Topics in the world of web development and other technologies we find interesting.

Blue Valley Technologies - TechTalk

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How to Backup up a Webserver

It is very important that any production use webserver have a robust backup plan. This generally is accomplished with the combination of a few strategies in order to protect your server from various types of problems.

File Backups

A good backup plan should first provide you with the ability to save backups of all the important files on the server to an offsite location. This allows you to recover any files accidently deleted / modified by the users, or due to file corruption, malicious malware, etc. We will share some scripts we have used in another post to roll your own scheduled file backups to S3 storage. Files should be saved at minimum at least daily, and for many sites more frequent copies may be desired.

Database Backups

When it comes to modern website applications, most of them rely on databases as well. So you will need to ensure that those databases are also backed up. Often the database and the files should be backed up as closely together as possible, to ensure their are not any concurrency issues. We will share some scripts we have used in another post to roll your own scheduled database backups for both MySQL as well as MS-SQL. If you are having trouble deciding how often is often enough, consider how much data loss would be acceptable to your business.  If your website accepts e-commerce orders, and you last all orders from the last 24 hours, would you have the info you need in other places, such as order confirmations in your email?

Disaster Recovery Backups

The idea behind a disaster recovery backup is that there may come a time when you need to restore everything, including the server and its operating system. This can be necessary if the server is no longer functioning properly, or it has been compromised by hackers and can no longer be trusted. To do this manually it can take hours, or sometimes even days of installing software, configuring services, and finally restoring the data itself. With a disaster recovery backup, you can restore to a known working point often in minutes, and then restore the files and data to the most recent point.

A disaster recovery backup does not need to be updated nearly as often, so long as the important file and database data is being backed up regularly. We typically update our disaster recovery backups every couple of months, or whenever we have made significant configuration changes to the server. If you use Amazon Web Services (AWS), Rackspace cloud hosting, or other cloud server offerings, the disaster recovery backup is easily accomplished with imaging or snapshotting the server instance and its related attached storage. If you are still using on-premise hardware for your webservers, you will need to use 3rd-party software for this backup.

A Good Backup Plan Needs Testing

If your business could suffer major losses when your website goes down, a backup plan is not a good plan until it has been tested.  Far too many system admins have learned the hard way, and too late that just because a backup said it completed succesfully, that there were crucial files missing, or things that just didn't work as planned. If your site is mission critical, than it is worth the time to occasionally stage a full server recovery on test hardware. Not only does this ensure that your backups are going to work when you need them, it will help you to know what to do to restore them under pressure when it really counts.


Posted by Mark at 12:10
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Setting up LAMP server on Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)

LAMP is an acronym for the Linux Apache MySQL PHP stack, which is a very popular web development framework. This walkthrough will guide you step by step the process of installing a base LAMP stack on a clean Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) server. If you do not already have an Ubuntu server, our previous walkthrough Creating a Rackspace Ubuntu Cloud Server will take you up to the point that this walkthrough picks up.

SSH into your Ubuntu server (see our Ubuntu setup walkthrough if you need help with this step)

  1. Update the installer source repositories by typing the following command:
    sudo apt-get update (hit enter)
  2. Install Apache:
    sudo apt-get install apache2 (hit enter)
    Type Y to confirm.
  3. Once the Apache install is finished, you can confirm it works by opening a new browser window and browsing to either the local or public IP (http://ip-address) of your Ubuntu server. You should see a page that says "It Works!" if all went well.
  4. Install MySQL Server:
    sudo apt-get install mysql-server-5.1 (hit enter)
    Type Y to confirm.
    Enter a new password for the root MySQL user. Be sure to use a unique password that is fairly long, contains a mix of letters, numbers and at least one punctuation character. Save the password in a secure location.
  5. Install PHP 5:
    sudo apt-get install php5 (hit enter)
    Type Y to confirm.
  6. Install the GD library for PHP:
    sudo apt-get install php5-gd (hit enter)
    Restart Apache:
    /etc/init.d/apache2 restart (hit enter)

  7. Finally we now install the MySQL module for PHP:
    sudo apt-get install php5-mysql (hit enter)

Now we have a clean base install of a LAMP server running on Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx). If you are using a Hyper V server or the Rackspace Cloud, now would be a great time to make a snapshot backup of your server. We will pick up from here on the next walkthrough with installing and configuring Drupal.

Posted by Mark at 13:27
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