Friday 19 September 2014

Ping Parade #3 -- Backup

Make automatic backups of important stuff using a dash of shell scripting + rsync + SSH + cron!


One of the advantages of setting up a Linux home server is providing a place to do that thing which everyone agrees is important but very few do consistently (or even once): backups. Hopefully you never experience any loss of data... but hope is not a plan! A little peace of mind can be gained in a few steps as I describe the simple backup solution I use to automatically mirror my laptop's home directory on my netbook server sitting on the local area network (LAN).

Step 0 - SSH

Configure OpenSSH and keychain as per these instructions. Keychain makes it easy to use a passphrase-protected encryption key and ssh-agent in automated scripts.

Step 1 - Script

Login to the server and create a backup directory to hold the contents of $HOME: mkdir ~/home-backup

On the local machine create a backup script - ~/bin/ - that makes use of the rsync file-copying tool. A sample script includes:

# Sample variables
rsync_options="--verbose --archive --delete"
exclude_items="--exclude=*[Cc]ache* --exclude=*[Tt]rash*"

. $ssh_agent
rsync $rsync_options $exclude_items $local_dir $destination

Make the script executable and run manually at least once to test...

$ chmod 755 ~/bin/
$ ~/bin/

Step 2 - Automate

Cron is a daemon that runs programs at specified times and I use the command crontab -e to setup my backup script to auto-run with the following parameters:

# To define the time you can provide concrete values for
# minute (m), hour (h), day of month (dom), month (mon),
# and day of week (dow) or use '*' in these fields (for 'any').#
# Output of the crontab jobs (including errors) is sent through
# email to the user the crontab file belongs to (unless redirected).
# For more information see the manual pages of crontab(5) and cron(8)
# m h  dom mon dow   command

# Daily backup of $HOME to the netbook server
55 23 * * * $HOME/bin/ >/dev/null

For an alternate, more flexible rsync solution that accepts options at runtime check out this more complete script that I call using this second script executed by cron that includes logging (un)successful backup attempts to file.

Happy hacking!