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I am new to the world of Linux and as part of my learning I would like to understand if it is possible for non-root users to have the ability to run their own backup applications apart from an over-arching backup of the server. If it is possible, what applications (GUI and command line) exist that will allow non-root users to backup their data?

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Sure - why wouldn't they be able to? Of course it goes without saying that they'd only be able to back up files that they have at least read access to, and that they'll need write access to wherever they're storing the backup files.

I'm not sure about GUI tools, but tar -czf file.tar.gz /path/to/files via cron is usually what I see being done, or possibly using rsnapshot or one of its variants.

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@ErikA - Thanks. Now when you say they would be able to backup files they have read access to, does it mean they could potentially make a backup to all the configuration files in say the /etc folder which I believe has read access? Now I assume if a user plugs in a flashdrive or external harddrive, they would be granted write permissions for the device. Is that assumption correct? – PeanutsMonkey May 18 '11 at 20:40
Yes, he would be able to back up any files he has read access to. Whether or not the user would be able to write to a flash drive is dependent on how the system is set up, but I'm guessing that in Ubuntu, users do have the permissions to mount and write to removable USB media. – EEAA May 18 '11 at 20:43
@ErikA - Isn't that a danger that the user would be able to backup any files that he/she has read access to? Am unsure what the nature of the danger if any seeing that they will have access to configuration information, et cetera (as not to confuse with etc) – PeanutsMonkey May 18 '11 at 20:49
Typically config files that have sensitive info in them are not world-readable. Apache SSL cert private keys, for instance, or /etc/shadow as well. If you're worried about users looking at how you have daemon X configured, you're probably doing it wrong. – EEAA May 18 '11 at 20:51
Also - backing up a file is really no different than reading a file. There's no way to separate the two. – EEAA May 18 '11 at 20:51

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