Data Duplication Using Rsync for Windows

January 6, 2010

in Servers and Software

Even people who have fairly simple computing needs can have trouble keeping track of the various versions of all their files. Take, for example, a workaholic who spends all day working on a document, backs it up compulsively, and then takes that same document home on a USB (Universal Serial Bus) key, then copies that file to his home computer to so he can work on some finishing touches. There are now at least four copies of the same file on various machines. Now, imagine, the same workaholic goes back to work the next day but forgets the USB key at home and has to re-do the final changes to the document. Then, he has a brainstorm, makes a drastic change and finishes of the document. Now the file exists in several different versions on several different machines. Keeping track of which version is where can get confusing, especially a couple of days down the road. It is always possible to check the date and time when a file was modified, but if you’re copying a file back and forth it can be easy to forget to do so and overwrite a newer file with an older one. This is why, these days, many programs will automate what are called synchronization procedures which can help you keep your files up to date on all the devices you use. A very similar procedure can be achieved on a much larger scale by using what is called Rsync. If you are using a Windows-based operating system then you’ll want to use Rsync for Windows.

Rsynch for Windows deserves special mention because it is only lately that people have started to adapt the application for use with Windows-based computing environments. Rsync was originally designed for use with Unix systems and it is an extremely effective software application for insuring that files which are duplicated in multiple locations are kept in up to date. The program can handle specific files or entire directories while maintaining file structure. The process can synchronize the data and files on servers in remote locations across networks. Moreover, the software is extremely efficient. Very few remote connections are required and, once you have an existing duplicate file structure on a second machine, the process is extremely fast. The software will check what date is already on the destination drive or machine and only transfer the changes made to the data since the last synchronization. Only the new or altered files are transferred and, moreover, only altered parts of the files in question are transferred.

Unfortunately for Windows users there is no out-of-the-box Rsynch for Windows software available. The good news is that there are ways to run virtual-machine like ports of the application in a Windows environment. Cygwin, for example, incorporates much of the functionality of Rysnch and makes these functions available within an existing Windows environment. Operating Rsync this way takes a bit of know-how, but it can be an excellent tool for network administrators.

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