I have a need to monitor a directory tree for any file changes. On changes I'd like to trigger a backup script (essentially a git commit, but including a database dump).

As I expect there will likely be more changes within a relatively short timeframe I'd like to wait for n seconds before executing the backup script to reduce the number of commits.

To sum up my requirements:

  • monitor a directory recursively for file changes
  • grace period of n seconds for further changes before execution of backup
  • any changes occurring during backup run must not be lost

Using javascript I would do something like the following on any file change:

if (timeout) {
timeout = setTimeout(callback, 60000);

I am not clear how to replicate such behavior using a bash script. My current approach is as follows:



inotifywait \
  --recursive \
  --monitor \
  --event attrib,modify,move,create,delete \
  --format %e \
  /usr/src/app/html/themes/ |

while read events; do
  flock -n /var/run/backup-watch.lockfile -c /usr/src/scripts/watch-backup.sh



# wait for more changes to happen
sleep 60

# run script

This has the waiting component but will ignore any changes happening while the commit-changes.sh script is running.


  • I considered using a node js script, but the node fs watch command does not allow recursive directory watching, so this is not an option.
  • Cron could be an alternative but I'd prefer to watch for changes instead of running on a schedule. The backup script will generate a new commit each time due to the db-dump being part of it. While I could make the backup more complicated by checking if there are any other changes but the db-dump I'd like to keep it simple there.
  • What distro are you using? The redhat line has auditd, which can be configured to watch files for changes and perform actions in response.
    – Centimane
    Jan 1 '17 at 22:09
  • @Centimane: Ubuntu (14.04 at the moment)
    – pintxo
    Jan 2 '17 at 9:31

Take a look at Lsyncd

Lsyncd watches a local directory trees event monitor interface (inotify or fsevents). It aggregates and combines events for a few seconds and then spawns one (or more) process(es) to synchronize the changes.

  • 1
    Looks like a viable option, but I'd rather like not to add another dependency to the system.
    – pintxo
    Jan 2 '17 at 22:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.