Introducing the Linode Backup Service

May 4, 2010 1:55 pm

You do have backups, right? Yeah, we thought so. Backups are a good thing, but they’re tedious to configure and monitor. We’ve all heard the stories (and possibly experienced them) about some poor soul losing valuable data because the time wasn’t invested in a working backup system — or worse, false security was placed in a backup system that was unreliable.

Given how critical backups are, our goal for the Linode Backup Service was ambitious: to create a completely managed, reliable and highly available system, that’s easy to use (set-it-and-forget-it), affordable, and “just works”.

One click is all it takes to enroll your Linode in the backup service and to start protecting your data. We manage the entire system, from making sure our backup boxes are healthy, to monitoring for failures. We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to. What’s your data worth?

For pricing and additional details: Linode Backup Service.

59 Responses

  1. I’m a bit disappointed that your offering works at the file level only. This has two flaws: you will depending on the POSIX handling by the filesystem for backup integrity (ACLs, attributes, anyone?) You will not support blind encrypted backups (unless using fuse-based encrypting fs-es perhaps).

    Obviously this leaves me (lvm2) and a lot of others (zfs, encryption, xfs,jfs anyone?) in the cold. Also, the notion that you have to be able to get at the ‘raw’ file contents implies that I trust you with them.

    Now, maybe I’m just paranoid. But, don’t worry, you guessed it: I already had backups anyway

    $0.02

  2. Our backup service targets those that aren’t using the more advanced configurations that our platform allows for. Those that are more advanced, like you, are likely to already have a backup system in place. This service is all about simplicity and lowering the barrier for people to enjoy the security of having a backup system protecting them and their data, who might otherwise not bother at all with it and be left high and dry when/if something happens.

    As much as I’d love to have the more advanced configurations covered too, it just didn’t make sense during design.

    For what it’s worth, unpartitioned XFS and JFS volumes will work just fine with the backup service. We actually had working ACL+attr support but removed it during the beta, because not a single beta participant utilized them and it added significant overhead to the backup routine, so it got the axe.

    Thanks for your comments Seth.

  3. Great news!

    Are the backups being housed at the same data center as the Linode which is being backed up, at a different Linode datacenter, or off-site somewhere?

    In an ideal world, your backups are being kept on hardware somewhere else than at a Linode datacenter.

    Maybe a future ‘Cadillac backup plan’ 😉

  4. I’m surprised you released it so soon I’ve still got a ticket open on it with failed restores, I just tested again and it still doesn’t work. I have my own backup system in place but your system would be handy for cloning since the current cloning method requires the server to be powered off.

  5. @Rowan your bug was non blocking, and a fix was staged and deployed this afternoon.

  6. Yep it works now, I should have know a fix was around the corner, I’ve not got used to having a hosting company that responds so quickly, kudos linode!

  7. @Dom They are on-site backups, stored on dedicated hardware

  8. Are backups encrypted?

  9. Why does it back up the swap image? I know you wan to keep this simple, so not much configuration what gets backed up. But it seems odd to back up a swap image, you could ignore that based on partition type or how it’s used by the run configuration.

  10. Great idea to offer this service. What took so long? 🙂

    Personally, i think $5/month is way too expensive for the backups i need. 4 Levels of backup is good stuff, but for me, it’s overkill.

    If the service backup up either once a day or once a week, and cost $1/month. I’d grab it without hesitation. But paying so much when i use so little, doesn’t make much sense for me.

    Alternatively, charge by space used. Us smalltimers really wouldn’t use much in incrementals. Or just offer to backup the entire image. Restore could be done by renting another linode for the duration of the restore.

    Better yet. Don’t charge for backups. Charge for a restore.

    Please don’t let my comments overshadow the congratulations deserved by this milestone. It’s out of my price range, but i’m still happy it is offered,

  11. @Eugene no. but then again, neither is your host

    @Robert how do you know it’s actually backing it up? IOW: it’s not.

