EC2 Backup and Restore

This page describes how to backup, verify, and restore a MongoDB running on EC2 using EBS Snapshots.

How you backup MongoDB will depend on whether you are using the --journal option, which is available in versions 1.8 and above.

Backup with –journal

The journal file allows for roll forward recovery. The journal files are located in the dbpath directory so will be snapshotted at the same time as the database files.

If the dbpath is mapped to a single EBS volume then proceed to Backup the Database Files.

If the dbpath is mapped to multiple EBS volumes, then in order to guarantee the stability of the file-system then you will need to Flush and Lock the Database.


Snapshotting with the journal is only possible if the journal resides on the same volume as the data files, so that one snapshot operation captures the journal state and data file state atomically.

Backup without –journal

In order to correctly backup a MongoDB, you need to ensure that writes are suspended to the file-system before you backup the file-system. If writes are not suspended then the backup may contain partially written or data which may fail to restore correctly.

Depending on your version of MongoDB, use fsync and lock or, after MongoDB 2.0, use db.fsyncLock().

If the file-system is being used only by the database, then you can use the snapshot facility of EBS volumes to create a backup. If you are using the volume for any other application then you will need to ensure that the file-system is frozen as well (e.g. on XFS file-system use xfs_freeze) before you initiate the EBS snapshot.

The overall process looks like:


Flush and Lock the Database

Writes have to be suspended to the file-system in order to make a stable copy of the database files.

Prior to MongoDB version 2.0, this is achieved through the MongoDB shell using fsync and lock:

mongo shell> use admin
mongo shell> db.runCommand({fsync:1,lock:1});
   "info" : "now locked against writes, use db.$cmd.sys.unlock.findOne() to unlock",
   "ok" : 1

MongoDB 2.0 added the db.fsyncLock() method to lock the database and flush writes to disk and added the db.fsyncUnlock() method to unlock the database after the snapshot has completed.

During the time the database is locked, any write requests that this database receives will be rejected. Any application code will need to deal with these errors appropriately.

Backup the Database Files

There are several ways to create an EBS Snapshot. The following examples use the AWS command line tool.

Find the EBS Volumes Associated with MongoDB

If the mapping of EBS Block devices to the MongoDB data volumes is already known, then this step can be skipped. The example below shows how to determine the mapping for an LVM volume, please confirm with your System Administrator how the original system was setup if you are unclear.

Find the EBS Block Devices Associated with the Running Instance

shell> ec2-describe-instances
RESERVATION   r-eb09aa81  289727918005    tokyo,default
INSTANCE      i-78803e15  ami-4b4ba522    ip-10-204-215-62.ec2.internal    running    scaleout    0    m1.large    2010-11-04T02:15:34+0000    us-east-1a    aki-0b4aa462    monitoring-disabled    ebs    paravirtual
BLOCKDEVICE   /dev/sda1   vol-6ce9f105    2010-11-04T02:15:43.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE   /dev/sdf    vol-96e8f0ff    2010-11-04T02:15:43.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE    /dev/sdh   vol-90e8f0f9    2010-11-04T02:15:43.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE   /dev/sdg    vol-68e9f101    2010-11-04T02:15:43.000Z
BLOCKDEVICE   /dev/sdi    vol-94e8f0fd    2010-11-04T02:15:43.000Z

As can be seen in this example, there are a number of block devices associated with this instance. You must determine which volumes make up the file-system to snapshot.

Determine how the dbpath is Mapped to the File System

Log onto the running MongoDB instance in EC2. To determine where the database file are located, either look at the startup parameters for the mongod process or if mongod is running, then you can examine the running process. In the following example, dbpath is set to /var/lib/mongodb/tokyo0.

root> ps -ef | grep mongo
ubuntu 10542 1 0 02:17 ? 00:00:00 /var/opt/mongodb/current/bin/mongod --port 27000 --shardsvr --dbpath /var/lib/mongodb/tokyo0 --fork --logpath /var/opt/mongodb/log/server.log --logappend --rest

Map the dbpath to the Physical Devices

Using the df command, determine what the --dbpath directory is mapped to

root> df /var/lib/mongodb/tokyo0
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
                     104802308      4320 104797988   1% /var/lib/mongodb

Next determine the logical volume associated with this device. In the example above, this is /dev/mapper/data_vg-data_vol.

