Centralized Backup Script

Hello There!

I thought I’d share a backup script that was written to consolidate backups onto one server instead of spreading the backup process across several servers. The advantages are somewhat obvious to consolidating the script onto one server, namely being that editing or making changes is much easier as you only have one script to edit.

The environment where this may be ideal would be for environments with 15-20 servers or less. I’d recommend a complete end-to-end backup solution for servers that exceed that number such as Bacula perhaps.

The bash shell script that I pasted below is very straightforward and takes two arguments. The first is the hostname or ip address of the destination server you are backing up. The next (and potentially unlimited) arguments will be single quote encased folders which you would want backed up.

This script is dependent on the server the script is running on having ssh key based authentication enabled and implemented for the root user. Security considerations can be made with IP based restrictions either in the ssh configuration, firewall configuration or other considerations.

It should be explained further that this script actually connects to the destination server as the root user, using ssh key authentication. It then initiates a remote rsync command on the destination server back to the backup server as a user called “backupuser”. So that means that not only does the ssh key need to be installed for root on the destination servers, but a user called “backupuser” needs to be added on the backup server itself, with the ssh keys of all the destination servers installed for the remote rsync.

Hopefully I did not over complicate this, because it really is quite simple :

Backup Server –> root –> destination server to backup — > backupuser rsync –> Backup Server

Once you implement the script and do a few dry run tests then it might be ready to implement a scheduled task for each destination server. Here is an example of one cron entry for a server to be backed up :

SVN Offsite Backup Script : Secure offsite backup solution for SVN to Amazon S3

Hi there!

Backing up your code repository is important. Backing up your code repository to an off-site location in a secure manner is imperative. Throughout our travels and experience utilizing the SVN code repository system, we have developed a quick bash script to export the entire SVN repository, encrypt it, compress it into an archive, and then ship it (over an encrypted network connection) to Amazon S3 storage.

We will be using the (familiar) s3sync Ruby script to do the actual transport to Amazon S3, which you can find here.

Note also that this script also keeps a local copy of the backups, taken each day, for a maximum of 7 days of retention. This might be redundant since all revisions are kept within SVN itself, but I thought it would provide an additional layer of backup redundancy. The script can be easily modified to only backup a single file every night, overwriting the older copy after every backup.

Here’s the script :

Note how I have provided an example , commented out within the script, on how you can go about decrypting the encrypted SVN dump file. You can also modify this script to back up to any offsite location, obviously. Just remove the s3sync related entries and replace with rsync or your preferred transport method.

I hope this makes your life easier!

SVN Pre Commit Hook : Sanitize your Code!


Dealing with several different development environments can be tricky. With SVN specifically, it is ideal to have some “pre-flight” checks in order to make sure some basic standards have been followed.

Some of the things you would want to check might be :

– Does the code generate a fatal PHP error?
– Is there any syntax errors?
– Has valid commit messages been attached to the code commit?

I thought I’d share our pre-commit hook in one of our SVN code repositories in order to let you utilize and perhaps expand on it to include many more checks. Additional checks that may be specific to your code environment might benefit you. Feel free to share if improvements are made!

Add your Dynamic IPs to Apache HTACCESS files


We threw together a quick & simple script to dynamically update your .htaccess files within apache to add your dynamic IP address to the allow / deny fields.

If you’re looking to password protect an admin area (for example) but your office only has a dynamic IP address, then this script might be handy for you.

Its an extremely simple script that polls your dynamic hostname (if you use no-ip.org or dyndns.org for example) every 15 minutes as a cron job and, if it has changed, updates the .htaccess file

Hopefully it will make your life just a little bit easier 🙂

Sample Cron entry :

And now the script :

Automated Amazon EBS snapshot backup script with 7 day retention

Hello there!

We have recently been implementing several different backup strategies for properties that reside on the Amazon cloud platform.

These strategies include scripts that incorporate s3sync and s3fs for offsite or redundant “limitless” backup storage capabilities. One of the more recent strategies we have implemented for several clients is an automated Amazon EBS volume snapshot script that only keeps 7 day retention on all snapshot backups.

The script itself is fairly straightforward, but took several dry-runs in order to fine tune it so that it would reliably create the snapshots, but more importantly would clear out old snapshots older than 7 days.

You can see the for loop for deleting older snapshots. This is done by parsing snapshot dates, converting the dates to a pure numeric value and comparing said numeric value to a “7 days ago” date variable.