    @Brian If you have the time to take care of your own backups and restores then that’s great. Our system is one button restore, integrated into the Linode Manager, and provides an incredible time savings (and thereby value) when you really need it most. Thanks for your comments.

  12. @caker: because the total size required for restore is the sum of space used on my main disk image plus the size of the swap image.

  13. @Robert this is intentional, otherwise restores wouldn’t be one click. You’d have to create the swap image manually, add it to the config profile, etc. The way we do it now, the entire Linode’s state is restorable. Swap images are small enough to be inconsequential anyhow. Thanks for your comments.

  14. Question: Are the snapshots instantaneous, or do they represent the state of files over a couple of minutes of time? I.e., do you split some kind of mirror, and then copy the mirror, or is it sequential copies of the filesystems?

  15. I like it, thank you. I wanted a simple, easy to use, don’t need to think about it much backup system.

    I for one, find it worth the money. Perhaps one day, when I’m better with Linux I could move away form such a service but for now, I find it a value add even for the additional money.

    Furthermore, I’m glad it’s an option and not included via a price increase.

    Thank you Linode team! You guys / company are a model of how other companies should be ran.

  16. @Ed They’re instantaneous. We snapshot all disk images at once, then perform the backup.

    @Frank We’re glad you like it! Thanks for your comments.

  17. @caker Thanks for the explanation. Understood. I really like the insight into the reasoning behind e.g. forgetting about ACL support.

    Thanks for sharing your actual thoughts on this!

  18. I just got the backup service and was wondering about the GMT -5 part. I am in the Pacific Time Zone and my Linode is in Fremont, CA. I would like for my backups to happen late at night around 10:00PM – 12:00AM Pacific Time.

    Can you advise me how to set the time of the backup. Since it’s Eastern Time Zone would I need to set it 3 hours earlier than the actual time I want the backup to occur?

  19. What about Database? We still need a manual dump?

  20. @Jaysen Yes, that’s correct. We’ll update the UI to be in the timezone set in your “My Profile” in an upcoming release.

    @Andrea Yes, you should if you want to guarantee a consistent archive.

  21. Guys, very cool, and I’ll definitely be taking advantage of this service in the next thirty minutes or so 🙂

    But I have a refinement of the question Dom asked above; I appreciate that the backups are in the same datacentre (and would have to be or there would be bandwidth costs), but are they in the same room and the same racks as Linodes?

    I was (up till a day or two ago) a WestHost customer, and they do backups for their hosting services, but when they had the great data centre disaster of 2010, they lost hundreds of disks, and for some unlucky folk (including me) their backups got trashed along with the server. Fortunately I was not reliant on their backup so I didn’t loose anything, but it was a salutary lesson the you need enough difference between prime source and backup or a disaster will occur.

  22. can’t help but notice, lots of wankers around here… just want to toss in my 2 cents. this service is fantastic. cheap and most of all it just works. i’m sure the linode staff invested time and money to have this feature implemented and to answer a need from their users… but apparently, you just can’t seem to please everybody. don’t mind them caker et. al… we love this! 🙂

  23. @David yes, the backup severs themselves are in the same cage as our other equipment, and potentially in the same cabinet as your Linode.

    @kahlil we’re glad you like the service! Thanks for your comments.

  24. @Caker – thanks for the clartification, and I’m signed up, yay. I think you should make clear that customers are still responsible for their data, or if the worst happens there will be lots of flak.

    @kahill – since mine was the most recent post and it did question the “quality” of the service – its really important to understand what a backup means. As stated, I was signed up to the service within minutes on both my linodes.

    Does it do what it says – well, without having tried a restore, it is simple to set up, certainly seems to back up, and looks like restores would be easy, so it looks like it rocks lots, and is another excellent service offering from Linode.

    However – if its your only backup then should something nasty happen (and this isn’t theoretical – it did happen at another first class hoster, google wsl00012) you can lose your server and your backup, as many people (including me) found out the hard way. Had I not had an offsite backup I’d have been schtuck, as it was, I just had work to do to restore service.

