We are looking for a open source backup tool which supports incremental file backup for linux (like time machine ion mac). We want to backup a file share on our server. The tool should be as simple as possible and trigger the incemantal backup every night by a cron job. Any suggestions are welcome.


7 Answers 7


You need to be more specific about what you are trying to backup: recommendations may differ if you are backing up the contents of a database server, file server, desktop machine, and so forth. Also, how automated you want your backups to be (and conversely how much you might want to interact with the process) is also significant.

For the vast majority of my online backups I use rsync to produce a snapshot based backup, similar to the method described in this old-but-still-relevant document. If you prefer not to script this sort of thing up yourself, there is rsnapshot which is based on that article and rdiff-backup which uses similar techniques.

For offline backups I occasionally manually run the same sort of process to external drives that are temporarily plugged into an appropriate machine for the purpose. Often this is done on the backup server, as those are more more physically local to me, and is taking a backup of the most recent backups to save time and bandwidth.

Occasionally I run a full compare of the latest file server backups with the active filesystems (by running cd /location; find . -type f | sort | xargs sha1sum > /tmp/sums 2>&1 on both live and backup machines and comparing the resulting files, I've not automated this yet though I really should get around to that) and restore the mail+calendar+colab server backups to a clone of that server running in a VM. Remember: a backup solution can not be relied upon unless it is regularly tested. You don't want to find the backups haven't been working at the point where you need to restore from backup!


We've got a good experience with rdiff-backup.


BackupPC or rsnapshot. rdiff-backup is a pain. obnam might also fit your use case.

  • I am curious about what is your particular pain with rdiff-backup? Could you elaborate? I am currently trying choose a backup solution. Looks like there is too many alternatives and none of them is exactly 100% what I need...
    – snap
    Sep 21, 2011 at 16:55
  • 1
    rdiff-backup doesn't like to talk to different versions of rdiff-backup (that includes changes in "relese" number: 2.3.4 and 2.3.5 will complain) Sep 22, 2011 at 10:48
  • Also, pulling any other version than the latest from rdiff-backup takes very long, since it has to apply all the differences that it has stored. And if any of the differences are corrupt, you will not get back the original data. rsnapshot is much saner, but of course requires a bit more space.
    – ptman
    Sep 22, 2011 at 11:00
  • +1 for backupPC. It's brilliant. ;-) Easy to setup, and builds on things like rsync but gives the option of samba, tar+ssh, etc.
    – Sirex
    Sep 22, 2011 at 11:51

My favorite backup system right now is rsnapshot.

Some rsync+hard links util, flexible enough.

You can select "when","how much" etc. And its really simple.


I've had positive experiences with Areca Backup. It's a java backup tool with both a GUI and a CLI.

Features include:

  • Full, incremental or differential backups
  • Encryption
  • Compression
  • Moving the backups to USB, FTP, SFTP (SSH), FTPS
  • This is my top recommendation for most. Lacks rotation and retention policies.
    – Tim
    Aug 1, 2013 at 15:33

rsync is as flexible as you want it to be. Just write a little shell script and of you go.



There are 2 applications modeled after Apple's Time Machine: TimeVault and flyback

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