I'd like to essentially tar/gz a directory on a remote machine and save the file to my local computer without having to connect back into my local machine from the remote one. Is there a way to do this over SSH? The tar file doesn't need to be stored on the remote machine, only on the local machine. Is this possible?
You can do it with an ssh command, just tell
tar to create the archive on its standard output:
ssh remote.example.com 'cd /path/to/directory && tar -cf - foo | gzip -9' >foo.tgz
Another approach, which is more convenient if you want to do a lot of file manipulations on the other machine but is overkill for a one-shot archive creation, is to mount the remote machine's filesystem with SSHFS (a FUSE filesystem). You should enable compression at the SSH level.
mkdir ~/net/remote.example.com sshfs -C remote.example.com:/ ~/net/remote.example.com tar -czf foo.tgz -C ~/net/remote.example.com/path/to/directory foo
For a simple way to copy a directory or file by compressing it only for the transport:
$ ssh domain.net 'ls foo' file1 file2 $ ssh domain.net 'tar czf - foo' | tar xz $ ls foo file1 file2