in Web Development

Using Rsync to backup an Ubuntu server to Synology NAS

This is a short guide on how to set up rsync on a schedule, to backup and create snapshots of any remote server that allows SSH access to your local Synology NAS. It assumes you have some knowledge of using the terminal and SSH.

1. Set up a user.

First I would recommend setting up a separate user in Synology as this allows you to enable things like speed limit controls for the user, but you could do this process under the root/admin user if you wanted.

2. Enable SFTP Access

Via the control panel File Services > FTP > SFTP > Enable SFTP service, then open up a terminal and try SSH into your NAS e.g ssh [email protected] or ssh [email protected], enter your password and you should be logged in, if you aren’t or nothing happens check you have port 22 open on your firewall and that it’s forwarded to your NAS.

3. Once logged in edit the passwd file

 vi /etc/passwd 

If your not familiar with VI check a guide here or use your cursor to go down to the last line (which should be your newly added user) and enter “A” This will take you to the end of the line, you can then delete /sbin/nologin and replace with /bin/sh it should then look like this:


When you’re finished editing press ESC and then type :x, press ENTER.

I would also recommend changing the home directory (/var/services… as pictured above) to a different folder that sits in the root e.g /volume1/web-backup and adding the new user full access to this folder. As I had problems using a folder inside /homes so from here on in I’m assuming you have changed it to a folder in the root e.g /volume1/web-backup.

Allow access to a different folder with:

 chown newuser:users /volume1/web-backup 

4. Login as your newly created user

 su - new_user 

If you get any of the following messages

su: can't chdir to home directory '/volume1/web-backup'
su: can't run /sbin/sh: No such file or directory

The first is a permissions error, make sure that you have chown’ed the relevant folder , second is that you forgot to add /bin/sh onto the user both are covered in step 3

5. Add the SSH key to the remote server

Create the key, accept the default file location and press enter when it prompts for a password

 ssh-keygen -t rsa 

Copy the key to the remote server

 cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh [email protected] "mkdir -p ~/.ssh && cat >>  ~/.ssh/authorized_keys" 

Now try SSH into your remote server and it shouldn’t prompt for a password, if you get an error about permissions here’s how to set the correct permissions. .ssh directory permissions to be 700 (drwx——) and the public key (.pub file) to be 644 (-rw-r–r–). Your private key (id_rsa) should be 600 (-rw——-).

 chmod /volume1/web-backup/.ssh 700;chmod /volume1/web-backup/.ssh/ 644;chmod /volume1/web-backup/.ssh/id_rsa 600 

6. Schedule the backup and backup structure

I created 3 folders inside my local backup folder e.g


First try a test rsync, don’t worry this is a dry run as in it won’t actually copy anything.

 rsync --delete --stats -zav --dry-run [email protected]:/var/www/ /volume1/web-backup/www 

This should output something like:

Number of files: 212521
Number of files transferred: 71
Total file size: 8981539430 bytes
Total transferred file size: 265780 bytes
Literal data: 0 bytes
Matched data: 0 bytes
File list size: 5047457
File list generation time: 0.001 seconds
File list transfer time: 0.000 seconds
Total bytes sent: 171658
Total bytes received: 5300913

sent 171658 bytes  received 5300913 bytes  142144.70 bytes/sec
total size is 8981539430  speedup is 1641.19 (DRY RUN)

If you get any error like this:

 rsync: failed to set times on "/volume1/web-backup/www/.": Operation not permitted (1) 

It’s a permission problem check the folder your trying to write to the local folder on your NAS has the owner as the user your running rsync under in this article “newuser” is the owner of web-backup.

If all this runs smoothly you need need to create two files in the root of your web-backup folder.


Upload these files via the admin GUI or however you wish with the following contents

rsync --exclude /cache --delete --stats -zav [email protected]:/var/www/ /volume1/web-backup/www
rsync --delete --stats -zav [email protected]:/backups /volume1/web-backup/mysql

In my case I store my MySQL backups in a seperate location so there’s a second command to get those too.

 cd /volume1/web-backup/www; tar cvf /volume1/web-backup/snapshots/snapshot-$(date +%Y-%m-%d).tgz *
find /volume1/web-backup/snapshots -mtime +120 -type f -exec rm -f '{}' \;

This creates a .tar archive of the /www directory and puts it in snapshots. It also checks for archives older than 120 days and removes those. You could add another snapshot for your mysql data.

7. Add the scheduled task

Finally simply add the tasks in Tasks > Task Scheduler make sure they run under the user your created at the start of this tutorial.


Missing something from this article? Please let me know and I will add it to the article.

Write a Comment


  1. Great article! it is simple and easy to understand. Any idea how to add email notification for task completion ?

    • You would need to use a mail package not sure what is installed if anything but would need something like postfix or ssmtp

  2. hello, thanks for shared your knowledge. but i have a problem with step “3. Once logged in edit the passwd file” i cant found a text “web-backup:XXXXXXXXXX:Web Server Backup:/var/service/homes/web-backup:/bin/sh”

  3. Good tutorial, thanks.
    I was using your script for a year successfully, it stopped working after upgrading to DSM6 due to reset of configuration changes in /etc/passwd.

  4. Thanks! Excellent tutorial which finally helped me to set up a backup process.

    Before this I was pulling my hair off with connecting Synology to my webserver as my router was not on the short list of supported routers for automatic port configuration. I struggled with the setup for several days with no luck really connecting my Synology to neither Windows or Linux server.

  5. Thanks for nice article.
    I got 2 issues:
    1) /etc/passwd was overwritten by default on every boot, My changes was no keeped. A work around was to change the userID to < 1023
    2) UserId <1023 is not available for scheduled task i GUI.

    Are there any workaround?


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