How to Use rsync to Back up Data

Introduction

Rsync is a powerful tool for backing up data. It is a fast and efficient way to copy files and directories from one location to another. It can be used to back up data from a local machine to a remote server, or from one remote server to another. It can also be used to synchronize files between two different locations. In this tutorial, we will discuss how to use rsync to back up data. We will cover how to set up rsync, how to use it to back up data, and how to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

How to Use rsync to Back up Data

1. Install rsync: Rsync is a command-line tool for synchronizing files and directories. It is available for most operating systems, including Linux, macOS, and Windows. To install rsync on Linux, use your package manager to install the rsync package.

2. Set up the source and destination directories: Before you can use rsync to back up your data, you need to specify the source and destination directories. The source directory is the directory that contains the files and directories you want to back up. The destination directory is the directory where the backed up files and directories will be stored.

3. Run the rsync command: Once you have set up the source and destination directories, you can run the rsync command. The basic syntax for the rsync command is:

rsync [options] source_directory destination_directory

For example, to back up the contents of the “Documents” directory to the “Backup” directory, you would use the following command:

rsync -av Documents/ Backup/

4. Verify the backup: After running the rsync command, you should verify that the backup was successful. To do this, you can compare the contents of the source and destination directories. If the contents are identical, then the backup was successful.
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Introduction

Backing up data is an essential part of both individual and enterprise infrastructures. Machines with the Linux operating system can use rsync and ssh to facilitate the process.

Rsync is a command-line utility that lets you transfer files to local and remote locations. Rsync is convenient to use since it comes by default with most Linux distributions. You can customize the tool by using many of the available options.

In this use case, we will use SSH in combination with rsync to secure the file transfer.

Follow this tutorial to learn how to use rsync to backup data. The guide will list a few examples to illustrate how the process works.

How to use rsync to back up data

Prerequisites

  • Sudo or root privileges or a user with access to backup and destination directories
  • SSH access to a server via command line/terminal window
  • Rsync installed on the local and destination machine

Basic Rsync Syntax for Local and External Transfers

The syntax for using the rsync tool is different for local and remote transfers.

For local backups, the syntax follows this basic pattern:

rsync 
options
 SOURCE DESTINATION

To transfer files to an external location, we will use a pattern that is a bit different:

rsync 
options 
 SOURCE [email protected]_or_hostname:DESTINATION

In both cases, the source and destination are a directory or a file path.

Backing up Data with Rsync

For a better understanding of what rsync does, we will use the verbose switch -v. Additionally, since we will be backing up data in directories, we will use the archive mode -a for recursive syncing. There are many rsync options and examples, so use any of them you need for your use case.

Rsync Dry Run – Precautions

The rsync utility allows you to manipulate your data in different ways. So, be careful when backing up your files. If you use a wrong option or a wrong destination, you may end up mixing your data. Even worse, you may unintentionally overwrite or delete files.

For that reason, use the --dry-run option to confirm the tool does what you want to do. Accidental data loss can occur, but this option helps prevent it.

For simple transfers, you may not need to use --dry-run, but when a larger set of data is in question, we strongly advise that you do.

Use the basic syntax format and add --dry-run:

rsync
options 
 --dry-run SOURCE DESTINATION

Use Rsync to Back up Data Locally

We will start by performing a backup of a directory on the same Linux machine. The path can be any location – another partition, hard drive, external storage, etc.

Use the full path for both the source and destination to avoid errors.

For example, to back up a Dir1 from Documents to /media/hdd2/rscync_backup, use the rsync command in this form:

rsync -av /home/test/Documents/Dir1 /media/hdd2/rsync_backup
A terminal output when performing a backup of a directory on the same Linux machine using rsync.

The output shows the list of transferred files and directories and other transfer details.

Note: To create a new directory at the destination and back up your files there, add a trailing slash (/) at the end of the destination path. If you add the trailing slash to the source, then the source directory will not be created at the destination. Rsync only transfers its content in that case.

