How To Back Up and Restore Your Redis Data on Ubuntu 14.04

Published on September 14, 2015
How To Back Up and Restore Your Redis Data on Ubuntu 14.04


Redis is an in-memory, key-value cache and store (a database, that is) that can also be persisted (saved permanently) to disk. In this article, you’ll read how to back up a Redis database on an Ubuntu 14.04 server.

Redis data, by default, are saved to disk in a .rdb file, which is a point-in-time snapshot of your Redis dataset. The snapshot is made at specified intervals, and so is perfect for your backups.


To complete the steps in this tutorial, you’ll need:

  • An Ubuntu 14.04 server
  • Install Redis. You can follow just the master setup from this Redis setup tutorial (although it will work just as well with a master-slave cluster)
  • Make sure that your Redis server is running
  • If a Redis password was set, which is highly recommended, have it handy. The password is in the Redis configuration file - /etc/redis/redis.conf

Step 1 — Locating the Redis Data Directory

Redis stores its data in a directory on your server, which is what we want to back up. First we need to know where it is.

In Ubuntu and other Linux distributions, the Redis database directory is /var/lib/redis. But if you’re managing a server that you inherited and the Redis data location was changed, you can locate it by typing:

  1. sudo locate *rdb

Alternatively, you may also find it from the redis-cli prompt. To do that, type:

  1. redis-cli

If the Redis server is not running, the response will be:

Could not connect to Redis at Connection refused
not connected>

In that case, start Redis and reconnect using the following commands:

  1. sudo service redis-server start
  2. redis-cli

The shell prompt should now change to:>

While connected to Redis, the next two commands will authenticate to it and get the data directory:

  1. auth insert-redis-password-here
  2. config get dir

The output of the last command should be your Redis data directory:

1) "dir"
2) "/var/lib/redis"

Make note of your Redis directory. If it’s different than the directory shown, make sure you use this directory throughout the tutorial.

You can exit the database command line interface now:

  1. exit

Check that this is the correct directory:

  1. ls /var/lib/redis

You should see a dump.rdb file. That’s the Redis data. If appendonly is also enabled, you will also see an appendonly.aof or another .aof file, which contains a log of all write operations received by the server.

See this post about Redis persistence for a discussion of the differences between these two files. Basically, the .rdb file is a current snapshot, and the .aof file preserves your Redis history. Both are worth backing up.

We’ll start with just the .rdb file, and end with an automated backup of both files.

(Optional) Step 2 — Adding Sample Data

In this section you can create some sample data to store in your Redis database. If you already have data on your server, you can just back up your existing content.

Log in to the database command line interface:

  1. redis-cli


  1. auth insert-redis-password-here

Let’s add some sample data. You should get a response of OK after each step.

  1. SET shapes:triangles "3 sides"
  2. SET shapes:squares "4 sides"

Confirm that the data was added.

  1. GET shapes:triangles
  2. GET shapes:squares

The output is included below:

"3 sides"

"4 sides"

To commit these changes to the /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb file, save them:

  1. save

You can exit:

  1. exit

If you’d like, you can check the contents of the dump file now. It should have your data, albeit in a machine-friendly form:

  1. sudo cat /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb
REDIS0006?shapes:squares4 sidesshapes:triangles3 sides??o????C

Step 3 — Backing Up the Redis Data

Now that you know where your Redis data are located, it’s time to make the backup. From the official Redis website comes this quote:

Redis is very data backup friendly since you can copy RDB files while the database is running: the RDB is never modified once produced, and while it gets produced it uses a temporary name and is renamed into its final destination atomically using rename(2) only when the new snapshot is complete.

So, you can back up or copy the database file while the Redis server is running. Assuming that you’re backing it up to a directory under your home folder, performing that backup is as simple as typing:

  1. sudo cp /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb /home/sammy/redis-backup-001

Redis saves content here periodically, meaning that you aren’t guaranteed an up-to-the-minute backup if the above command is all you run. You need to save your data first.

However, if a potentially small amount of data loss is acceptable, just backing up this one file will work.

Saving the Database State

To get a much more recent copy of the Redis data, a better route is to access redis-cli, the Redis command line.

