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Backups are implemented using ZFS snapshots. A snapshot captures the state of the dataset and all data in it at the time of its creation. If the data are later changed, you can still access the data as it was when the snapshot was created. You can read data from snapshots or restore dataset to a snapshot, but that will delete all data changed or added since the snapshot was created.

Snapshots can be seen and created in the Backups menu.

VPS backups are made every day at 1:00 AM, when each node creates a snapshot of all the datasets at once. Then the snapshots are moved to backuper.prg. Snapshots are kept for 14 days, older snapshot are deleted. In addition to these daily snapshots, you can create 6 extra snapshots. The created snapshots cannot be deleted, you have to wait until they are automatically deleted by daily backups.

Beware! NAS is not backed up to backuper.prg. Snapshots are local only and their only purpose is protection against the damage or unwanted deletion of data.

Snapshot deletion

Only NAS snapshots can be deleted. VPS snapshots can only be deleted by rotation of daily backups.

Restoring Backups

Restoring a VPS from a backup (snapshot) works the same way as it has until now. Restoring always works on the dataset level. If a VPS has subdatasets, rootfs is restored from the backup, subdatasets are not restored. I.e. it is possible to restore any dataset and this doesn’t have any effect on other datasets.

You can only make snapshots of an NAS manually. Since it is not backed up to the backuper, the restore process behaves the same way as zfs rollback -r, i.e. restoring to an older snapshot deletes all newer snapshots. It is an irreversible operation.

In order to restore data from a backup on an NAS without deleting snapshots, mount the selected snapshot to a VPS and copy the data.

Downloading Backups

Backups can be either downloaded through an online interface or a CLI. The CLI has the advantage of not having to wait for an e-mail with a link to the backup download location – we can start the download immediately or automate the whole process. We can either download a tar.gz archive or the ZFS data stream directly (even incrementally).

Incremental Backups

An incremental backup only contains the data that has changed since the previous snapshot. In order to help the client identify which snapshots can be downloaded incrementally, each snapshot contains a history indicator (number). Snapshots with the same identifier can be moved incrementally. The history flow can be interrupted by a VPS reinstallation or using a backup to restore. Afterwards, the history identifier is increased by 1 and the full backup needs to be downloaded again.

The history identifier is shown in the table with a list of snapshots in the Backups menu.

Downloading the Backup as a File

$ vpsfreectl snapshot download --help
snapshot download [SNAPSHOT_ID]      Download a snapshot as an archive or a stream

Command options:
    -f, --format FORMAT              archive, stream or incremental_stream
    -I, --from-snapshot SNAPSHOT_ID  Download snapshot incrementally from SNAPSHOT_ID
    -d, --[no-]delete-after          Delete the file from the server after successful download
    -F, --force                      Overwrite existing files if necessary
    -o, --output FILE                Save the download to FILE
    -q, --quiet                      Print only errors
    -r, --resume                     Resume cancelled download
    -s, --[no-]send-mail             Send mail after the file for download is completed
    -x, --max-rate N                 Maximum download speed in kB/s
        --[no-]checksum              Verify checksum of the downloaded data (enabled)

If the snapshot ID isn’t passed on to the program as an argument, it displays an interactive prompt:

$ vpsfreectl snapshot download
Dataset 14
  (1) @2015-12-04T00:00:02Z
VPS #198
  (2) @2015-12-01T09:08:28Z
  (3) @2015-12-01T09:10:10Z
  (4) @2015-12-01T11:25:55Z
  (5) @2015-12-01T11:36:03Z
  (6) @2015-12-01T11:54:51Z
  (7) @2015-12-01T11:55:19Z
  (8) @2015-12-01T12:02:27Z
  (9) @2015-12-01T12:27:50Z
  (10) @2015-12-01T12:37:50Z
  (11) @2015-12-01T12:55:46Z
  (12) @2016-02-29T09:56:03Z
  (13) @2016-02-29T10:08:31Z
  (14) @2016-02-29T10:08:35Z
Pick a snapshot for download:

We will be downloading the 4th snapshot (@2015-12-01T11:25:55Z):

Pick a snapshot for download: 4
The download is being prepared...
Downloading to 198__2015-12-01T12-25-56.tar.gz
Time: 00:01:37 Downloading 0.3 GB: [=====================================================================================] 100% 992 kB/s

Using the --format option we choose whether we want to download a tar.gz archive, a data stream or an incremental data stream. Under default settings, the tar.gz archive is downloaded.