Use Rsync to Back up Data over Network

For secure data backup over the network, rsync uses SSH for transfers. Your server needs to be set to allow SSH connection.

Once you manage to connect to the remote machine over SSH, you can start backing up your data to a location on that machine.

For example, to back up Dir1 to backup on another machine over the network, enter:

rsync -av /home/test/Documents/Dir1 [email protected]:/home/test/backup
The terminal output when backing up data over network using rsync.

The output lists the directories and files rsync transferred to another machine.

You can check if the files really are on the remote server:

Checking a file list on a remote machine after using rsync to back up data.

If you are connecting for the first time, you will need to enter your password and confirm when you get a prompt. There is no need to enter a username for remote transfers if you want to connect as the current user.

Note: You can evade entering a password every time you want to back up data with rsync over SSH. Set up SSH key-based authentication, and you will be able to use passwordless login to the remote machine.

The example we used here assumes that SSH uses the default port. If you need to specify a different port for the SSH connection, use the -e flag and enter SSH options.

To specify port 4455, for example, run the above command in this format:

rsync -av -e 'ssh -p 4455' /home/test/Documents/Dir1 [email protected]:/home/test/backup

When needed, you can delete the source files after you transfer them to another location.

Compress Data when Backing up with Rsync

To save some space, you can compress your data before transferring it to another location. You can use rsync’s built-in option to compress data, or you can use a different tool to do that before running rsync.

To compress data during transfer, use the -z switch with your rsync command.

rsync -avz /home/test/Documents/Dir1 [email protected]:/home/test/backup

Another option is to use the zip command to zip your files or directory and then run rsync. In our case, we will zip Dir1 into Dir.zip:

zip /home/test/Documents/Dir1.zip /home/test/Documents/Dir1

Then transfer that file to another location:

rsync -avz /home/test/Documents/Dir1.zip [email protected]:/home/test/backup

Now, you have a zipped copy of your directory on a remote server. You can also do this for local transfers if you want to have a backup on another drive or partition.

Conclusion

This tutorial showed you how to back up data using rsync both locally and over a network. Take caution when using this tool and make sure you do a dry run if you are unsure about the rsync options you want to use.

You can check our other guides for more rsync examples or you can learn how to exclude files and directories with rsync.

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How to Use rsync to Back up Data

Backing up data is an important part of any computer user’s routine. It’s essential to have a reliable backup system in place to ensure that your data is safe and secure. One of the most popular and reliable methods of backing up data is to use the rsync command. Rsync is a powerful tool that can be used to quickly and easily back up data from one location to another.

What is rsync?

Rsync is a command-line utility that is used to synchronize files and directories from one location to another. It is a powerful tool that can be used to back up data from one computer to another, or from one server to another. It can also be used to synchronize files between two different computers or servers.

How to Use rsync

Using rsync is relatively simple. The basic syntax for the command is:

rsync [options] source destination

The source is the location of the files or directories that you want to back up, and the destination is the location where you want to store the backup. You can also specify additional options to customize the backup process.

Common rsync Options

There are a number of options that you can use with rsync to customize the backup process. Some of the most common options include:

  • -a: Archive mode. This option will preserve the permissions, ownership, and timestamps of the files and directories that are being backed up.
  • -v: Verbose mode. This option will display detailed information about the files and directories that are being backed up.
  • -z: Compression. This option will compress the data before it is transferred, which can help to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the backup.
  • -h: Human-readable output. This option will display the output in a more readable format.

Conclusion

Rsync is a powerful tool that can be used to quickly and easily back up data from one location to another. It is a reliable and efficient way to ensure that your data is safe and secure. By using the various options available, you can customize the backup process to suit your needs.

Jaspreet Singh Ghuman

Jaspreet Singh Ghuman

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Passionate Professional Blogger, Freelancer, WordPress Enthusiast, Digital Marketer, Web Developer, Server Operator, Networking Expert. Empowering online presence with diverse skills.

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