Install Tarsnap On a DigitalOcean VPS or Any Ubuntu 14.04 or Newer System

Securely and remotely backup your server using Tarsnap

Tarsnap is a great service. It’s extremely affordable and secure. I mentioned it briefly in my previous post about MySQL backups.

Tarsnap is only $0.25 / GB-month for storage and $0.25 / GB for bandwidth, which is extremely affordable. You can add funds to your account whenever you like, which is also very nice. Your initial fund deposit must be at least $5. You can signup for a Tarsnap account here.

Installing it on a stock Ubuntu 14.04 LTS installation requires some additional steps to get everything working nicely.

1. Install dependencies

sudo apt-get install build-essential ext2fs-dev zlib1g-dev libssl-dev 

2. Install Tarsnap

Download Tarsnap, I do it like this with wget:

wget --no-check-certificate

Now we need to extract, configure, and compile Tarsnap.

tar xfz tarsnap-autoconf-1.0.35.tgz
cd tarsnap-autoconf-1.0.35
sudo make install clean

3. Configure Tarsnap

First, copy the example config to the live config:

sudo mv /usr/local/etc/tarsnap.conf.sample /usr/local/etc/tarsnap.conf

If you receive an error with that command, like mkdir: cannot create directory , ignore it and continue on.

Next, we need to generate a tarsnap key for your machine. I like to keep my tarsnap key in my home directory, so I run something like this:

mkdir ~/.tarsnap
tarsnap-keygen --keyfile /home/youruser/.tarsnap/tarsnap.key --user --machine your-machine-name

You’ll be prompted for your Tarsnap password when running tarsnap-keygen.

Now, edit the tarsnap.conf file:

sudo pico /usr/local/etc/tarsnap.conf

Point the keyfile directive to the key file we created a couple steps ago. The top of your tarsnap.conf file should look similar to this now:

### Recommended options

# Tarsnap cache directory
cachedir /tmp/tarsnap-cache

# Tarsnap key file
keyfile /home/youruser/.tarsnap/tarsnap.key

4. Use Tarsnap to Make a Backup

You’ll want get familiar with the Tarsnap manpages. To create your first archive, with a name of servername-20140805, do this:

tarsnap -c -f servername-20140805 /home/youruser

That will backup the /home/youruser folder to Tarsnap! Depending on the size of the backup and speed of your connection, it could take quite some time to finish the backup.

Below is the output of tarsnap –help, if you’re interested.

You can read more about Tarsnap at their homepage, They also have a page describing their infrastructure setup, which is kinda neat. Tarsnap also runs a bug bounty program.

I’ve only tested this on DigitalOcean VPS’s running Ubuntu 14.04 x64, but it should work on most Ubuntu variants.

Did I miss something or get something totally wrong? If so, please let me know, the comments are open!


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One thought on “Install Tarsnap On a DigitalOcean VPS or Any Ubuntu 14.04 or Newer System

  1. Thanks for your interest in Tarsnap! The wget line hard-codes 1.0.35, but Tarsnap 1.0.35 is 5 years old (July 25, 2013). The latest release is 1.0.39.

    In general, I would suggest that people go to to find the latest version, to avoid out-of-date documentation.


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