How I configured my Synology NAS and Linux to use rsync for backups

I've only used Linux as my daily driver for about a year so I still consider myself a newbie. I don't know about you, but when I'm learning new technologies, there's a fair bit of searching the web and experimenting. Some of that stuff works but some of it doesn't.

That's how I setup my Synology NAS to work with rsync and my Linux desktop the first time around. I eventually got it to work but I didn't do a good job of documenting how I did it. Plus, I always had this nagging sense that something I tried has misconfigured something that will allow a hostile actor to access my stuff. I finally took the time to reset my Synology so I could setup the NAS and feel confident only the required services are enabled.

Use case

My use case is I have a Linux PC and I want to use rsync to backup my files to my NAS. My NAS is a Synology DS220+ with two Seagate IronWolf 4TB drives setup in a RAID 1 configuration. My PC is a System76 Meercat running PopOS.

Synology NAS

First, I need to enable SSH and rsync on the NAS. I use my web browser to navigate to the IP address of my NAS on port 5000 ( and log in.

Navigate to Control Panel -> Terminal & SNMP then check the Enable SSH service check box. Select apply.

Navigate to Control Panel -> File Services. Select the rsync tab and select the Enable rsync service check box. Select apply.

Let's test out ssh by opening a terminal window on the local computer and trying to ssh to our NAS: ssh username@ When I did this on a freshly setup NAS, I received the following error message after logging in: Could not chdir to home directory /var/services/homes/username: No such file or directory.

I think it's probably OK to ignore the error message but that would bother me and brings to light an internal conflict. If I enable user home services on the NAS, does that increase the attack surface?! In the end, the desire for no error message won out. I enabled user home services on my NAS by going here: Control panel -> User & Group -> Advanced -> Enable user home services. Now when I ssh into my NAS, there's no error message. Very nice.

When I enabled the rsync service, a new share called NetBackup was automatically created so I think I'll just use that as my backup destination. My computer hostname is cleverly named workstation so I'm going to create a new folder called workstation as a subfolder of the NetBackup share.


My goal is to do automated backups using cron jobs so I want to add my ssh key to the NAS so I'm not prompted for a password when I run the rsync command.

Open a terminal window and issue the following command: ssh-copy-id username@ I'm running these commands on my desktop and you may need to generate ssh keys if you haven't previously done so on yours.

Now when I ssh to the NAS, I'm logged in using ssh keys, without being prompted for a password.

Here is the bash script that I use to perform my backups:

# init
today=$(date +"%Y%m%d")

# backup crontab
crontab -l > cron-backup.txt

# rsync to nas
rsync -avuz --delete --log-file=$HOME/Backup/${today}-backup.log -e ssh ~/{.config,.mozilla,.ssh,Backup,Desktop,Documents,Music,Pictures,Projects} username@$(hostname)

There's one detail that I struggled to understand about this command so I wanted to document this for anyone else who may be having the same issue.

When I first started building my script, I was trying to rsync to the network share by using this path as my destination: username@$(hostname). I had this working prior to reloading the NAS but I think that's because I enabled a manual rsync account under Navigate to Control Panel -> File Services -> rsync. This time around, I didn't want to enable the additional service; I wanted to use the username and password I use to log into the NAS web interface.

I was able to make this destination path work for me: username@$(hostname). I kiiiind of understand the difference here because if I ssh into my NAS and execute ls /, I can see there is a folder called volume1 and then I can see there's a folder called NetBackup under that. I presume there's some Linux file that I have to go edit and put in exceptions or allowances to allow my account to rsync directly to the SMB file share.

Let's setup a cron job to perform our backup automatically. Here is my output from crontab -e:


0 21 * * * cd /home/username/Backup && bash

I've read that cron executes jobs with a limited environment so I'm setting the SHELL statement to make sure it all works OK. This runs my backup daily at 9 PM local time.


So that's it! My computer now uses rsync to perform a backup to my Synology NAS and it does it automatically, once a day.

My buddy also has a Synology NAS and we're doing remote backups to each other's NAS so I do have off-site backups. I'd like to document that process as well so that is in the works!

Here are some resources I used while getting this setup:

Thanks for reading!

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