from May 29 '10 at 23:39

This question came from our site for computer enthusiasts and power users.

I found this but I'm not sure how reliable is it: – wag2639 May 28 '10 at 23:59
up vote 4 down vote accepted

rsync is a free tool you can use to securely make copies of files and folders from one computer to another via the network. Once the initial copy is complete, only differences are sent on each future use.

Using rsync by itself will give you a copy of your data but there will be no retention, ie. once a file is changed in the source, when rsync runs again, that file will be changed in the target as well.

In order to get daily/weekly/monthly/yearly retention, you can combine rsync with some simple scripts that copy the target with hard links (so very little extra space is used in the target) before the next rsync executes.

By mounting the target backup location's parent folder read only, general users can browse historic backups and retrieve files without the need for any special graphical or web interface.

Take a look at for a detailed explanation on how this works.

There is a package called rsnapshot which should make setup easy. In Ubuntu type sudo apt-get install rsnapshot.

rsnapshot details can be found at

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Thanks, I was told the hard links approach was how Apple's time machine works but while clever, it seems kind if hard to implement. Has anyone tried rsync based solutions like rdiff-backup or duplicity? – wag2639 May 29 '10 at 9:27
On your Ubuntu machine, type sudo apt-get install rsnapshot. That should install everything you need (ssh server, rsync and backup scripts). It's been a while since I used rsnapshot but I think it was just a case of specifying which directories to backup, where to and how often in a config file. – Stacey Richards May 29 '10 at 13:29
rsnapshot rocks! but when you don't need to schedule backups, it's trivially simple to do it by hand. just cp -al last_backup backup_$(date '+%Y%m%d') && rsync -Paz bk_user@mainserver:datadir last_backup – Javier May 29 '10 at 23:53
Upvoted for rsnapshot. This will do exactly what you want. – churnd May 30 '10 at 1:50

I have had a lot of good experiences with Backuppc. The web ui and incremental backups, not to mention the file level data deduplication make it a good choice for small installations IMHO.

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