Thomas Koch - personal blog

Know your tools - simple backup with rsync

Posted on June 9, 2022

I’ve been using rsync for years and still did not know its full powers. I just wanted a quick and dirty simple backup but realised that rsnapshot is not in Debian anymore.

However you can do much of rsnapshot with rsync alone nowadays.

The --link-dest option (manpage) solves the part of creating hardlinks to a previous backup (found here). So my backup program becomes this shell script in ~/backups/



FOLDER=$(date --utc +%F_%H-%M-%S)

LAST=$(ls -d1 ${SNAPSHOTS}/????-??-??_??-??-??|tail -n 1)

rsync \
  --rsh="ssh -i ${BACKUP}/sshkey -o ControlPath=none -o ForwardAgent=no" \
  -rlpt \
  --delete --link-dest="${LAST}" \
  ${SERVER}::backup "${DEST}"

The script connects to rsync in daemon mode as outlined in section “USING RSYNC-DAEMON FEATURES VIA A REMOTE-SHELL CONNECTION” in the rsync manpage. This allows to reference a “module” as the source that is defined on the server side as follows:

path = /
read only = true
exclude from = /srv/rsyncbackup/excludelist
uid = root
gid = root

The important bit is the read only setting that protects the server against somebody with access to the ssh key to overwrit files on the server via rsync and thus gaining full root access.

Finally the command prefix in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys runs rsync as daemon with sudo and the specified config file:

command="sudo rsync --config=/srv/rsyncbackup/config --server --daemon ."

The sudo setup is left as an exercise for the reader as mine is rather opinionated.

Unfortunately I have not managed to configure systemd timers in the way I wanted and therefor opened an issue: “Allow retry of timer triggered oneshot services with failed conditions or asserts”. Any help there is welcome!