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Mirroring Solution - lsyncd

Prerequisites

This is everything you'll need to understand and follow along with this guide:

  • A machine running Rocky Linux
  • A comfort level with modifying configuration files from the command-line
  • Knowledge of how to use a command line editor (we use vi here, but you could use your favorite editor)
  • You will need root access, and ideally be signed in as the root user in your terminal
  • Public and Private SSH key pairs
  • The EPEL repositories from Fedora
  • You will need to be familair with inotify, an event monitor interface
  • Optional: familiarity with tail

Introduction

If you're looking for a way to synchronize files and folders between computers automatically, lsyncd is a pretty great option. The only downside for beginners? You have to configure everything via the command line, and text files.

Even so, it's a program worth learning for any sysadmin.

The best description of lsyncd, comes from its own man page. Slightly paraphrased, lsyncd is a light-weight live mirror solution that is comparatively easy to install. It doesn't require new filesystems or blockdevices, and does not hamper local filesystem performance. In short, it mirrors files.

lsyncd watches a local directory trees event monitor interface (inotify). It aggregates and combines events for a few seconds, and then spawns one (or more) process(es) to synchronize the changes. By default this is rsync.

For the purposes of this guide, we will call the system with the original files the "master", and the one that we are synchronizing to will be the "target". It is actually possible to completely mirror a server using lsyncd by very carefully specifying directories and files that you want to synchronize. It's pretty sweet!

For remote syncing, you will also want to set up Rocky Linux SSH Public Private Key Pairs. The examples here use SSH (port 22).

Installing lsyncd

There are actually two ways to install lsyncd. We will include them both here, but the preferred method is to install from source. It's relatively easy to do this and there are few dependencies required. The RPM tends to lag behind the source packages by a little. That said, we want to give you both options and let you choose.

Installing lsyncd - RPM Method

Installing the RPM version is relatively easy. The only thing you will need to install first is the EPEL software repository from Fedora. This can be done with a single command:

dnf install https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/epel-release-latest-8.noarch.rpm

To install lsyncd, then, we just need to install it, and any missing dependencies will be installed along with it:

dnf install lsyncd

That's it!

Installing lsyncd - Source Method

Installing from source is not as bad is it sounds. Just follow this guide and you will be up and running in no time!

Install Dependencies

We will need some dependencies: a few that are required by lsyncd itself, and a few that are required to build packages from source. Use this command on your Rocky Linux machine to make sure you have the dependencies you need. If you are going to be building from source, it's a good idea to have all of the development tools installed:

dnf groupinstall 'Development Tools'

And here are the dependencies we need for lsyncd itself, and its build process:

dnf install lua lua-libs lua-devel cmake unzip wget rsync

Download lsyncd And Build It

Next we need the source code:

wget https://github.com/axkibe/lsyncd/archive/master.zip

Now unzip the master.zip file:

unzip master.zip

This will create a directory called "lsyncd-master". We need to change to this directory and create a directory called build:

cd lsyncd-master

And then:

mkdir build

Now change directories again so that you are in the build directory:

cd build

Now execute these commands:

cmake ..
make
make install

When done, you should have the lsyncd binary installed and ready for use in /usr/local/bin

lsyncd Systemd Service

Neither install method will create a systemd service for starting lsyncd on a reboot. We want to be able to do just that, because if you are mirroring files, you don't want the mirror to be offline because you forgot to manually start a service.

That's very embarrassing for any sysadmin!

