Backing up Windows Documents on Ubuntu Linux

I wrote earlier about getting a hard drive added to one of my Linux boxes so that I could do backups. I’ve been meaning to get backups in order for many years, but it’s been more urgent since about 10 months ago (yeah yeah, must not’ve been too urgent if it waited that long), when I lost all the data on my laptop and had to recover what I could from a backup I had manually made some months before. More precious than most of the data I might have lost in that case are the photos and videos we’ve accumulated of Lennie over the past two years. When I had to send M’s laptop in to the shop a few months ago, I made an effort at dumping her files onto a Linux fileshare, but it wasn’t terribly successful, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a long-term, self-sustaining solution. My project tonight was to put such a solution in place.

Backing up from Linux to Linux is simple, and I’ve had that going for several days. You just run rsync as a daemon on the fileshare, create a module, put the client’s public ssh key on the server, and run a cron job on the client that pushes to the module. All I had to to today to make this work on the new disk was move the files from one disk on the server to the other, edit the module in /etc/rsyncd.conf to reflect the new path, and restart rsync. Nothing to it.

Backing up the Windows box has been somewhat more challenging. I spent a few hours wrangling with a couple of different options for running rsync clients and daemons on the Windows laptop. I kept running into problems with weird Windows path issues, Windows firewall issues, other connection issues, permissions issues, and so on. It was very frustrating. Finally, I read a suggestion that one just mount the Windows directory on the Linux fileshare and then rsync locally. Simple and brilliant!

Ubuntu Linux appears not to ship with smbfs enabled, so after getting errors with the mount, I issued “apt-get install smbfs” to get that module. Then I did the following to create a mountpoint and a share:

mkdir /mnt/laptop_mleeka
mount -t smbfs //server/sharename /mnt/laptop_mleeka

This is of course after right-clicking properties on the My Documents folder on the Windows laptop and sharing the folder as “sharename.”

Once that was mounted, I issued the following:

rsync -a /mnt/laptop_mleeka/* houston@localhost::mleeka_bak

In this case, “mleeka_bak” at the end of the command is an rsync module I set up that manages permissions and file locations for the sync. The initial backup is running as I type. I understand that samba mounts are pretty slow, so it’s taking a while to haul the 9 GB of data across even my local network. Luckily, rsync is incremental, so in the future, it’ll sync only differences between the file systems.

All that remains is to add the mount command to /etc/fstab so that the server tries to remount the drive in the unlikely event of a reboot and to toss the rsync command itself into a cron job so that the backup takes place nightly.

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