We run the open-source edition of Zimbra mail (5, not 6 yet) and while it's not something that we want to encourage (prevention is better than a cure), we currently have no way of backing up (or restoring) mail in the system. The Network (paid) Edition has automated backups; various user-contributed solutions exist for the open source edition.

My question in two parts:

  1. Does anyone have experience performing backups on Zimbra OSE? I'm particularly interested in snapshot backups over ssh/rsync (we use dirvish for filesystem backups), and we don't use LVM (/opt/zimbra/store/ is it's own partition, the server is Ubuntu on ESXi).
  2. If backup/restore on a live system is "too hard", I'm happy to settle for backing up only specific shared accounts that are never logged into directly (and hence I have the password for) over IMAP. I'd be interested in recommendations for a command-line email client that
    1. can be automated to retrieve messages & folders (e.g. given command line parameters / config file, will log in to account, fetch new email, quit)
    2. stores email in the maildir format, which is nicer to backup than mbox

I'm leaning towards the second with something like isync, since the mail system has over 100GB of messages at present.


As no one posted until now, I will mention zmbak script from: http://www.osoffice.de/downloads/viewcategory-7.html.
I'm currently testing it.
After reading it, I can say it's wort a try. I guess you can adapt this to your needs.


  • Agreed - better actually back up your Zimbra file system than the IMAP mailboxes - you'd lose lots of the Zimbra setup information and it would be hard to restore it; as well as calendar etc – David Fraser Sep 1 '10 at 14:44

Another option is LVM snapshots. Not ideal, but they'll keep the filesystem state stable long enough to image the parts you care about, even on a live system.

Of course it would be best to bring the server down to do backups.

As far as automatically retrieving email, it sounds like you want fetchmail:



As the Zimbra install is in vSphere (and backed by a SAN), the simplest backup method has ended up being a combination of

  • SAN snapshots
  • VM backups

Account data can then be restored by restoring a backup or snapshot, exporting from the restored VM and re-importing into the live system.

We're going to investigate ZeXtras which includes real-time backup in the future; this does cost money but is significantly cheaper than the licensing for Zimbra Network Edition, even at education / charity rates.

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