This is my guide on how to setup Rdiff-Backup to PULL server downloads from another server, after setting up this guide I changed some things and now use PUSH rather than PULL as this is more secure for the server you PUSH from.

See the PUSH version: How to: CentOS Virtualmin Automated Remote Back-ups with rdiff-backup – PUSH

1. Lets start with installing rdiff-backup on the backup server and then host-server (server to be backed up to the backup server) – make sure you get the same version installed on both servers:

yum install rdiff-backup

2. On the backup server, create a new account (Using Webmin) which will be used to perform the backup:



Real name:





No Login Allowed


3. Create a passphrase-free ssh key on backup server that will be placed on the  host server so that the backup server can log in to the host server and access the files automatically:

So on the backup server:

su -m rdiff-backup
ssh-keygen -t rsa
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/rdiff-backup/.ssh/id_rsa): /backup/.ssh/id_rsa
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in /backup/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /backup/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is: e0:fc:4a:8a:51:a8:c7:3a:e4:3a:3c:22:f9:4e:35:ca rdiff-backup@example

 Your key fingerprint will almost certainly differ from the example here.

Create an ssh config alias which defines how to contact the host server with the backup key. Place the following into /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh/config:

vim /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh/config

Paste this into the file and insert your settings where needed:

host example_backup
port xx
user root
identityfile /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh/id_rsa
compression yes
protocol 2

## host = your name for the host server

## hostname = the hostname or IP of the host server

## port = your SSH port

 Note that “compression yes” is optional, and you may wish to omit it the servers are connected over high-speed nets. 

This config entry enables the backup server to use the “hostname” example-backup wherever ssh expects a real hostname. ssh will use the information specified in the config file, which will result in a  automatic connection to the host server, using the specified key

You may need to make some file permission adjustments, it depends on your system:

chmod -R go-rwx /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh


4. Give permission for the backup server to access the host server and run rdiff-backup.

You need the public portion of the key you just generated on the backup server:

cat /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh/

You should see a really long key that starts with something like this – with being your backup servers hostname.

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAAB[...] [email protected]


Assuming that root@host server`s home directory is /root, we will construct a terribly long line in the file /root/.ssh/authorized_keys2 (on the host server). The line is so long that I’m going to break it in two here for demonstration purposes only, you must join this first line and the public key from above on one line, with only a space between them:


Now on the host server:

vim /root/.ssh/authorized_keys2

We will no paste the really long line in there – but we are splitting in up into two to make it easier to do-

so the firs part is the command that is allowed – with being ether your backup servers hostname or IP

rdiff-backup --server --restrict-read-only /",from="",no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding,no-pty

now place a space after the no-pty

then the second part is the long ssh-rsa we got from – cat /home/rdiff-backup/.ssh/ in the previous step

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAAB[...] [email protected]

so your final line should look something like this:

command="rdiff-backup --server --restrict-read-only /",from="",no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding,no-pty ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAABIwAAAQBFRCWgRVs0BhZ2FPxUgRsuWgSSLV7dD+7Db8uV5PRZxAUWWmO8Wbqh0C1daMT86D3BbBwtbC9Clxr7XgalHoL8v65qgl0TZBecGdFWC4Zt+s2YmkUmVcPv/idfnRCHgIhoUKsadsadzzHWef6p7MMCfCp/z7/34357fiwbQ0RCcWnQMORO/dgMJ5LSsXKCOPzsbTt1/i8NulTUNCjlVb4LsCGFX1wscRbXNT4Y6fKMURK0y3kvZ7s888+6utjPnLjVeR7FNL3NtAZyhvbZe6mDFf9G6Usef+4bCgpNBG2Ff2JPbpv0KW+S/Q2jIPhmhJFXs7IYwhPRSoJNUefjdBpvF7xRs/w== [email protected]

This entry in /root/.ssh/authorized_keys2 permits anyone with the specified key (i.e. [email protected] ( = backup servers hostname)) to connect with ssh from the host named (backup servers hostname or IP)  and issue the forced rdiff-backup command. It further restricts the ssh connection to eliminate port forwarding, X11 forwarding and a pty. The rdiff-backup invocation is also restricted to read-only operations starting from the root of the file system.

If you have any troubles, this step is the one which has most likely caused you problems. Here are some troubleshooting guidelines:

  • Make sure there are no line breaks in the authorized_keys2 entry.
  • Use the reverse DNS response for kitty’s IP address in from="backup server".
  • Make sure you copied the public key properly.
  • Ensure file permissions are set properly:

    To set the permissions run this command on the host server

    chmod -R go-rwx /root/.ssh
  • Make sure rdiff-backup is in root’s PATH, or add a full path to command="/path/to/rdiff-backup...".
  • Look in /var/log for help.


5. Perform a test backup and populate known_hosts.

You should now be able to perform a test backup. During this test ssh will probably ask you to accept the host server host key — you will need to complete this step before you can begin an unattended backup.

On the backup server:

cd /home/rdiff-backup
rdiff-backup example_backup::/tmp test-backup

If you are asked for a password or passphrase then something is wrong. Other than asking you to verify the host key it should succeed in performing a backup of example_backup::/tmp in  test-backup.

Assuming the first attempt asked you to verify the host key, run the test a second time to verify that it asks you nothing.


6. To include and exclude files and folders in the backup process.

We will create a file list that can both include and exclude files and folders on the host server to be backed up to the backup server. Its best to place this file in a folder in the rdiff-backup users home directory.

On the backup server:

Create a file called filelist.txt

vim /home/rdiff-backup/filelist.txt

##To exclude files/folders we have to place a “-” in front of the file/folder.

##To include files/folders we simply place the file/folders name in the list.

## For more examples see :

So lets place something like this into to file:

- /tmp
- /mnt
- /proc
- /var/tmp
- /var/cache
- /home/rdiff-backup
- /home/vdomains

## I exclude some of the normal directories but also the directory where other server backups are stored on the host server (/home/rdiff-backup) as as well as the home of my Virtualmin Domains, as I back this up using the Virtualmin backup feature as to also backup the Databases!

7. Create a cron job on the backup server  to initiate your backup – use webmin.

Execute as: 



rdiff-backup --include-globbing-filelist /home/rdiff-backup/config/filelist.txt example_backup::/ /home/rdiff-backup/


Pick a time – once a day or week or what ever you want!

How to: CentOS Virtualmin Automated Remote Back-ups with rdiff-backup – PULL
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