Maintenance is important. A car needs oil changes or eventually the engine will be damaged by regular operation. A server needs software updates to fix bugs and protect against threats. Even when those things are done failures can happen that create problems returning to normal operation.
For a car there needs to be a spare ready to go in case of a flat. If there’s not a spare ready for use it will take longer to get the car back in operation when a flat happens. For a computer, programs and data need to be backed up. If a disk drive crashes the information stored there may be lost or too expensive to recover, so just as good as lost.
This website has not been well protected for too long and I knew that needed to change. There’s a server operating system, a web server, WordPress software, and a MySQL database that all operate interdependently to make it work. As the amount of content slowly continues to grow my manual system to back everything up has become too cumbersome and is not done frequently enough to ensure minimal to no loss of data.
That needed to change.
Step one – automate the MySQL backups. Documentation states the “logical” backup method is slow and not recommend for large databases. The alternative “physical” backup entails stopping the database server and copying the files. The licensed MySQL Enterprise Backup performs physical backups and from what I’m able to tell runs clone databases so one can be stopped and the files backed up while the clone continues to run and is available for use.
This is a hobby operation and has limited resources so purchasing a license for Enterprise Backup is out of the question. Taking the whole thing offline to backup probably doesn’t bother anyone except me. Still, I did want to be able to continue to run the server while the databases are being backed up. Enter logical backup.
It didn’t take long to find the command,
mysqldump. Confirming that it would backup everything including user names and passwords so all the accounts got restored with all the data took longer.
Despite my best search-fu I was unable to find any documentation that explicitly says “do this” to back up user accounts in addition to system databases and other databases. Let me fill that gap by saying “do this to back up user accounts, system databases, and other databases”.
mysqldump -u root -p -h server.yourdomain.org --all-databases -r backup_file.sql. I did find the preceding command as the backup command. Nothing I could find said this backs up user accounts and system databases. I tested it. It does.
With the backup done, the next step is restore. And confirming the restore works as expected. Another case of things that otherwise seem obvious not being declared in the documentation.
Restore from the command line looks like this:
mysql -u root -p database < backup_file.sql. But wait, I want to restore all databases. Search-fu failed again to find any explicit instruction how to restore all databases and what
database to name on the command line.
Try the command without naming a database to see if all are restored. No, that fails. Then a flash of insight. Create an empty database, name that on the command line, and try the restore again. It works!
$ mysql -u root -p
> create database scratch;
$ mysql -u root -p scratch < backup_file.sql
Did this a few times and then restored the tables. As far as I’ve been able to determine the restore is an exact replica of the backed up data.
It seems odd that important use cases, complete backup of database server and complete restore of database server aren’t clearly documented. The information is there but important nuggets are left out. The only way to be sure you’ll get what you need is to experiment until you’re able to produce the results you need.
So yes, do the research but also just do the work and inspect the results. When research doesn’t clearly answer the questions backup it up with experimentation. Do both and get a result faster.