We can either let vpsAdmin name the file (SnapshotDownload#Show.file_name), or choose our own location using the --output option. If --output=- is used, the output is redirected to stdout.

The program enables pausing the download (you need to use CTRL+C) and then resuming it again. If the --resume or --force options are not used, the program asks the user whether it should resume the download or start over.

The download can only start if the prepared file has not been deleted on the server in the meantime (the -[no-]delete-after option), which takes as long as a week since the first download attempt.

ZFS Data Stream

$ vpsfreectl snapshot send --help
snapshot send SNAPSHOT_ID            Download a snapshot stream and write it on stdout

Command options:
    -I, --from-snapshot SNAPSHOT_ID  Download snapshot incrementally from SNAPSHOT_ID
    -d, --[no-]delete-after          Delete the file from the server after successful download
    -q, --quiet                      Print only errors
    -s, --[no-]send-mail             Send mail after the file for download is completed
    -x, --max-rate N                 Maximum download speed in kB/s
        --[no-]checksum              Verify checksum of the downloaded data (enabled)

The difference from snapshot download is that a data stream is written directly to stdout in an uncompressed form so that we can mount it directly from zfs recv:

$ vpsfreectl snapshot send <id> | zfs recv -F <dataset>

An incremental data stream can be requested using the -I, --from-snapshot option

$ vpsfreectl snapshot send <id2> -- --from-snapshot <id1> | zfs recv -F <dataset>

Automated Backup Downloads

Automated backup downloads are performed using the backup vps and backup dataset commands. They are used the same way, the only difference being that the former uses the VPS ID as its argument while the latter uses the dataset ID.

These commands require ZFS to be installed, zpool to be created and root permissions. The program can be run directly under root, otherwise it will use sudo when running.

Upon startup, snapshots with the current history identifier are downloaded, as long as they do not exist locally yet. If possible, they are downloaded incrementally. In order for incremental transfer to work, the program must find the snapshot which is present locally and on the server at the same time. This means that backups have to be downloaded at least once every 14 days since the newest local snapshot gets deleted from the server after that time period and the program won’t be able to resume downloading backups – there won’t be any common snapshot.

$ vpsfreectl backup vps --help
backup vps [VPS_ID] FILESYSTEM       Backup VPS locally

Command options:
    -p, --pretend                    Print what would the program do
    -r, --[no-]rotate                Delete old snapshots (enabled)
    -m, --min-snapshots N            Keep at least N snapshots (30)
    -M, --max-snapshots N            Keep at most N snapshots (45)
    -a, --max-age N                  Delete snapshots older then N days (30)
    -x, --max-rate N                 Maximum download speed in kB/s
    -q, --quiet                      Print only errors
    -s, --safe-download              Download to a temp file (needs 2x disk space)
        --retry-attemps N            Retry N times to recover from download error (10)
    -i, --init-snapshots N           Download max N snapshots initially
        --[no-]checksum              Verify checksum of the downloaded data (enabled)
    -d, --[no-]delete-after          Delete the file from the server after successful download (enabled)
        --no-snapshots-as-error      Consider no snapshots to download as an error
        --[no-]sudo                  Use sudo to run zfs if not run as root (enabled)

If the program does not receive the VPS/Dataset ID as an argument, it either asks the user for it or it tries to identify the ID itself. The FILESYSTEM argument always needs to be provided. It should contain the name of the dataset where we want to store the backups.

The first argument of the program is the VPS/dataset ID, which can be confusing if a dataset is used, since the ID is not identical to the dataset name, but both are usually numbers.

Before we actually run the program, the --pretend option might come in handy – it shows us what the program would do, i.e. which snapshots it would download and potentially delete.

The --[no-]rotate option can be used to (de)activate the deletion of older snapshots in order to make room for the new ones. Unless we change other settings, we will have at least 30 snapshots (which currently means 30 daily histories) and a maximum of 45 snapshots (if we create some ourselves) and snapshots older than 30 days will be deleted.