root> lvdisplay /dev/mapper/data_vg-data_vol
  --- Logical volume ---
  LV Name                /dev/data_vg/data_vol
  VG Name                data_vg
  LV UUID                fixOyX-6Aiw-PnBA-i2bp-ovUc-u9uu-TGvjxl
  LV Write Access        read/write
  LV Status              available
  # open                 1
  LV Size                100.00 GiB

This output indicates the volume group associated with this logical volume, in this example data_vg. Next determine how this maps to the physical volume.

root> pvscan
  PV /dev/md0   VG data_vg   lvm2 [100.00 GiB / 0    free]
  Total: 1 [100.00 GiB] / in use: 1 [100.00 GiB] / in no VG: 0 [0   ]

From the physical volume, determine the associated physical devices, in this example /dev/md0.

root> mdadm --detail /dev/md0
        Version : 00.90
  Creation Time : Thu Nov  4 02:17:11 2010
     Raid Level : raid10
     Array Size : 104857472 (100.00 GiB 107.37 GB)
  Used Dev Size : 52428736 (50.00 GiB 53.69 GB)
   Raid Devices : 4
           UUID : 07552c4d:6c11c875:e5a1de64:a9c2f2fc (local to host ip-10-204-215-62)
         Events : 0.19

    Number   Major   Minor   RaidDevice State
       0       8       80        0      active sync   /dev/sdf
       1       8       96        1      active sync   /dev/sdg
       2       8      112        2      active sync   /dev/sdh
       3       8      128        3      active sync   /dev/sdi

The block devices /dev/sdf through /dev/sdi make up this physical devices. Each of these volumes will need to be snapped in order to complete the backup of the file-system.

Create the EBS Snapshot

Create the snapshot for each devices. Using the ec2-create-snapshot command, use the Volume Id for the device listed by the ec2-describe-instances command.

shell> ec2-create-snapshot -d backup-20101103 vol-96e8f0ff
SNAPSHOT     snap-417af82b     vol-96e8f0ff     pending     2010-11-04T05:57:29+0000     289727918005     50     backup-20101103
shell> ec2-create-snapshot -d backup-20101103 vol-90e8f0f9
SNAPSHOT     snap-5b7af831     vol-90e8f0f9     pending     2010-11-04T05:57:35+0000     289727918005     50     backup-20101103
shell> ec2-create-snapshot -d backup-20101103 vol-68e9f101
SNAPSHOT     snap-577af83d     vol-68e9f101     pending     2010-11-04T05:57:42+0000     289727918005     50     backup-20101103
shell> ec2-create-snapshot -d backup-20101103 vol-94e8f0fd
SNAPSHOT     snap-2d7af847     vol-94e8f0fd     pending     2010-11-04T05:57:49+0000     289727918005     50     backup-20101103

Unlock the Database

After the snapshots have been created, the database can be unlocked. After this command has been executed the database will be available to process write requests.

mongo shell> db.$cmd.sys.unlock.findOne();
{ "ok" : 1, "info" : "unlock requested" }

Verify the Backup

In order to verify the backup, you must do the following:

  • Check the status of each snapshot to ensure it is “completed.”
  • Create new volumes based on the snapshots and mount the new volumes.
  • Run mongod and verify the collections.

Typically, the verification is performed on another machine so that you do not burden your production systems with the additional CPU and I/O load of the verification processing.

Describe the Snapshots

Using the ec2-describe-snapshots command, find the snapshots that make up the backup. Using a filter on the description field, snapshots associated with the given backup are easily found. The search text used should match the text used in the -d flag passed to ec2-create-snapshot command when the backup was made.

backup shell> ec2-describe-snapshots --filter "description=backup-20101103"
SNAPSHOT    snap-2d7af847    vol-94e8f0fd    completed    2010-11-04T05:57:49+0000    100%    289727918005    50    backup-20101103
SNAPSHOT    snap-417af82b    vol-96e8f0ff    completed    2010-11-04T05:57:29+0000    100%    289727918005    50    backup-20101103
SNAPSHOT    snap-577af83d    vol-68e9f101    completed    2010-11-04T05:57:42+0000    100%    289727918005    50    backup-20101103
SNAPSHOT    snap-5b7af831    vol-90e8f0f9    completed    2010-11-04T05:57:35+0000    100%    289727918005    50    backup-20101103

Create New Volumes Based on the Snapshots

Using the ec2-create-volume command, create a new volumes based on each of the snapshots that make up the backup.

