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Significantly, it preserves subdirectories, dev files, hard links, and critical file attributes such as permissions, uid/gid ownership, modification times, extended attributes, acls, and resource forks. It can work in a bandwidth-efficient mode over a pipe, in a similar way as the popular rsync backup tool.

rdiff-backup backs up a single directory to another over a network using SSH, implying that the data transfer is encrypted thus secure. The target directory (on the remote system) ends up an exact copy of the source directory, however extra reverse diffs are stored in a special subdirectory in the target directory, making it possible to recover files lost some time ago.