PHP Developers Network

VPS directories not to backup
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Author:  bowlesj [ Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:47 am ]
Post subject:  VPS directories not to backup

Author:  bowlesj [ Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

It is from a hosting company. It is a low cost package (did that on purpose to force myself to learn). They backup the VPS weekly but they are slow to do a restore and expensive if you want it fast.

Author:  Weiry [ Wed Mar 18, 2015 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Author:  bowlesj [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Thanks Weiry, I appreciate your response and some of it I will be looking at today. Some of what you say I have done and some I have not.

Yes, I am running a single website (never will run multiple websites) and I basically will only be running (apache, mysql, php, my website scripts and related .jpg files in a subdirectory). I will run any software I will need for hacker protection (something I need to tighten up). I may run some website monitoring software some day but currently I am not (not much traffic expected for a while).

I did install linux on my home machine about 15 years ago but I only learned (bash, sed, awk, grep) really well. The GNU CD rom install took care of the Linux install and I never touched it (no need to worry about hackers changing things, no need to worry about wanting to be always running for users, no need to understand the kernel and where it is on the PC, etc).

Your response "This also reduces your backup size by a huge amount as you aren't backing up the OS itself." is probably the best thing you could have said since it exposes my fear of the unknown about this VPS backup and restore process. I am not completely sure how a VPS works. From what you are saying it sounds like the whole Linux operating system is duplicated on the machine for each VPS that is running (that kind of makes sense compared to my prior thinking that only part of the operating system files are inside the VPS). So if I drop the tar backup file in the "/" directory (which is inside my VPS of course) and run the tar extract this tar run then sets everything back to the way it was at the point of time I took the tar backup (including the full Linux operating system inside my VPS assuming that Linux is stored inside some of the directories - much like Windows is stored in directories). That last sentence is basically what one web page said occurs in terms of clobbering everything. I was thinking I should use the tar "p" parameter on both backup and extract to set the permissions back to the point of time I took the snapshot.

My biggest question is related to any stuff that hackers might install that is not on the backup (stuff since the last backup). If I just extract the backup and clobber everything with that snapshot it will not remove anything that the hackers have put out there. I seem to remember one website saying I should clear my VPS with a remove command (rm) and run the tar extract to bring everything back (scary). Yes I have done this many times on my home pc with acronis image backup/restore but I have no idea if I can do a complete erase of all directories and recreate of everything inside a vps as it is running (lets repeat the scary word). So far I have not found a good tutorial to convince me it is okay to run a remove command to blow away every sub directory from "/" down and expect the system to run until I do my tar extract. My assumption is blowing away everything below "/" wipes out the "Linux" operating system. The other thing I was thinking is the host company could reset the VPS (to the day I got it effectively wiping out the hacker stuff) and I would run the tar extract.

So maybe someone can help me with this fear. Currently I am using 1.6 gig of the 15 gig I have available to me and my website could take a long time to approach the use of the remaining 13.6 gig so a big tar backup file is probably not a problem. The mysql differential file will be huge but I can probably not do that and take mysqldump backups every hour if needed (I will be doing daily disk usage analysis to see if this file will fill all space). Hopefully when it gets too large I have enough users to warrant getting more disk space.

Author:  Celauran [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

A VPS is basically just a VM sitting atop a hypervisor. Your VM will have a full Linux install to which you have root access. I agree with Weiry's backup strategy; back up only the things you know you need rather than starting with the entire OS and trying to ascertain what to remove. Keep your config files. Keep any website content that isn't otherwise under version control -- user-generated content, for example. Back up your databases -- and these can be bzipped down to a fraction of their size since they're just text. The OS itself can always be reinstalled, and pretty easily.

