Backups with restic

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The restic utility provides a convenient and well-designed command-line tool for backing up files and directories.


The restic utility is a single executable file that provides all of the features to backup and restore data. The restic developers publish versions of the utility for Linux, macOS and Windows.

To backup your data, restic creates and manages snapshots. Each snapshot records a set of files and directories. These snapshots are stored in a set of data files, known as a repository. The data in each snapshot is de-duplicated before it is stored in the repository.

A restic repository can be in a directory on the same computer as the source files, or on remote storage, such as AWS S3. For security, each restic repository is always encrypted with a passphrase.

You also view and restore files from a repository with the restic command-line utility. This means that you can restore files from a repository to any computer that has a copy of restic.

By design, restic only handles the back up and restoration of files. You need to use other software to handle database exports, scheduling, logging, and notifications. Since restic is a command-line tool, you can integrate it with any other product or utility that works with the command-line. For example, you can pipe the output of commands to restic, which enables you to turn data exports directly into snapshots.

To use restic itself you only need these things:

  1. A copy of the restic utility. It is a single file, so there is no setup or installation process
  2. The address or location of the repository. This can be provided as an environment variable.
  3. Any secret(s) that are needed for accessing the remote storage that holds the repository
  4. The password for decrypting the repository. This can be provided as an environment variable or in a file.

Setting Up restic

Ensure that you use restic version 0.14.0 or above. This is the first version that compresses backups.

Creating a Remote Repository on S3

The built-in support for AWS S3 enables restic to use an S3 bucket to store a repository. Multiple systems can back up to the same repository, but for security, you should use separate buckets for different sets of computers.

Create the S3 bucket first, before you setup restic. We need to do this, because the current version of restic will check whether the specified bucket exists, and if it does not, restic will create the a new bucket with that name on AWS in the US East region.

Multiple systems can back up to the same repository, but for security, you should use separate buckets for different sets of computers.

Installing restic

You can install restic with the package manager of your Linux distribution, or Homebrew on macOS. To ensure that you have the latest version of restic, you should download it directly from GitHub instead.

The simplest ways to orchestrate backups with restic are to write a shell script or systemd unit files.

Alternatively, use this Ansible role for restic, which can install restic for system-wide use, and set up scheduled backups.

Manually Installing restic Into A Home Directory

Download the file for restic from GitHub, and then set permissions on it:

mkdir -p $HOME/.restic/bin
curl -L | bunzip2 > $HOME/.restic/bin/restic
chown -R $USER:$USER $HOME/.restic/bin
chmod -R 750 $HOME/.restic/bin

Manually Installing restic for System-Level Use

Download the file for restic from GitHub. Once the file is downloaded, set the permissions to limit who can use it, and then give it the capabilities to access the whole system:

curl -L | bunzip2 > restic
mkdir -p /opt/restic/bin
mv restic /opt/restic/bin
chown -R root:$USER /opt/restic/bin
chmod -R 750 /opt/restic/bin
setcap cap_dac_read_search=+ep /opt/restic/bin/restic

All of these commands apart from the first require administrative privileges.

Environment Variables for restic

Set environment variables in the .profile for your account, or in the script.

If you use S3 for the remote repository, you will need to provide four variables:



Running restic

Before you run restic, ensure that the hostname for the system is set correctly. Each restic snapshot includes the hostname of the source.

Run this command to set up the repository:

restic init

A simple example script:


restic backup --exclude={.aws,.ssh} --tag test1 /home

If you use S3, restic create objects with the STANDARD storage class by default. Use the option to specify a different storage class for objects.

To view the snapshots that are in the repository:

restic snapshots