The content of the FILESYSTEM dataset is managed by the program itself and the user should not create more subdatasets/snapshots in it. The downloaded snapshots are placed in subdatasets, which are named according to the history identifier.

Usage Example

$ vpsfreectl backup vps storage/backup/199
(1) VPS #198
(2) VPS #199
(3) VPS #202
Pick a dataset to backup: 2
Will download 8 snapshots:

Performing a full receive of @2016-03-07T18:12:58 to storage/backup/199/1
The download is being prepared...
Time: 00:00:56 Downloading 0.3 GB: [====================================================================================] 100% 1755 kB/s
Performing an incremental receive of @2016-03-07T18:12:58 - @2016-03-10T14:33:12 to storage/backup/199/1
The download is being prepared...
Time: 00:00:00 Downloading 0.0 GB: [=======================================================================================] 100% 0 kB/s

We can notice that the program downloads the first snapshot in full size and all the following ones incrementally.

A list of snapshots can be displayed using zfs list:

$ sudo zfs list -r -t snapshot storage/backup/199
NAME                                       USED  AVAIL  REFER  MOUNTPOINT
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-07T18:12:58     8K      -   284M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-07T18:13:21     8K      -   284M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-07T18:18:35     8K      -   284M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-10T10:18:03     8K      -   285M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-10T10:18:30     8K      -   285M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-10T11:49:00   160K      -   285M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-10T14:28:00   160K      -   285M  -
storage/backup/199/1@2016-03-10T14:33:12      0      -   285M  -

We can access our own data using the special .zfs folder:

$ ls -1 /storage/backup/199/1/.zfs/snapshot

Cron can be used to download backups regularly. The crontab record can look like this:


# Example of job definition:
# .---------------- minute (0 - 59)
# |  .------------- hour (0 - 23)
# |  |  .---------- day of month (1 - 31)
# |  |  |  .------- month (1 - 12) OR jan,feb,mar,apr ...
# |  |  |  |  .---- day of week (0 - 6) (Sunday=0 or 7) OR sun,mon,tue,wed,thu,fri,sat
# |  |  |  |  |
# *  *  *  *  * user-name command to be executed
  0  7  *  *  * root      vpsfreectl backup vps 199 storage/backup/199 -- --max-rate 1000

This means that the program runs every day at 7:00 AM (at this point, the backups in vpsFree should already have been be moved to backuper.prg) the backups will be downloaded using a maximum speed of 1 MB/s. Cron will send us the output of the command to the email set in the MAILTO variable. However, if we just want to check if it works, it is unnecessary for the email to be sent every day. This is why the program has the --quiet option, which ensures that only potential errors are printed.

If we download the backups using the root user, but vpsfreectl was installed by a standard user, the program has to be installed again with all dependencies.

Downloading a Full Backup Using a Slow/Unreliable Connection

With default settings, the backup command does not enable us to pause and resume the download since it doesn’t download the data to a file, but it directly sends it to ZFS. If we only have a slow and unreliable connection at our disposal, it can happen that the download fails and it is necessary to start over. However, we can use the --safe-download option to help ourselves. The option first downloads the data as a file and only then does it send it to ZFS. Because of this, the download can be paused and later resumed at any point. The disadvantage of this procedure is that it requires twice as much space on the hard drive since the data is simultaneously stored in a temporary file and the ZFS dataset. The temporary file is created in the folder from which the program is running.

Another problem can be encountered after a long period of downloading. This is because when the program is first started, it downloads all snapshots from the oldest to the newest one. If, however, downloading the oldest snapshot takes too long, it can be deleted from the server, which causes us to be unable to use it for incremental downloads later on and we have to download the full backup again. To solve cases like this one, there is the --init-snapshots N option, which tells the program that we only want to download N most recent snapshots. The safest method is using --init-snapshots 1, then we have 14 days to finish the download (the last pause can occur after 7 days). However, this is no cure-all since if the program is closed and run again on a different day, the last snapshot will be different and the download process will start over unless --init-snapshots has the proper value.