    So if your data on your linode has value, then this shouldn’t be one’s only backup, but its an excellent and brilliant option for 99.99% of the time. But you still need offsite backups.

    I find rsync between Linodes in different data centres (Dallas and Atlanta) to be another decent option in addition to the Linode provided backup. And I’m still in the process of implementing yet another backup to somewhere entirely non-Linode.

    “You can never have too much money, too much ram, or too many backups”…

  25. Congrats for the new service. This is so much needed for me that at the time of signing up I was getting inclined towards slicehost because of this. (see my tweet)

    I am glad to say that I made a perfect decision and I am really happy because I specifically asked linode about ETA for backup service and they didn’t make any false promise. Now I see the fact that backup was then 6 months away only which I would have happily accepted.

    Linode rocks as usual! 🙂

  26. @david: I understand what you mean and I do that as well… been using rsync.net ‘s services for my remote backup way before linode introduced this service… and as what you said, you can never have too many backups… two is one… one is none (gi jane). hehe.

  27. @david: I agree with your perspective. It would be nice if Linode / SliceHost could offer an optional feature by where your backups would get copied to another data center automatically, for a price of course. It would be easy enough to implement, and I’m sure many companies would demonstrate interest in it as insurance.

  28. Further clarification regarding databases: Will mysql databases be backed up along with everything else, or do they need to be handled differently?

    Also I’d second the push for a $1/month option for weekly backups.

    Finally, what is your policy on data privacy/security/confidentiality? I don’t see that in your Terms of Service and at some point that is going to be a concern.

    Thanks
    Daniel

  29. @Daniel Your entire filesystem gets backed up, however copying a live database’s working files is not that great for getting a consistent copy. Best to dump the DB to a file. Our privacy policy is here.

  30. Thanks for yet again raising the bar. I’m sure that you will continue adding improvements to this new system and look forward to seeing them.

  31. I like this!

    But, how do I know the backups are made? Can I download a backup copy for testing purpose from time to time?

    You said we should sql dump the database, but if we’re not, it still gets backed up right?

    Is there anything else besides the database that we need to process manually?

    Thanks

  32. caker: You say that the backups are based on snapshots taken across all filesystems at the same time, but then you say that copying a live database won’t produce a consistent copy. If it’s actually a snapshot, it will be crash-consistent, as if the power were yanked at a point in time, meaning that the DBMS should be able to recover. Could you clarify? Are you being extra-cautious recommending a dump or is it actually copying live filesystems?

  33. @William A snapshot is just that – a snapshot of your *live* block device at any given moment. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (for the third time): if you want a guaranteed consistent view of your database, without any DB recovery required or journal replaying, or half committed transaction issues to deal with, dump it out to a file. If you want to tempt fate and rely on your DB to deal with the recovery (some are more resilient than others), then don’t bother. There’s not much clearer I can get than that!

  34. Right now I rsync my files to my work (btw, rsync is awesome!), gladly my work has a fat pipe and gives me ~5GB of home space. I wish Linode provided offsite backups, but I can see how they can cost significantly more due to outbound traffic. If I currently needed a backup solution, this would be it!

  35. Your reply to William answered one of my questions.

    Still, would be good to be able to download the backup once a while, e.g.: once a month or something like that …

    But I’ve already bought the service anyway! 😀

  36. Just wanted to say thanks for this new feature. I myself probably won’t be taking advantage of it because of the cost, but as some others have mentioned, I would definitely go for a cheaper, less frequent backup option.

  37. I just wanted to add my $0.02, and say that I have been a Linode-hosted backup user since the first opportunity I got to try the beta service. I have already restored from snapshots twice, just to test the capabilities of the service, and everything performed flawlessly on my LAMP/SVN server. I didn’t even have to restore from the dumped mysql database (though I would never fully trust that)! Overall I have been impressed with the service, and will continue to use it as a first-line backup. Off-site backups are a must, so I will probably implement some sort of rsync-based approach until such a time as Linode adds an off-site backup option.