Take a look at the script below, hopefully it will be useful to you! There could be more error checking, but that should be fairly easy to do.

Massive Amazon Route53 API Bind Zone Import Script

Hello there,

Occasionally some of our managed services work has us dealing directly with other cloud providers such as Amazon. One of our clients set a requirement to migrate over 5,000 domain’s to Amazon’s Route53 DNS service.

There was little doubt that this could be automated, but since we have never done this massive of a deployment through Amazon’s API directly, we thought it might be interesting to post the process as well as the script through which we managed the import process.

Essentially the script utilizes a master domain name list file as its basis for looping through the import. The master list refers to the bind zone files and imports them into Amazon’s Route53 via the Cli53 tool package.

One final note, the script outputs all completed domain imports into a CSV file with the following format :

This is because when facilitating the actual nameserver change request, all the nameservers assigned to domains when imported to Route53 are randomly generated, so the script has to keep track of these nameserver/domain associations.

The script isn’t perfect and could benefit from some optimizations and more error checking (it does a lot of error checking already, however), but here it is in its entirety. We hope you will have some use for it!

Checking and repairing mysql replication automatically


MySQL replication has been known to easily break, as a result of a large multitude of potential causes.

Sometimes the replication can even break if an erroneous query is executed on the master server.

With all the potential issues that may break replication, we thought it prudent to write an automated check script that can run on a scheduled basis (i.e. every 10-15 minutes), check the Slave status, report on any errors if applicable and attempt to repair replication.

We have built this script to exit and send mail alerts if any step of the checking and repairing process fails or generates an error in itself.

The script also generates a lock file to ensure that no more than one check process can run at any given time. We feel this script could be best used for scenarios for remote MySQL slaves, for example. Adding this extra layer may ensure a more reliable replication.

The repair process is simply 3 MySQL Commands :

The above directives assume that you have a master.info with the mysql master server information statically set. No CHANGE MASTER commands have to be executed as a result. Resetting the slave clears the error and resumes replication, and all the queries missed during the time it failed should be queued and applied after it starts again.

Here is the script :

Clone a XEN VPS server that resides on a LVM / Logical Volume Manager


We thought it would be important to share this information as it might be interesting to someone who wants to replicate the same VPS across many instances in order to create a farm of web servers (for example).

This uses very similar concepts to our LVM XEN backup post a while back.

Step 1: Take a snapshot of the current VPS

This is simple. Use the lvcreate command with the -s option to create a snapshot of the running VPS. We assume your VPS is 5GB in size, so just replace that with however large your VPS is :

Step 2: Create your new VPS

This is important. You want to create a new vps, assign a MAC and IP address first and let the creation process fully finish. Then shut the VPS down.

Step 3: Copy the snapshot to the new VPS

All you have to do is use the dd command to transfer the snapshot image to the newly created VPS image :

All done! Dont forget to remove the snapshot after your done with it :

Start up the new vps and you should have a carbon copy of the previous vps!

Varnish Caching with Joomla

Hello There!

One of the exciting new technologies to come out in the last few years is a tremendously efficient and dynamic caching system called Varnish (see : http://www.varnish-cache.org).

We have been employing the use of Varnish for high traffic websites for the purposes of user experience improvements as well as for redundancy and load balancing purposes.

Varnish can do it all – complex load balancing and polling based on many different weighting methodologies for fail over, as well as holding on to a “stale” cache in the event of a back end web server outage, or perhaps for geographic redundancy (holding a stale cache in a secondary data center).

One of the challenges we have faced in the many different implementations of varnish into web stacks, is dealing with dynamic and user session (i.e. “logged in”) content.

If the Internet was full of only static (see 1995) html files, varnish would work beautifully out of the box. Unfortunately the web is a complicated mess of session based authentication, POSTS, GETS and query strings among a few things.

One of our recent accomplishments was getting the Joomla 1.5 content management system to work with Varnish 2.1.

The biggest challenge for Joomla was that it creates a session cookie for all users. This means the session is created and established for any guest visiting the site, and if they decide to log in , that same session is used to establish a logged in session through authentication. This is an apparent effort to deter or avoid session hijacking.

The problem with this is that Varnish ends up caching all the logged in session content, as well as the anonymous front page content.

