I'm running Ubuntu Server and I'm looking for an efficient way of performing nightly backups of particular directories using cron. However, since the computer isn't always on, I'd like it to just run when the computer is on and to keep the last 5 backups. Would I need to use a bash script of some kind to achieve this?

  • 1
    Do you have a place to already backup too? Could you expand more on your infrastructure? Oct 11, 2010 at 14:18
  • Thanks Marco, for the record I'm just running the server on my home network and was looking at backing up locally initially with a view to backing up to a Network Drive which I'm now working on. Oct 11, 2010 at 23:59

2 Answers 2


You can use tar and rsync for a combination of full & incremental backups and there is a tutorial here that sets it up to do nightly / weekly backups using cron.


rsync is an amazing backup tool that has inspired a lot of backup utilities, from easy bash scripts as referenced above to GUI applications that handle the grunt work for you. For workstations/toys, my favorite backup utility has got to be deja-dup, just for the straightforwardness and the simplified UI that i can comfortably recommend to my parents (the UI standard by which all applications must be judged :P ).

For headless systems, I'd go with rdiff-backup or duplicity, the app that powers deja-dup's backend.


  • forgot to mention. if the pc isn't an 'always-on' system, i'd suggest using acron instead of cron for scheduling, as acron will run "past-due" events whereas cron skips them if you boot the system after the scheduled time.
    – nathwill
    Oct 12, 2010 at 0:47
  • You can edit your answer as often as you want, feel free to add your new content there, consider comments as "meta" Oct 12, 2010 at 0:55
  • thanks for the tip Jorge. new to the site and still getting the hang of the ui... absolutely love the premise of promoting quality answers to the foreground.
    – nathwill
    Oct 12, 2010 at 1:01
  • To add to your cmment about acrone, you can also use @reboot in crontab, depending upon your needs.
    – kevinarpe
    Mar 24, 2022 at 14:39

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