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rsyncbackup is a handy tool for scheduled backups using rsync. rsyncbackup lets you easily setup multiple source folders, and destinations, both locally, your ipod or external firewire disk, or remote destination using ssh.

rsyncbackup has no GUI, but are based on editing configuration files. The script is meant to be run in a crontab, so user interaction is not neccesary.

Warning: Basic terminal skills required. Please read the readme.html or look at the product homepage.

What's New

Version 1.0:

  • Great improvement of user manual.
  • Added support for remote sources. This allows synchronizing in example bookmarks, configuration, iPhoto and iTunes library and much more between several computers.
  • Fixed growl error notifications to be sticky.


Mac OS X 10.2 or later

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Anonymous Member IconReview

Since having a hard drive lose its partition table (along with two weeks' worth of work) a few years ago I've always been conscious of the need for backups but have been reluctant to spend the money on a pricey commercial tool. That left me floundering around trying to manually locate and back up the critical files on my laptop, since there's nothing worse than discovering that some key piece of information has been assigned to oblivion by a mechanical failure.

So for quite some time I have been looking for a cheap (i.e. free) and effective backup solution for my laptop. And with a few small caveats (feature requests, really), I think that I've found it in rsyncbackup.

The first thing to point out is that rsyncbackup has no GUI, it's command line all the way, so you'd better be comfortable with the Terminal or you might as well go out and buy Retrospect or another commercial tool. The lack of a GUI is my only reason for giving Ease of Use a '2', because those of you who are fine with conf files will find this application simple to configure.

There are essentially three conf files (the fourth isn't one you'd play with on a regular basis) -- sources, destinations, and backupset -- that define what is being backed up, where things can be backed up to, and what the relationship between the two is.

So to do a remote backup of my Thunderbird directory I would need to do the following:

1. Define a 'source' -- I won't go into the syntax here, but you give your source a name and then point it at the local Thunderbird directory.

2. Define a 'destination' -- again, you give your destination a name, and then give it a path that can be either local or remote. You will need to be running the SSH daemon on remote machines since it doesn't appear support other transfer methods (personally, I have no problem with this).

You could also easily define a script within the source definition that would smb mount a directory from the target machine and then treat it as a local copy, but that's not quite the same thing.

3. Define a 'backupset' -- here I would match the source ('thunderbird') to the destination ('linux') and define it as part of a backup set under an arbitrary name (where I could group it with other sources going to the same destination or set this source to backup to multiple destinations).

Then you would probably want to set something up in the crontab so that this backup occurs automa[tg]ically.

You also have the option of defining incremental and whole file backups depending on the destination.

On the whole, I found the entire process to be quite simple and easy to set up for a trial run. From installing rsyncbackup to kicking off my first full backup took me less than 1 1/2 hours, which I consider to be very good given the lack of a GUI.

The documentation (a single HTML file) is well-written and clear, and the only problem that I experienced was that the documentation and the sample configuration files differed in a few places, making it hard to determine if the documentation was a little out-of-date, or the sample files were (hint: for me it was the sample conf files).

The syntax for defining sources, destinations, and backupsets was straightfoward, and there's a nice feature to insert a simple one-liner script into a destination definition so that you can, for instance, ping a machine before trying to backup to it. If the ping returns 'false' then the backup is aborted and as email alert can be sent if you have Postfix running locally. The same applies to local backups, so in my case since I'm using an external HD for my backups I run a '-d' test to check that the HD is attached and mounted before running.

I would like to see a little more documentation about how this feature works and whether I could call external scripts that return 0 or 1 instead of an embedded one-liner...

There are a few features that I would really like to see added to rsyncbackup to really round out its feature set:

1. Support for some simple context interpolation -- it occurred to me that it would be handy to be able to datestamp the backups in some way. So if I could define a destination of '/Volumes/Backups/%y%m%d' or '${year}${month}${day}' then that would be really handy. An ideal solution would be for the developer to provide some default ones (i.e. the date and time, the machine name, the user name) and then to provide us with the ability to pass in additional parameters at run-time.

One area where I could see this being very useful is CD backups -- if I insert a blank CD and give it the name "Backup 01/01/2004" and could then run `rsyncbackup -b -s CD` and it would find the CD image based on the date stamp then I could easily back up to burnable media with a minimum of effort.

2. Support for maximum backup sizes (and for splitting a backup whose size exceeded the maximum across multiple media... I guess that this would require a new source type) would also be useful. This fits in with my desire to do easy CD/DVD backups... it would be ever so convenient to define a backupset whose size could not exceed 640MB and then just receive an alert for what didn't fit onto the disk, or have rsyncbackup divide the backup into two sets (with a .1 and .2 suffix) of 640MB each.

3. The ability to filter certain types of files out of the backupset. Let's say that I only wanted to backup the Word docs in my Documents directory, it would be nice to be able to constrain the backup on *.doc (or, since this is Perl, m/\.doc$/). This feature could also be important for incremental backups -- some binary files are not ammenable to incremental backups, so it would be nice to have incremental backups of changed text files but full backup of, say, Photoshop files. Alternately, the ability to define which files can be incrementally backed up and which can't on a global level would be quite useful.

I'd like to make clear, however, that all of these are just quibbles, and the fact remains that Andreas Solberg has obviously put a great deal of effort into creating a free tool that is quite easy to use (provided that you have a basic knowledge of Perl and the Terminal) for anyone who cares to pick it up. Clearly, the price just can't be beat so, I heartily recommend it for everyone feeling guilty about their lack of a backup solution.

So hats off to Mr. Solberg, and I have one last request -- please provide us with some other way to thank you other than PayPal. I'm not keen to link up my credit card to a PayPal account at this time, but I would very much like to send you a sign of my appreciation for your work.

Reply1 reply
Version 0.5
Andreas Åkre Solberg (Developer)

Thank you for your detailed review.

Regarding "The ability to filter certain types of files out of the backupset.";

This is currently possible by using --exclude and --include rsync options. I will improve the documentation on this point.

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> 4 1


Current Version (1.x)


Downloads 7,907
Version Downloads 3,497
Type Utilities / Backup
License Free
Date 13 Dec 2004
Platform OS X / PPC 32
Price Free
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