I spent a significant amount of time fine tuning my VCL (varnish configuration language) to play nice with Joomla. Unfortunately it became apparent that some minor modifications to the Joomla code was necessary in order for it to communicate properly with Varnish.

Step 1 : Move the login form off the front page

I realize this might be a hard decision. I cant offer an alternative. If you have an integrated login form on the front page of your site, and you wish to cache that page with varnish, you will likely have to chose one or the other. It would probably be ideal to replace that login form with a button to bring the user to a secondary page off the main page.

For the sake of argument, lets call our site “example.com” and the login page url within Joomla should look like the following :


Take note of login URI in this string.

The reason we need the login form on a secondary page is because we need an almost “sandboxed” section of the site where the anonymous session cookie can be established, and passed through the authentication process to a logged in session. We will tell varnish to essentially ignore this page.

Step 2 : Modify Joomla to send HTTP headers for user/guest sessions

This isn’t that hard. In the Joomla code, there is a section where it defines the HTTP headers it sends to the browser for cache variables such as expire times and whatnot. I’m going to assume you have turned off the built-in Joomla caching system.

What you need to do is tell Joomla to send a special HTTP header that will give either a True or False value if the user is logged in or not. This is useful information. It will allow varnish to not cache any logged in content such as “Welcome back, USERNAME” after the user is passed back to the front page from logging in.

In my joomla installation, I modified the following file :

The parent folder being the public_html / root folder for your Joomla installation. In this file, please find the line that determines if the Joomla caching system is disabled :

After this line, you will see about 5 HTTP header declarations (expires, last-modified, cache-control, cache-control again and pragma). Above those declarations , add the following 6 lines of code :

If you read the above code, its fairly straight forward. I do a check to see if the user is a guest (aka anonymous) or not. If they are logged in I send an HTTP header called “X-Logged-In”, and assign a “True” value to it. If the user is not logged in, it sets it to “False”.

Pretty easy, right?

This will allow varnish to avoid caching a logged in user’s page.

Step 3 : Configure Varnish

This is the part that took the most time during this entire process. Mind you patching the Joomla code and whatnot took some time as well, this process took a lot of experimentation and long hours examining session cookies and host headers.

What I will do is break down the generalized configuration directives into two groups : VCL_RECV and VCL_FETCH.


In here, I set a bunch of IF statement directives to tell varnish what it should look up in the cache and what it should pipe to the backend and what it should pass. This could probably be optimized and improved upon, but it works for me :


The fetch section is a little bit easier. I only have about 5 directives. The first one is the most important one you want to look at. It “unsets” the cookie from any page on the site, EXCEPT the login page. This allows varnish to properly establish the logged in session. The subsequent rules determine what to deliver and what to pass based on URI or HTTP header checks :

Thats it! I just saved you many sleepless nights (I hope!). Hopefully your headers will look something like this after you implement varnish in front of Joomla :

UPDATE : 12/08/2011

I realize I made a mistake and have corrected this post. In vcl_fetch, i had the following :

Well I realize I should be unsetting the response cookie, not the set cookie. For some reason, the above (erroneous) directive works only right after you login. If you start clicking around the site, your logged in session disappears. I suspect this is because either joomla or varnish is mistakenly unsetting a logged in session.

This is the correct entry (I have fixed it in my original post as well) :

After making the above change, I can login and browse the site and my session stays intact. Mind you, the Joomla site I am testing with is definitely not a vanilla Joomla installation.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has accomplished the above scenario either way!

Centralized remote backup script with SSH key authentication


It has been a while since we posted any useful tidbits for you , so we have decided to share one of our quick & dirty centralized backup scripts.

The script relies on ssh key based authentication, described here on this blog. It essentially parses a configuration file where each variable is separated by a comma and colon, as in the example config here :

Note the intended backup directories in the 3rd variable, separated by colon’s. Simply populate the backup-hosts.txt config file (located in the same folder as the script) with all the hosts you want to be backed up.

The script then ssh’s to the intended host, and sends a tar -czf stream (securely) over ssh, to be output into the destination of your choice. Ideally you should centralize this script on a box that has direct access to alot of disk space.

Find the script here :

You could modify this script to keep different daily backups , pruned to keep only X number of days of backups (i.e. only 7 days worth). There is alot you can do here.

If you have a handful of linux or bsd servers that you would like to backup in a centralized location, without having an individual script to maintain on each server, then perhaps you could use or modify this script to suit your needs.

I hope this helps.