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A tool for cloning/syncing a local directory tree with an SFTP server.


  • Keep in sync a local directory tree with a specified folder of an SFTP server.
  • Update symbolic links as needed and keep files consistent.
  • Automatic tilde expansion/handling on the SFTP server.
  • Public key authentication.
  • ssh_config entries compatibility.
  • Syncing exclusion patterns.
  • Compatible with both Python 2 and Python 3.


You can install sftpclone by using pip:

$ pip install sftpclone --user

Note: Sometimes building required dependencies in user mode doesn't work. In that case, you'd need to use sudo and to remove the --user flag. Alternatively, you could make use of a virtualenv.

Alternatively, you can clone this repository and then launch:

$ git clone
$ cd sftpclone
$ python install

In both cases, you'll find the sftpclone script in your path.


usage: sftpclone [-h] [-k private-key-path]
                 [-f] [-a] [-c ssh config path] [-n known_hosts path] [-d]
                 [-e exclude-from-file-path] [-t] [-o]
                 [-r --create-remote-directory]
                 local-path user[:password]@hostname:remote-path

Where, for each command line argument:

  • local-path: The path of the local folder. This path must exists and can contain ~ (we use tilde expansion).
  • sftp-url: It specifies the remote SFTP url having the form: [user[:password]@]hostname:remote-path. Both the password and the user field can be omitted. If you omit the former then you should specify a private key identity file. If you omit the latter then the current user is automatically used. The hostname can refer to a element of your ssh_config file. If the remote path contains ~, then it will be expanded to the default folder in which the user begins her SFTP session.
  • [h]elp: show the help message and exit.
  • private-[k]ey-path: the path to your private identity file. Set it if you are not using password authentication. It automatically defaults to ~/.ssh/id_rsa and can be used more than once.
  • [l]ogging: set the log level (ERROR by default).
  • [p]ort: SSH remote port (defaults to 22).
  • [f]ix-symlinks: if you have absolute symlinks pointing to your synced directory, they will remain consistent on the remote server: i.e., they will have an absolute path that reflect the path of the cloned directory on the server. Useful for cluster configurations.
  • ssh-[a]gent: enable ssh-agent support. Any private-[k]ey-path argument will be ignored.
  • ssh-[c]onfig-path: in the sftp-url's hostname you can specify an entry of your ssh_config file. If you are using a non-standard path, you can set it here.
  • k[n]own_hosts path: path to your known_hosts file. Default to ~/.ssh/known_hosts.
  • [d]isable-known-hosts: disable remote fingerprint check against local known_host file.
  • [e]xclude-from-file-path: the path to a file containing a list of patterns. Each file matched by these pattern will be ignored (not synced).
  • do-not-dele[t]e: do not delete remote files that are missing from the local directory.
  • all[o]w-unknown: do not ask for confirmation before connecting to unknown hosts.
  • -create-[r]emote-directory: Create remote base directory if missing.

Warning: be sure to select a proper remote folder. The synchronization process will indeed delete any file that doesn't exist in the local folder (unless you turn the -t option on).

ssh_config compatibility

The hostname in the sftp-url parameter can be a valid entry in a ssh_config file. Specifically, your entry should have relevant parameters such as:

  • HostName
  • User
  • Port
  • IdentityFile
  • ProxyCommand

Any value not found will fallback to the CLI arguments. Anyway, you have to set the IdentityFile field, otherwise authentication will try to fallback to ~/.ssh/id_rsa and could not work. The first hostname matching the pattern is chosen (in the ssh_config way).

known_hosts checking

By default sftpclone will match the remote host fingerprint against the one contained in your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file. If this file doesn't exists on your machine, you can specify a different path by using the -n option. Furthermore, you can disable the check with the -d flag. Unknown hosts will require the user to authorize the connection. Please note that, even after authorization, the known_host file won't be modified.

Exclude list

It takes inspiration from the rsync/tar --exclude-from flag.

You can specify among your command line arguments a file containing a list of patterns, one per each line. All those files that match any pattern will not be synced with the SFTP server.

Lines beginning with ; or # are ignored.

Each pattern is considered relative to the syncing directory. As a consequence, leading / are ignored.


; This will exclude any file or directory beginning with foo
; This will exclude any file foo in a subdir of the directory bar.

Programmatic usage

You can find some examples of programmatic usage inside the examples directory.


This project uses nose for testing. In addition, on Python 2 you'll need the mock module (part of Python standard lib from 3.3). In both cases, you can install test requirements with:

$ pip install -r test_requirements.txt

Then, You can launch the test suite by using, from the project root directory:

$ nosetests
$ python test # alternatively


A tool for cloning/syncing a local directory tree with an SFTP server




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