skip to content


All members of the faculty of mathematics are responsible for backups of files on their laptop. On this page we describe the approaches that we recommend users take.

There are two related services described here -- synchronisation and backup software. (1) Synchronisation services will replicate a directory structure on two or more machines, so that when files are added/deleted from one machine, these changes are replicated on the other machines. (2) Backup services take a snapshot of a directory structure of files at user-specified intervals; the user can then go 'back in time' to retrieve files from some previous snapshot.

In both cases, it is worth exploring whether you wish the files to also be stored 'in the cloud' as well as on your own devices.

Synchronisation software

  1. Nextcloud. The faculty runs a Nextcloud instance, with all users having a quota of 2GB for file storage. When Nextcloud is running, changes to files on your laptop are sent to the server typically within a minute. Nextcloud can also be used to synchronise files from your laptop to the faculty linux network. If your files are stored on Nextcloud, then you can always access your files from any machine by visiting
  2. Dropbox is a popular tool for synchronising files across devices. The University has a paid-for plan Dropbox business for those users with advanced needs. The client-software provided by Dropbox is commercial and driven by commercial decisions: in particular, there is no guarantee that they will continue to support arrangements of remote home-directories as used on managed Maths linux machines. Dropbox will store your files securely on the cloud, so you can access them from any machine via

  3. Unison is free software that duplicates a directory structure across two machines. Your files go directly from one machine to the other -- no copy of the files are kept in the cloud. You can therefore synchronise as much data as you require between the two machines.

Backup software

For most laptop users, we would recommend that you use software that is included with your operating system. In most cases there will be settings provided to vary the frequency and number of snapshots that are stored over time. It is a good idea to periodically test that you can retrieve a file from your backups to ensure that backups are working.


We recommend that mac users buy an external hard drive and then use Time machine. Time machine requires no cloud storage and therefore you are limited simply by the size of your hard drives. Alternatively, iCloud provides 5GB of free storage for backup of apple devices. Superduper is an advanced solution.


Windows users can backup folders from their laptop to OneDrive.


Backup solutions include Deja dup, Back in Time and rsnapshot. Alternatively, linux users may wish to write their own scripts that rely on rsync to make the backups, e.g. rsync-time-backup.

Page last reviewed: 2022-06-18 Next review due: 2023-06-18