Creating consistent backups for EBS with EXT4 and quota

What’s this about?
Data security and backups are very important aspects when you work with servers, especially if you are using cloud infrastructure. I am using AWS(Amazon Web Services) as my preferred IaaS, so the following how-to is tailored for Amazon EC2 instances using EBS as storage for the web sites files. On my instance I have Ubuntu 10.04 LTS installed and on top of it I run ISPConfig 3.0.4(latest version at the moment I write this article). Some of the programs required to run this setup were already installed, but it should be pretty obvious if you miss anything. If you need help you can either leave a comment or contact me via email.

The following setup will allow you to create an EBS using EXT4 as file system, with quota enabled on it(for ISPConfig) and weekly backups of the EBS. In case of instance failure you should be able to launch a new instance and attach the EBS, without losing any web sites files. In case of EBS failure you can recreate one from the most recent snapshot.

Create an EBS in the same zone as your instance and attach it to your instance as /dev/sdf. This can be easily done from AWS Management Console.

Install xfsprogs

sudo apt-get install xfsprogs

Create EXT4 filesystem on /dev/sdf

sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdf

Now mount it temporarily

sudo mkdir /mnt/ebs
sudo mount /dev/sdf /mnt/ebs

Stop the apache2 web server and copy the files to /mnt/ebs

sudo service apache2 stop
cd /mnt/ebs
sudo cp -rp /var/www/* .

Prepare quota

touch quota.user
sudo chmod 600 quota.*

Add the entry to /etc/fstab

/dev/sdf /var/www ext4 noatime,nobootwait,usrjquota=quota.user,,jqfmt=vfsv0 0 0

Unmount the EBS and remount it to /var/www

sudo umount /dev/sdf
sudo mount /dev/sdf /var/www -o noatime,usrjquota=quota.user,,jqfmt=vfsv0

Enable quota

sudo quotacheck -avugm
sudo quotaon -avug

Start the apache2 web server and check that the web sites are working properly

sudo service apache2 start

Install ec2-consistent-snapshot script for weekly backups of EBS

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alestic
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y ec2-consistent-snapshot

Prepare first snapshot(I assume the cron will run as root user, hence I create the awssecret file in /root directory)

sudo touch /root/.awssecret
sudo chmod 600 /root/.awssecret

Edit .awssecret and add following lines, in this order, replacing ACCESS_KEY_ID and SECRET_ACCESS_KEY with your own, both can be found under Account->Security Credentials:


Test the snapshot creation with debug mode activated, replace VOLUME_ID with the right volume ID:

sudo ec2-consistent-snapshot --debug --description "snapshot $(date +\%Y-\%m-\%d-\%H:\%M:\%S)" --freeze-filesystem /var/www vol-VOLUME_ID

If everything went well you should be able to see your new snapshot in the AWS Management Console.

Finally add this to your root crontab (by running sudo crontab -e):

@weekly /usr/bin/ec2-consistent-snapshot --debug --description "snapshot $(date +'%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S')" --freeze-filesystem /var/www vol-VOLUME_ID>>/var/log/backup.log 2>&1

Make sure you put the correct VOLUME_ID!

This should be all, you now have all your web sites on EBS, quota is enabled and weekly backups enabled. I think I pretty much nailed everything you need in order to perform this setup, but if there are any issues feel free to leave a comment. Also I love getting feedback so if you found this article useful leave a comment also 🙂

Frederik smith

Ran into this, following your guide..

As explained when creating a new EBS:
Linux Devices: /dev/sdf through /dev/sdp
Note: Newer linux kernels may rename your devices to /dev/xvdf through /dev/xvdp internally, even when the device name entered here (and shown in the details) is /dev/sdf through /dev/sdp.


I’m using an EBS mounted as /mnt/data (/dev/xvdf /mnt/data/ ext4 defaults 0 0) and /var/www is symbolically linked to /mnt/data/www.
I do this because I am also symbolic linking a couple of files of /etc to /mtn/data/etc.
Do you think it’s bad practice?

I think another EBS just for /etc would be too much and with linking them onto my special /mnt/data I keep my configurations in one place.

Your tutorial is great and I’m gonna try out Snapshots which I wanted to do for a long time.
I am currently using duplicity to back up on S3 (full backup every 7d, incremental every night).
Any thoughts on that?

Thanks again for your insighful posts!


I don’t see any problem having multiple symbolic links pointing to the EBS.

Regading the issue of an EBS for /etc only I think that’s redundant, because the instance type I’ve used is EBS, thus is storing everything (including /etc) to an EBS. /dev/sda is an EBS and in the event of a crash you can detach that volume and reattach to another instance to recover data from it.

I haven’t used duplicity so I cannot give any advice on that.

zane matthew

I’ve looked into doing this, but stopped because you can only attach one EBS to one EC2 instance. In my case I was looking to run multiple EC2 instances and an RDS made more sense for my case.

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