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File Transfer from/to de.NBI Cloud

At some point you want to use your own data in the de.NBI Cloud or you would like to copy the results from your cloud computation to your local device. Here we present different ways to copy data from or to the de.NBI Cloud. This tutorial is meant for users of the simplified cloud access portal SimpleVM. In SimpleVM a connection to the VM is made via an IP-Adress and a Portnumber. Therefore your have to always specify the port number which is used to connect to the VM. de.NBI Cloud users which access their VMs via OpenStack directly connect to the default SSH port 22 which can be omitted.

Different tools for different use cases

There are different tools for copying files from/to the de.NBI Cloud each for different use cases. Under Linux you can choose between different comman line tools. Some of them can also be used with a graphical user interface (GUI) by using a file manager. For Windows users it may be best to use a GUI tool like WinSCP. This tutorial will cover the following Linux tools:

  1. scp -- secure copy (remote file copy program)
  2. sshfs -- filesystem client based on ssh
  3. rsync -- a fast, versatile, remote (and local) file-copying tool

1. SCP -- secure copy (remote file copy program)

Secure Copy (SCP) is, as you already guessed, a command line tool for copying files from/to remote devices. It is based on the Secure Shell (SSH), which you already used to connect to your virtual machine. SCP will establish a connection to the remote machine, transfer the file(s) and close the connection afterwards. If you want to transfer more files you have to start SCP again.


Remote machine: The Virtual Machine in the Cloud should already have SCP installed.

Local Machine: Linux shippes SSH with SCP by default.


The usage is quite simple. To copy a file TO the remote machine use:

scp -i <id-file> -P <port> <file> <user>@<IP>:<path>

Example: This will connect to server 111.222.333.444 at port 30000 using the public key mykeyfile and will copy the local file data.csv from your local working directory to the remote machine as analysis/input/data.csv.

scp -i mykeyfile -P 30000 data.csv ubuntu@111.222.333.444:analysis/input/data.csv

To copy a file FROM the remote machine use:

scp -i <id-file> -P <port> <user>@<IP>:<path> <file>

Example: This will connect to server 111.222.333.444 at port 30000 using the public key mykeyfileand will copy the remote file analysis/input/data.csv to your local working directory as file data.csv.

scp -i mykeyfile -P 30000 ubuntu@111.222.333.444:analysis/input/data.csv data.csv 

2. SSHFS -- filesystem client based on ssh

SSHFS allows to mount a remote file system like a normal file system. The benefits of using SSHFS is that the file system remains available as long it is mounted. Furthermore, as the remote file system is mounted like a normal local file system, you can work on remote files like you work with local files by using default file access and transfer tools like ls, cp and mv. You basically don't have to think about if a file is on a remote or on a local machine. Furthermore modern graphical file managers like Nautilus, Thunar etc. recognize the mounted file system so you can access the remote file system with the graphical file manager.


There are two ways to use SSHFS:

Option 1: Install SSHFS on your local machine and mount the remote file system of the virtual machine on the local machine. This requires permission to install software and to mount file systems on the user level on your local machine.

Option 2: Install SSHFS in the remote virtual machine in the Cloud and mount the file system from the local machine in the remote virtual machine. This option allows the benefits of using SSHFS on local machines which do not allow the installation of software or mounting of file systems. We will focus on this option in this tutorial.

In general SSHFS is installed via:

sudo apt install sshfs


First we need to install SSHFS on the remote virtual machine

We create a directory as a mount point from which the mounted file system will be available. You can choose any direcotry name, but here we call it remotefs.

mkdir remotefs

Now we can mount the remote file system with SSHFS. The general command looks lie this:

sshfs <user>@<hostname>:</absolute/path/to/remote/directory> <mountpoint> -o IdentityFile=</absolute/path/to/identity_file> -p <portnumber>

Let's try a real world example: You want to access your local data directory /home/localuser/analysis by mounting it in the remote virtual machine in the directory /home/ubuntu/analysis.

sshfs user@111.222.333.444:/home/user/analysis remotefs -p 30000

In this case SSHFS will ask for local-user's password. In case you allowed connecting with a public/private key you have to provide the public key with -o IdentityFile=/home/ubuntu/mykeyfile. It is important to give the absolute path to the public key file.

To unmount the mounted file system use this command

fusermount -u <mountpoint>

Hint: If you mounted the remote file system in a subdirectory like subdir/remotefs you have to give the same path to fusermount to unmount it (e.g. fusermount -u subdir/remotefs)

3. RSYNC -- a fast, versatile, remote (and local) file-copying tool

Rsync allows synchronization of two directories, e.g. a local and a remote directory. It checks for the differences between the directories and only transfers the differences which speeds up the file transfer a lot. Furthermore, the data can be compressed before transfer, to speed up the transfer. This feature renders Rsync perfect for frequent file transfers of large directories or backup purposes. Rsync offers a large number of options as it is a very powerfull tool. Here we only describe the basics for a very simple file transfer between a local and a remote machine. Please see the manual page for a complete list of options (man rsync).


Rsync is installed by default on most Linux systems.


Rsync has to be installed on the local and the remote machine in order to work. To avoid confusion all commands are entered on the local machine. To copy the content of a local directory to a remote directory in the de.NBI Cloud via Rsync using SSH use this command:

rsync -avu --progress -e "ssh -i mykeyfile -p <port>" /local/dir1/ <user>@<IP>:/remote/dir2/ 

The trailing slash (/) at the end of dir1 tells Rsync to copy the content of dir1 to dir2 without creating dir1 inside of dir2. In case you want to create dir1 with all its content inside dir2 remove the trailing slash behind dir1 (so it will look like this: /local/dir1).

The parameters used are:

-a Archive mode: Copies files recursively and preserves users, groups, symbolic links, file permissions, and timestamps. -v gives a more detailed output. -u skip files that are newer on the receiver. --progress show file transfer progress. -e "ssh -i mykeyfile -p <port>" tell rsync to connect via SSH using the keyfile and port belonging to the virtual machine you want to connect to.

To copy data from a virtual machine in the de.NBI cloud to a local machine use:

rsync -avu --progress -e "ssh -i mykeyfile -p <port>" <user>@<IP>:/remote/dir1/ /local/dir2/

In some cases Rsync is not installed in the default installation path. In this case you have to tell where Rsync is installed on the remote machine with --rsync-path=/path/to/rsync. By default Rsync will delete files on the receiver side before any files are transfered. Rsync has very delicate options to delete files under different circumstances which cannot be covered in this tutorial. In case you are unsure what data will be transfered and/or deleted you can start a trial run with the option --dry-run. For detailed information consult the rsync manual page by typing man rsync.