Detecting Missing Backups

Sometimes it can happen that the daily backup doesn’t occur and so the program doesn’t have anything to download. This situation typically isn’t considered an error – all the snapshots have simply been downloaded and the program doesn’t have anything to do. However, if backups are downloaded automatically using Cron, we have no way of finding out that no backups are being downloaded. This is why the program has the --no-snapshots-as-error option, which ensures that if the program doesn’t have anything to download, it returns an error. Errors are not hidden by the --quiet option, so Cron will send it to us via email and we will find out about the outage.

Downloading backups with a standard user account using sudo

If we don’t want to install or run vpsfree-client using the root user, the program can run under an unprivileged user as well. In this case, sudo is used in order to work with ZFS.

In the following example, we will install and use the program under the user vpsfree. First we create the user and install vpsfree-client:

# useradd -m -d /home/vpsfree -s /bin/bash vpsfree
# su vpsfree
$ gem install --user-install vpsfree-client

Add the following lines to /etc/sudoers.d/zfs:

Defaults:vpsfree !requiretty
vpsfree ALL=(root) NOPASSWD: /sbin/zfs

The user vpsfree will be able to run zfs as a root user even without the password, which is necessary if we want to run it using Cron.

Now we’ll try to run the program manually and then move it to the crontab. Let’s try requesting and saving an authentication token:

# su vpsfree
$ vpsfreectl --auth token --new-token --token-lifetime permanent --save user current

If you get an error stating that the program doesn’t exist, you will need to specify the whole path or add the correct directory to $PATH. Gems are installed to ~/.gem/ruby/<Ruby version>/, on my system the path to the executables is specifically /home/vpsfree/.gem/ruby/2.0.0/bin.

When we have a working client, we can download the first backup to the dataset that we have created. In this example, VPS #123 will be backed up to the storage/backup/vps/123 dataset.

# su vpsfree
$ sudo zfs create -p storage/backup/vps/123
$ vpsfreectl backup vps 123 storage/backup/vps/123

We will use Cron for regular downloads of further backups. Open the etc/cron.d/vpsfree file and add:


0 7 * * * vpsfree vpsfreectl backup vps storage/backup/vps/123 -- --quiet

PATH states the directory containing vpsfreectl. Note that we no longer need to provide the VPS ID for the program – the program stores it when it runs the first time.

Downloading Backups Under a Standard User by Delegating Permissions

Solaris/OpenIndiana and FreeBSD enable delegating the permissions to control datasets to various users. In this case, the program does not need root permissions at all, and neither does it need sudo.

We will assign the required permissions to the user vpsfree.

# zfs create storage/backup/123
# zfs allow vpsfree create,mount,destroy,receive storage/backup/123

In order for the user to be able to create subdatasets and connect them, the user needs permissions on the directory and file levels:

# chown vpsfree:vpsfree /storage/backup/123
It is necessary to modify the kernel settings in FreeBSD so that it allows users to mount:
# sysctl vfs.usermount=1

Now we can start downloading the backups. We use the --no-sudo option to ensure that the program doesn’t try to use sudo.

# su vpsfree
$ vpsfreectl backup vps 123 storage/backup/123 -- --no-sudo

General Options

  • --[no-]delete-after decides whether the downloaded file should be deleted from the server after a successful download attempt
  • --[no-]send-mail indicates whether we want to receive emails informing us that the backup on the server is ready for download
  • --max-rate N sets the maximum download speed in kB/s
  • --quiet disables all outputs, only errors are displayed
  • --no-checksum turns off the checksum count and checks (sha256, which can cause delays)

Restoring Downloaded Backups

Restoring VPS from a downloaded backup so far isn’t automated in any way. The downloaded backup can be uploaded to the VPS using rescue mode.

When the VPS is started into a rescue mode, we have access to the VPS's disk “from the outside”, similar to booting a live CD. Unpack the backup to the directory where the VPS's disk is mounted. After the VPS is restarted, it will start from the restored system. In case the backup contains a different Linux distribution than was there before, it is necessary to update the distribution info in vpsAdmin.

manuals/vps/backups.txt · Last modified: 2022/01/17 19:55 by Aither