So far we’ve generated a fair number of configuration files, some email, and a database of Nextcloud files. These things must be backed up now, tomorrow, and every day after that. Otherwise, you run the risk of a hard disk failure destroying everything.

Luckily, routine tasks like backups are something computers are very good at. We’ll set up automatic backups that operate like this:

  • On your server, all files to be backed up are rsynced to a backup folder on the server every night.
  • Next, the backup folder is rsynced to a remote machine (if available).
  • Finally, the remote machine (or the server if you don’t have one) makes a tar.gz archive of the data, places it in long term storage, and rotates stale backups out.

Let’s get to work implementing this.

  1. Make a shell script called /root/ that rsyncs all of your data to a backup location. Here’s an example that backs up all of the files we have modified so far in constructing our Home Linux Server:
    # Handle rsyncs in a loop. This is a list of all folders and files we want to back up. Append additional paths to the end of the list.
    sync=(/var/www/ /etc/nginx /var/mail/ /etc/postfix/ /etc/aliases /etc/opendkim.conf /etc/default/opendkim /lib/systemd/system/opendkim.service /etc/dkimkeys/ /etc/dovecot/ /root/ /etc/gitlab/)
    # Perform the rsyncs.
    for file in ${sync[@]}; do
    	mkdir -p $backup/$(dirname $file)
    	rsync -Aax --delete $file $backup/$file
    # Perform dumps (must be done individually).
    # Back up MariaDB. If you named the database something other than nextclouddb when setting up nextcloud, replace the name here.
    mysqldump --single-transaction -h localhost -u root nextclouddb > $backup/nextclouddb.bak
    # Back up cron.
    crontab -l > $backup/cron.bak
    # Back up gitlab
    gitlab-rake gitlab:backup:create >> /dev/null
    cp /var/opt/gitlab/backups/`ls -t /var/opt/gitlab/backups/ | head -n 1` $backup/gitlab_backup.tar
    # Destination directory to sync $backup to (uncompressed)
    # Destination directory to store compressed backups. For example, a RAID unit or an external hard drive.
    # Location of script on remote host to rotate backups. This is created in step 2.
    # Sync the backup to a remote location. The --delete flag removes destination files that don't exist locally.
    rsync -Aaxzz --delete $backup $remote_user@$remote_host:$remote_backup
    # Create a tar.gz of the backup and rotate backups.
    ssh $remote_user@$remote_host "cd $remote_longterm_store && tar czf $(hostname -f)-$(date +"%Y%m%d").tar.gz $remote_backup && $remote_rotate"
  2. On the remote server create the shell script This script is responsible for organizing your backups. The following example retains daily backups for a week, one backup from each week for a month, and one backup from each month for a year. This is just an example; if your data is small enough and storage is plentiful it may be wise to retain backups indefinitely.
    # Ensure directories exist.
    if [ ! -d week ]; then mkdir week; fi
    if [ ! -d month ]; then mkdir month; fi
    if [ ! -d year ]; then mkdir year; fi
    # This script is called after someone dumped a tar into this directory. Place it in the correct folder.
    mv *.tar.gz week/
    # Function returns age of a file in days
    function age {
    	echo $((($(date +%s) - $(stat -c %Y $file)) / 86400))
    # Function rotates backups into and out of correct folders
    function rotate {
    	# Directory to move backups from
    	# Index to move move out of fromDir
    	# Directory to move backups to
    	# Minimum gap between ages of backups in toDir. Used to determine whether to move the backup or delete it.
    	# Deal with the oldest backups in fromDir
    	while :; do
    		thisFile="$(echo $(ls -t $fromDir) | awk -v pos=$moveFrom '{print $pos}')"
    		if [ -z "$thisFile" ]; then break; fi
    		toYoungest=$toDir/$(ls -t $toDir/ | head -n 1)
    		if [ "$toYoungest" == "$toDir/" ] ||  (( $(age $toYoungest) - $(age $thisFile) > $ageGapTo )); then
    			mv $thisFile $toDir
    			rm -f $thisFile
    # Syntax:
    # rotate from minIndexToMove destination minDestAgeGap(days)
    rotate week 8 month 7
    rotate month 5 year 31
    rotate year 13 . 0
    rm -f *.tar.gz
  3. Make both scripts executable and test them out. You should see that your backup directory fills with data and that it all ends up on the remote machine.
  4. Add the backup process to your root’s crontab.
    0 2 * * * /root/