Open Source Software vs. Commercial Software:
Migration from Windows to Linux
An IT Professional's Testimonial


Rsync (File Synchronization / Replication Utility)

Back when I used to use Windows XP, I became disgusted with the limitations on quality backup software. I had a few client workstations that I simply wanted to back up important files on a schedule, and replicate them to a file server. This task soon proved to be impossible. After trying Windows Backup, SyncToy, and other freeware applications I gave up and manually copied the files by hand. The big issue wasn't setting up a simple backup job, but being able to copy and replicate files while they were in use, and at the same time, not having to re-copy files that are gigabytes in size when only small sections of the file are changed. I wanted to schedule a task to run once per hour and back up files to ensure the backed up set was current and accurate. Unfortunately, doing just this in Windows is complicated enough that I couldn't find a solution that worked.

I already knew that Linux could handle this task very easily. Thanks to a powerful file synchronization utility called "rsync". Rsync is an awesome file synchronization tool. It is extremely efficient, and thus is used to synchronize files across the Internet a lot of time with FTP mirrors. It is so efficient that it can compare gigabytes of data over a slow connection in a matter of minutes, and patch the sections of files that it needs to. This means that gigabyte sized files can be modified, and rsync will only synchronize the sections of the file that changed. And, since Linux doesn't have all of the file locking limitations found in Windows, rsync can back up live data whether it's in use or not. It is simply amazing. I guess coming from Windows it seems amazing, but not surprising that Linux has this functionality.

In this case, I was setting up an rsync server as well so that I could back up the entire home folder for my login in my Linux computer. Install the xinetd package (needed by the rsync server only). Install rsync package (rsync 2.6.9) on the client and the server. Set up rsync server with /etc/rsyncd.conf and rsyncd.secrets (see man pages for rsyncd.conf). Set permissions on /etc/rsyncd.secrets to 660. Make destination folders on the server. Setup rsync script in cron.hourly on the clients (I will post this and more details on the configuration of this soon).

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