    I do have one important question. Currently, when a snapshot fails, the Linode panel gives rather terse error messages, such as “failed: two files could not be copied.” Is the Linode team planning to implement a more robust error logging/reporting feature for Linode users?

    Thanks again to the Linode team for this very convenient backup solution!

  38. Just to be sure…
    If I backup my linode with this solution, I’ll be able to restore the whole server (including all the configs and annoyins stuffs I had to learn and implement, like, security stuffs for ssh, eAccelerator, memcached blablabla…) and the data I care of (aka “my website”), just by clicking on a button somewhere in the linode manager ? Right ?

    When you say :
    “[…] It provides 4 backup slots. Three of the slots are executed and rotated automatically: a daily backup, a 2-7 day old backup, and an 8-14 day old backup. The fourth backup slot is a user-initiated snapshot and remains in place until another user-initiated snapshot is taken. […]”

    > Should I understand that only fourth slot is a complete snapshot (whole server) ? and others are only about data…

    As you can imagine I’m a total ignorant in those stuffs… so be cool with very “unexpert” explanations.
    All I’m wishing for is a big button saying “click on this, your complete server-setup is backuped”. That’s what this solution provide, right ?

    (Note: I understood that data which could have changed since last backup, eg some new contents published, won’t be part of the restore… but that would be minor impact for my concerns)

  39. @beb It would be a pretty pointless backup system if it didn’t do the one thing it is supposed to do by definition. So, yes – when you back up your Linode using our backup service, you can restore it.

    You enroll in the backup service, and each day your Linode is FULLY backed up. Those daily backups rotate out, so that you eventually have three slots throughout time (those times listed above).

    The snapshot slot is one that YOU initiate, it’s a FULL backup, and remains in place until you take another snapshot.

    You can restore from any of the slots.

  40. Thanks for the answer. Sounds perfect !
    I’m in

  41. Christopher, Could you comment on some encryption options that are compatible with the backup, and some that aren’t? I’m not sure exactly about the block vs. file access distinction. For example: EncFS – encrypted filesystem in user space, Loop-AES, dm-crypt, TrueCrypt. I’m basically looking for a way to encrypt Mysql data that will be compatible with the backup system.

    Ah hah … I just learned about ecryptfs. It looks like it works on a file-by-file basis. So this would be compatible with the backup system?

    Thanks.

  42. I was using LVM to get consistent backups from my Linodes, but this service is a nice substitute. (Yay, Linode!)

    My feature request is: Expose the backup tree so that it can be easily directly copied offsite, perhaps through rsync or rdiff-backup.

  43. Good to see this up and running — getting backups running on my linode last year was one of the most painful parts.

    That said, however, I now have daily incremental backups (weekly full backups) that go out to amazon s3, and the total cost is quite a bit less than $5. (less than $2 for months of daily backups in fact).

    I only back up data and config, and restoring will be slower… but it is theoretically more fault tolerant, is off-site and encrypted.

    I would consider Linode as an additional backup source — for less reliable but more convenient backups. However, to do that, I’d need the price to come in around the same as Amazon.

  44. Robb so long as any of those utilize an ext2/3 filesystem powering it all, that’s fine. The backup system doesn’t care what the contents of a file is (encrypted or otherwise), just that it’s a file at all, and on a mountable filesystem. Hope that helps.

  45. It would be very very useful to be able to download the images, to simplify doing your own offsite backups.

    Thanks for this great new service!

  46. Adminstrators can be divided to two groups who don’t make backups and who already doing 🙂

    Thanks for this great new service!

  47. Is it possible to get file access to the snapshots? It would be useful so that I could remotely push it to Amazon S3 or some other cloud storage system.

    This would help with the fact that currenlty backups are in-house.

    Thanks for the great service!!

