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Updated 9/27/2007. Major changes to use OpenSSHD instead of freeSSHd.

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Let's face it, backing up data is boring. No one gets excited about it, and so I'll bet there many of you who still, in spite of your ever-increasing personal digital data stores, don't have a robust solution in place. You see that external hard drive next to your PC with all your backups on it? That doesn't count if it's not offsite. Ask yourself this: If your house burned down tomorrow, how much data would you lose? I'll bet there aren't many of you who could say "nothing".

So what are your choices for that offsite backup? Well, you could let Google look after your data. However, I find their costs a little steep. There are plenty of other online data storage providers too, but they all cost money. You could copy it all on to a USB hard drive and leave it at your parents' or a friend's house. But what about the photos from your holiday last month? When will they get copied onto it? And that album you bought on iTunes awhile ago? You can't quite remember if you bought that before or after your last backup, can you?

So you need a backup solution. At least for me, here are the requirements:

  • It has to be free.
  • It has to be easy as pushing a button.
  • It has to be offsite from your primary data storage.
  • It has to be secure.
  • It must be able to run on any PC without admin rights.

This How To will describe my solution for automatically backing up critical files offsite without using an online service. I use this solution to back up my home Linux box to the Windows machine I use at work all day. I have plenty of free space on my PC at work and no one minds if I use a little of my hard disk and bandwidth to back up some personal files.

Your company, however, may have different ideas, and you should check your workplace's computing policies before using company resources. But my technique can be used with any remote PC. For example, you could come to an agreement with a friend to back each other's files up. And my method works for either "push" or "pull" backups.

This article is going to assume that you have two Windows machines and you want to back one of them to the other over the Internet. We will call the machine that is being backed up 'server' and the other 'client'. It is also assumed that the reader is familiar with the free SSH client PuTTY, and that the account you log in to Windows with has a password attached.

I'll also use the word 'User' to describe the user you will be, erm, using. Sometimes you will see 'Kevin' instead and these are interchangeable. You shouldn't use Kevin as that's my name and not yours. Unless your name is Kevin too, then you should just go ahead and use it. Confused? Good..... let's start.

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