Creating the systemd service is not terribly difficult, though, and will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Create The lsyncd Service File

This file can be created anywhere, even in the root directory of your server. Once it is created, we can easily move it the right location.

vi /root/lsyncd.service

The contents of this file should be:

[Unit]
Description=Live Syncing (Mirror) Daemon
After=network.target

[Service]
Restart=always
Type=simple
Nice=19
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/lsyncd -nodaemon -pidfile /run/lsyncd.pid /etc/lsyncd.conf
ExecReload=/bin/kill -HUP $MAINPID
PIDFile=/run/lsyncd.pid

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target
Now let's install the file you just made to the correct location:

install -Dm0644 /root/lsyncd.service /usr/lib/systemd/system/lsyncd.service

Finally, reload the systemctl daemon so that systemd will "see" the new service file:

systemctl daemon-reload

lsyncd Configuration

Whichever method you choose for installing lsyncd, you will need a configuration file: /etc/lsyncd.conf. The next section will tell you how to build a simple configuration file, and test it.

Sample Configuration For Testing

Here's an example of a simple configuration file that synchronizes /home to another machine. Our target machine is going to be a local IP address: 192.168.1.40

  settings {
   logfile = "/var/log/lsyncd.log",
   statusFile = "/var/log/lsyncd-status.log",
   statusInterval = 20
   maxProcesses = 1
   }

sync {
   default.rsyncssh,
   source="/home", 
   host="root@192.168.1.40",
   excludeFrom="/etc/lsyncd.exclude",
   targetdir="/home",
   rsync = {
     archive = true,
     compress = false,
     whole_file = false
   },
   ssh = {
     port = 22
   }
}

Breaking down this file a bit:

  • The "logfile" and "statusFile" will be automatically created when the service starts.
  • The "statusInterval" is the number of seconds to wait before writing to the statusFile.
  • "maxProcesses" is the number of processes lsyncd is allowed to spawn. Honestly, unless you are running this on a super busy machine, 1 process is enough.
  • In the sync section "default.rsyncssh" says to use rsync over ssh
  • The "source=" is the directory path we are syncing from.
  • The "host=" is our target machine that we are syncing to.
  • The "excludeFrom=" tells lsyncd where the eclusions file is. It must exist, but can be empty.
  • The "targetdir=" is the target directory we are sending files to. In most cases this will be equal to the source, but not always.
  • Then we have the "rsync =" section, and these are the options that we are running rsync with.
  • Finally we have the "ssh =" section, and this specifies the SSH port that is listening on the target machine.

If you are adding more than one directory to sync, then you need to repeat the entire "sync" section including all the opening and closing brackets for each directory.

The lsyncd.exclude File

As noted earlier, the "excludeFrom" file must exist, so let's create that now:

touch /etc/lsyncd.exclude

If we were syncing the /etc folder on our machine, there would be a number of files and/or directories that we should leave out. Each excluded file or directory is simply listed in the file, one per line, like this:

/etc/hostname
/etc/hosts
/etc/networks
/etc/fstab

Test And Turn Up

Now that everything else is set up, we can test it all. For starters, lets make sure our systemd lsyncd.service will start:

systemctl start lsyncd

If no errors appear after executing this command, check the status of the service, just to make sure:

systemctl status lsyncd

If it shows the service running, use tail to see the ends of the two log files, and make sure everything show up OK:

tail /var/log/lsyncd.log

And then:

tail /var/log/lsyncd-status.log

Assuming that this all looks correct, navigate to the /home/[user] directory, where [user] is a user on the machine and crate a new file there with touch.

touch /home/[user]/testfile

Now go to the target machine and see if the file shows up. If so, everything is working as it should. Set the lsyncd.service to start on boot with:

systemctl enable lsyncd

And you should be ready to go.

Remember To Be Careful

Anytime you are synchronizing a set of files or directories to another machine, think carefully about the effect it will have on the target machine. If you go back to The lsyncd.exclude File in our example above, can you imagine what might happen if /etc/fstab is synchronized?

For newbies, fstab is the file that is used to configure storage drives on any Linux machine. The disks and labels are almost certainly different. The next time the target machine was rebooted it would likely fail to boot entirely.

Conclusions And References

lsyncd is a powerful tool for directory synchronization between machines. As you've seen, it's not hard to install, and it's easy to maintain going forward. Can't ask for more than that.

You can find out more about lsyncd by going to The Official Site

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