Author:  bowlesj [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Thanks guys, knowing what a VPS is helps a lot and now I see the decision point. I basically agree with both of you except for this which Weiry I guess was thinking of. Knowing what to not back up versus knowing what to back up. Thinking about which of these two "knowing" I know best reminds me of something I have said to people over the years. "There is no way to know what you don't know until you take a test" or something very similar "There is no way to know what you have forgotten until you take the test". So considering practicalities "if I can blow away everything with (cd /) and (rm *) and return everything with a tar extract" This is something I know right now (assuming it can be done - LOL - Okay I know with 98% certainty it will work but then again I haven't taken the test have I! - LOL. Case in point: It took me several hours to get the tar backup to work until I figured out that I had to change the position of the exclusion -X parameter and the exclusion file to after the destination file. The better solution (which you are both suggesting) of only backing up the stuff I need and returning the operating system, I can't do fast at the moment but eventually I may get there - touch wood! I have decided to allocate a % of the day to marketing the website and a % of the day to increasing security (I need the test of bringing the site up to know if I know enough about security). It is just a matter of how much I will allocated to each. Currently most will go to increasing security until I feel safe to market it more heavily. Basically feeling better if 50 users wait for a week to get the system back rather than 1,000 users. In short, make those tests easier tests at first then increase the difficulty as you get a better feel for what you know.

I am readings Weiry's link about full backup now. Thanks for that. It is much better than the tutorials I found on the web before.

Author:  bowlesj [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Not directly applicable to a VPS I don't think but I was looking up "bare metal" restore and I found this interesting link. Maybe it is of interest to some.

Author:  Weiry [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Author:  Celauran [ Thu Mar 19, 2015 7:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Author:  bowlesj [ Fri Mar 20, 2015 8:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: VPS directories not to backup

Thanks guys, this is an absolutely great help at exactly the time I need it and I will be back to these posts and links again for sure. Weiry's virtual box idea for testing and returning backups is great. Celauran mentioned something like this before. I was planning to go back and look it up. I read about this Virtual Box product last night but did not connect this idea together with testing backups.

Here is something to give back (as best as I can). Maybe not for you guys but for others in my (heavy learning curve position).

I just took stock (in the form of a spread sheet) of what I have to learn about security and I figure it will take me six months to a year. It is a big task but I think back a year and I don't feel too bad. Last year at this time I did not know these even existed. (PHP, MySql, Apache, Javascript, jQuery, Domain-names, etc). Today my website with [110 pages + 110 help pages + 32 MySql tables + some PHP routines that are pretty complex matching records processing] went live and the website itself (without hackers to screw it up) is working great. Before my website went live, when I read about security, I would get sleepy. Now that the test is here I am wide awake about it and I am finding it very interesting actually. It is funny how pressure and timing work on the mind.

To deal with the complexity of learning this with material scattered everywhere with lots of duplication, I created a spreadsheet as a form of info gathering tool and todo list. It is basically a specialized record of what I have done and should do next. For anyone in my current position, here is the column format.

1/ Description of to-do (can add an excel comment if needed).
2/ Importance score (1 to 10) (helps me decide what is next) (can sort it).
3/ Done or not-done (+ small comments) (make it red if very high priority)
4/where I read it (description in the header and URL link in a 2nd header ")
Column #4 repeats across the sheet for every source (Often 10+ sources)

To make the picture of this spreadsheet more clear, lets say (row 5, column 1) was "Create Fire Wall (allow ports 22, 25 and 80)". Column #4 might repeat 10 times with "yes" at maybe three of the intersections. If the source is especially good I may put a different comment such as "Great! See bottom of page (or whatever)". Or maybe I could put "Great - see excel comment). If you don't know MS-Excel you hover over the cell to see the comment pop up.

So creating this spread sheet gives me an overview of what work I have ahead which in turn lets me set priorities for what to do in sequence (re-prioritizing as I go if needed) and a way to find out where I read whatever I read.

Right now I am not marketing the website since I now (with the overview's help) clearly see I have some high priority security stuff I need to get done first. Yesterday I backed up everything on the VPS (first weekly backup with date-time stamp) (the hosting company does weekly backups of the VPS but wants $75 to restore it with a delay of potentially a day). My Sql Backups I described above. Now I can clearly see I need to improve my minimum to be backing up with version control and the help of these tools you suggest. This gets priority 10.

Today is a much needed day off to celebrate the website with my daughter. It is the first day of Spring too (in Canada at least). Enjoy your first day of spring guys. Check out Google today to see the flowers coming up.

Thanks again,

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