    David

  48. No, not directly. You can restore the snapshot somewhere and then copy the files…

  49. Can anyone give me some information on how to restore a backup when you have utilized your entire disk space? The last time I tried to do this I received an error that there was no space left on the disk. Do I format the current install and then do the restore?

    Thanks in advance.

  50. This is what caker says:
    @David yes, the backup severs themselves are in the same cage as our other equipment, and potentially in the same cabinet as your Linode.

    This means that when disaster occurs, everything will gone away with the backups just like I have experienced 1 week ago with another hosting provider.

    There are 2 options
    1. Disaster! everything including backups fly away.
    2. No disaster! nothing lost, so no backup needed.

    In this situation, this backup system is useless, and very expensive. I am disappointed. Because it’s 10$/month for linode 1024 and the backups are on the same place with my linodes. So if I trust in this system, I will experience my second shock.

  51. Hello,

    I thought it was a bit expensive but decided to sign up anyway. I have backups but this would be a belt and suspenders thing for if say I got hacked. Not likely but it did happen once on a different provider several years ago.

    I had left enough unused disk space to duplicate my main disk, for example to make a temporary backup before upgrading the OS, but I think that is no longer necessary.

    I would like to say that while I am extremely happy with linode, which is why I bought the package, it is expensive (yes until you need it), and more than that, the cost of adding new disk space is really too expensive. I currently would like to increase my disk space to host some photos but I cannot afford what would be needed.

  52. It’s important to implement a backup solution that works well. Linodes is just one example of a great system.
    But I would also suggest that if anyone is looking into a backup and if you are a newbie user of Linode, try installing something like the Webmin control pannel open-source software. Webmin offers an option to backup the file system. How it works, I do not know, as I have not tested this. Has anyone else tryed using Webmin for a backup solution?

  53. I will totally sign up for this as soon as you enable restores of individual files. I don’t like the idea of having an all-or-nothing restore.

  54. Is there a way to get my backups copied off to DVD or some such? I’d like to be able to lay my hands on the backup, save it offsite, or something similar, on a periodic basis (weekly or monthly).

    I agree it would be really useful to be able to do a file-level restore.

    Has anyone tried Amazon S3 or Rackspace data hosting for online backups? They each run about $0.15 per Gig.

    Thanks

  55. I thought that the backups were stored on a separate drive and it didn’t matter how much disk space is left on my own Linode. i have allocated full disk space to my image and when I try and enable backups, it gives me a message…

    “You have selected extras that the host server does not have available. Please narrow your selection and try again.”

    Do I need to have enough space on my disk to store the backups or am I doing something wrong?

    If I need to resize the disk, is it safe to use the Linode manager or will I loose my data?

    Cheers

  56. I know linode can’t please everyone, but if @John is right:

    “There are 2 options
    1. Disaster! everything including backups fly away.
    2. No disaster! nothing lost, so no backup needed.”

    …is it really also true that it is NOT possible to copy the snapshots / backups to my local machine, or storage elsewhere?

    Forgive me if I’m repeating a question, but I’ve read through all the comments and I’m still in a bit of disbelief that this could be the case.

  57. I guess what I’m really asking is, is there any possible way to download the backups (ssh, ftp, some other really cool thing that I’ve never even heard of before, etc.), so that we can store a copy in a whole different location?

  58. This is honestly the most awesome idea.
    I only tested the backup service while it was in beta, and for me it worked just fine!
    I kno this comment is extremely late in showing up, but if you do want a simplified solution I say that it’s all worht it.
    Congratulations Caker in designing a ssytem that is a nice one to have.
    I’ll keep refering people wherever I can to Linode!
    I have successfully made about five referrals so far, and I have a feeling it’s because partly due to the services you provide. Keep up that good work in providing the best service for the dollar that you can.
    I can’t wait for your Birthday here in June!
    Linode referral URL for anyone else not already a customer of Linode viewing the blog:
    http://goo.gl/o8ITq

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