I'm running a nightly bash script to sync a remote folder (source) with a local folder (target). I've tested this script, based on rsync, and it works fine in a root shell. It takes time since there are hundred of gigs to copy but it works.

Once I use it in crontab my server runs out of memory.

My server has 8GB of RAM, 4GB of swap, and as I said, the script never goes OOM when manually ran from a shell. It's a default Centos 5.5 installation. I could split the load and sync all the 2nd level dirs in a find/for script, but I'd like to keep it simple and only sync the top level directories.

I cannot make too many tests since this server is used to host websites and other services and I cannot afford to hang it just for testing purpose. Do you know a setting that could allow cron to finish this job normally ?



rsync -av --delete /net/hostname/source/ /export/target/ >     $BACKUP_PATH/backup_results_ok 2>  $BACKUP_PATH/backup_results_error

edit: cron configuration is default, as /etc/security/limits.conf, which is all commented out.

  • Is this a VPS or a dedicated server? Maybe the hosting provider has some limitations on cron jobs.
    – hdanniel
    Oct 14, 2010 at 14:49
  • 2
    Have you checked /etc/security/limits.conf ..?
    – danlefree
    Oct 14, 2010 at 15:30
  • No, it's a dedicated server. I have physical access of it.
    – Rosco
    Oct 14, 2010 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


Even though limits.conf is commented out, I suggest that you test just to make sure. One way would be to create a cronjob that just contains something like "ulimit -a | Mail -s 'limits' [email protected]" to have the info emailed to you. Once you know what the limits are, then you can just reset them in the shell script that actually runs the rsync:

ulimit -d unlimited
ulimit -m unlimited
ulimit -s unlimited
rsync [...]

The issue is you need to setup your ulimits explicitely (just like Deutsch recommend), because of system setting. When you invoke a script from the cron, limits are not always set (according to the distribution). Set it in your script and it will work.

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