Plesk backup is a real pain in the backside, if your server disk space is limited, even when choosing to backup in a ftp repository. All the files are created locally and then send over via ftp.
Note that in order to implement this backup strategy, one must have an external backup space available like rsync.net (which I use) so that you can use the “rsync” command to transfer your files.
Minimising disk usage
In order to exclude any gigantic compressed (or not) archives being stored in your local hard drive, here is a little guide to help you avoid filling your server disk.
The first thing to backup regularly is the Plesk server configuration, this backup will not save the websites/email/database data but the content/configuration of your Panel, which is the first thing to restore if your server packs up.
Backing up Plesk (11) configuration
- Open your Plesk Panel as Admin
- Choose Tools & Settings from the Server Management sub-menu
- Click on Backup Manager
- Select Scheduled Backup Settings
- Activate the scheduled backup
- Select Store backup in: Server repository (or you can chose ftp there also as the files aren’t big, a couple of MB’s)
- I have set the Maximum number of backups in repository to “3”, but you can choose another value here
- Under the Backup content section, select ““
- Press OK
Obviously the choice of Schedule and prefix is at your convenience, I personally back up every day at 00:10 and the prefix is set to “configuration”.
If you aren’t using ftp, the content of this backup is stored in the /var/lib/psa/dumps/ directory. So in order to backup this on another server, simple rsync this location with a command that could be:
rsync -avz /var/lib/psa/dumps/ email@example.com:var/lib/psa/dumps
If you don’t want to keep aggregated data add the –delete option:
rsync -avz --delete /var/lib/psa/dumps/ firstname.lastname@example.org:var/lib/psa/dumps
To automate all this simply stick it in a cron (one can use the “Scheduled Tasks” under “Tools & Settings” (select root user) with a command that could look like this:
nice -20 rsync -avz --stats --delete /var/lib/psa/dumps/ email@example.com:var/lib/psa/dumps 2>&1 | mail -s "backups dir rsync report" you@youremail
I will refer to MySQL databases in this section.
Database content is important, and you must back them up regularly, be it incrementally or not. I have Perl scripts that are in charge of dumping the content of the entire dataset and compress it. The file for my setup ends up being about 300MB, which is acceptable. I proceed to dump the content of the dataset via a “schedule” (root cron) and another cron simply “rsync’s” this file over to the backup server.
All the email accounts are in /var/qmail/mailnames, the process is the same as above, use a rsync via a cron:
rsync -avz /var/lib/qmail/mainames/ firstname.lastname@example.org:var/qmail/mailnames
Same as email but the directory is /var/www/vhosts/ so:
rsync -avz /var/www/vhosts/ email@example.com:var/www/vhosts
There you have it, obviously I am providing this entirely as guidance and will in no way be liable for any loss you may get using these instructions. Even if you are on a cloud server (like me) it is a good idea to be able to extract files, especially databases or web content should a mistake be made that a cloud server cannot prevent like deleting a site by mistake etc…
Feel free to comment if you have any questions or if I have missed some important bits to backups that a Plesk backup may make which aren’t in this article.