backup shell> ec2-create-volume --availability-zone us-east-1a --snapshot snap-2d7af847
VOLUME    vol-06aab26f    50    snap-2d7af847    us-east-1a    creating    2010-11-04T06:44:27+0000
backup shell> ec2-create-volume --availability-zone us-east-1a --snapshot snap-417af82b
VOLUME    vol-1caab275    50    snap-417af82b    us-east-1a    creating    2010-11-04T06:44:38+0000
backup shell> ec2-create-volume --availability-zone us-east-1a --snapshot snap-577af83d
VOLUME    vol-12aab27b    50    snap-577af83d    us-east-1a    creating    2010-11-04T06:44:52+0000
backup shell> ec2-create-volume --availability-zone us-east-1a --snapshot snap-5b7af831
VOLUME    vol-caaab2a3    50    snap-5b7af831    us-east-1a    creating    2010-11-04T06:45:18+0000

Attach the New Volumes to the Instance

Using the ec2-attach-volume command, attach each volume to the instance where the backup will be verified.

backup shell> ec2-attach-volume --instance i-cad26ba7 --device /dev/sdp vol-06aab26f
ATTACHMENT     vol-06aab26f     i-cad26ba7     /dev/sdp     attaching     2010-11-04T06:49:32+0000
backup shell> ec2-attach-volume --instance i-cad26ba7 --device /dev/sdq vol-1caab275
ATTACHMENT     vol-1caab275     i-cad26ba7     /dev/sdq     attaching     2010-11-04T06:49:58+0000
backup shell> ec2-attach-volume --instance i-cad26ba7 --device /dev/sdr vol-12aab27b
ATTACHMENT     vol-12aab27b     i-cad26ba7     /dev/sdr     attaching     2010-11-04T06:50:13+0000
backup shell> ec2-attach-volume --instance i-cad26ba7 --device /dev/sds vol-caaab2a3
ATTACHMENT     vol-caaab2a3     i-cad26ba7     /dev/sds     attaching     2010-11-04T06:50:25+0000

Mount the Volumes

Make the file-system visible on the host O/S. This will vary by the Logical Volume Manager, file-system etc. that you are using. The example below shows how to perform this for LVM, please confirm with your System Administrator on how the original system system was setup if you are unclear.

Assemble the device from the physical devices. The UUID for the device will be the same as the original UUID that the backup was made from, and can be obtained using the mdadm command.

backup shell> mdadm --assemble --auto-update-homehost -u
07552c4d:6c11c875:e5a1de64:a9c2f2fc --no-degraded /dev/md0
mdadm: /dev/md0 has been started with 4 drives.

You can confirm that the physical volumes and volume groups appear correctly to the O/S by executing the following:

backup shell> pvscan
  PV /dev/md0 VG data_vg lvm2 [100.00 GiB / 0 free]
  Total: 1 [100.00 GiB] / in use: 1 [100.00 GiB] / in no VG: 0 [0 ]

backup shell> vgscan
  Reading all physical volumes. This may take a while...
  Found volume group "data_vg" using metadata type lvm2

Create the mount point and mount the file-system:

backup shell> mkdir -p /var/lib/mongodb

backup shell> cat >> /etc/fstab << EOF
/dev/mapper/data_vg-data_vol /var/lib/mongodb xfs noatime,noexec,nodiratime 0 0

backup shell> mount /var/lib/mongodb

Start the Database

After the file-system has been mounted, MongoDB can be started. Ensure that the owner of the files is set to the correct user and group. Since the backup was made with the database running, the lock file will need to be removed in order to start the database.

backup shell> chown -R mongodb /var/lib/mongodb/toyko0
backup shell> rm /var/lib/mongodb/tokyo0/mongod.lock
backup shell> mongod --dbpath /var/lib/mongodb/tokyo0

Verify the Collections

Validate each collection to ensure it does not contain any invalid BSON objects.

mongo shell> db.blogs.validate({full:true})


Restore uses the same basic steps as the verification process:

  1. db.shutdownServer()

  2. ec2-create-volume and ec2-attach-volume.

  3. Mount the file system.

  4. Run mongod.


After the file-system is mounted you can decide to:

  • Copy the database files from the backup into the current database directory
  • Start mongod from the new mount point, specifying the new mount point in the --dbpath argument.

After the database is started, it will be ready to transact. It will be at the specific point in time from the backup, so if it is part of a master/slave or replica set relationship, then the instance will need to synchronize itself to get itself back up to date.