I have a server hosting files (~300 Gb) and I need to perform a full backup every week on an exernal USB drive. People without good IT knowledge need to be able to do it too, so it has to be a very simple process with a GUI.

The best thing would be a web interface allowing to mount the disk and perform backups.

What would be the best solution to provide users with a very simple backup tool on a headless server and how would you do this?

2 Answers 2


You could for example use Webmin for this. (http://www.webmin.com) You install it and then can access via webbrowser on port 10000

There you defined a custom command which mounts the USB disk, does the backup and finally unmounts it.

Then you create a user which has only access to this custom command and you have your manual backup solution ready.


Assuming the server is Linux, you can easily use 'autofs' to automatically mount your USB drives at a predetermined location. Your backup script will need to be smart enough to look at slightly different names for each USB drive's mount location. But those locations are predictable.

The bonus of 'autofs' is that it only mounts the drive when needed, then will dismount the volume after a configurable period of inactivity.

Create/Edit /etc/auto.master and insert where you want to mount your USB drives, the configuration file that maps each drive to the location, and the dismount timeout period.

# USB backup drives get mounted at /mnt/offsite/DRIVENAME /mnt/offsite /etc/auto.offsite --timeout=1800

Create/Edit the /etc/auto.offsite file.

# Each drive needs to be formatted with ext4, and UUID determined OFFSITE1 -fstype=auto,rw,noatime,data=journal,commit=1 :/dev/disk/by-uuid/b5c1db0d-776f-499b-b4f2-ac53ec3bf0ef

When the USB drive with that UUID is attached and you access the directory '/mnt/offsite/OFFSITE1', it will auto-mount and be ready for access.

Other then having to figure out the UUID of the USB drive after you format it with ext4, editing the auto.offsite file, and then restarting the autofs service; this results in a very foolproof method for hooking up external USB drives. The users just need to know enough to plug / unplug the drive each day/week. Everything else can be handled via scripts (checking the drive mounted properly, checking that the backup ran, checking free space, etc).

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