Authenticate as explained in Step 1.

Then, issue the save command like so:

  1. save

The output should be similar to this:


Exit the database.

Now you may run the cp command given above, confident that your backup is fully up to date.

While the cp command will provide a one-time backup of the database, the best solution is to set up a cron job that will automate the process, and to use a tool that can perform incremental updates and, if needed, restore the data.

Step 4 — Configuring Automatic Updates with rdiff-backup and Cron

In this section, we’ll configure an automatic backup that backs up your entire Redis data directory, including both data files.

There are several automated backup tools available. In this tutorial, we’ll use a newer, user-friendly tool called rdiff-backup.

rdiff-backup a command line backup tool. It’s likely that rdiff-backup is not installed on your server, so you’ll first have to install it:

  1. sudo apt-get install -y rdiff-backup

Now that it’s installed, you can test it by backing up your Redis data to a folder in your home directory. In this example, we assume that your home directory is /home/sammy:

Note that the target directory will be created by the script if it does not exist. In other words, you don’t have to create it yourself.

With the –preserve-numerical-ids, the ownerships of the source and destination folders will be the same.

  1. sudo rdiff-backup --preserve-numerical-ids /var/lib/redis /home/sammy/redis

Like the cp command earlier, this is a one-time backup. What’s changed is that we’re backing up the entire /var/lib/redis directory now, and using rdiff-backup.

Now we’ll automate the backup using cron, so that the backup takes place at a set time. To accomplish that, open the system crontab:

  1. sudo crontab -e

(If you haven’t used crontab before on this server, select your favorite text editor at the prompt.)

At the bottom of the filek append the entry shown below.

0 0 * * * rdiff-backup --preserve-numerical-ids --no-file-statistics /var/lib/redis /home/sammy/redis

This Cron entry will perform a Redis backup every day at midnight. The –no-file-statistics switch will disable writing to the file_statistics file in the rdiff-backup-data directory, which will make rdiff-backup run more quickly and use up a bit less disk space.

Alternately, you can use this entry to make a daily backup:

  1. @daily rdiff-backup --preserve-numerical-ids --no-file-statistics /var/lib/redis /home/sammy/redis

For more about Cron in general, read this article about Cron.

As it stands, the backup will be made once a day, so you can come back tomorrow for the final test. Or, you can temporarily increase the backup frequency to make sure it’s working.

Because the files are owned by the redis system user, you can verify that they are in place using this command. (Make sure you wait until the backup has actually triggered):

  1. ls -l /home/sammy/redis

Your output should look similar to this:

total 20
-rw-rw---- 1 redis redis    70 Sep 14 13:13 dump.rdb
drwx------ 3 root  root  12288 Sep 14 13:49 rdiff-backup-data
-rw-r----- 1 redis redis   119 Sep 14 13:09 redis-staging-ao.aof

You’ll now have daily backups of your Redis data, stored in your home directory on the same server.

Step 5 — Restoring Redis Database from Backup

Now that you’ve seen how to back up a Redis database, this step will show you how to restore your database from a dump.rdb backup file.

Restoring a backup requires you to replace the active Redis database file with the restoration file. Since this is potentially destructive, we recommend restoring to a fresh Redis server if possible.

You wouldn’t want to overwrite your live database with a more problematic restoration. However, renaming rather than deleting the current file minimizes risk even if restoring to the same server, which is the tactic this tutorial shows.

Checking Restoration File Contents

First, check the contents of your dump.rdb file. Make sure it has the data you want.

You can check the contents of the dump file directly, although keep in mind it uses Redis-friendly rather than human-friendly formatting:

  1. sudo cat /home/gilly/redis/dump.rdb

This is for a small database; your output should look somewhat like this:

REDIS0006?shapes:triangles3 sidesshapes:squares4 sides??!^?\?,?

If your most recent backup doesn’t have the data, you should not continue with the restoration. If the content is there, keep going.

Optional: Simulating Data Loss

Let’s simulate data loss, which would be a reason to restore from your backup.

Log in to Redis:

  1. redis-cli

In this sequence of commands we’ll authorize with Redis and delete the shapes:triangles entry:

  1. auth insert-redis-password-here
  2. DEL shapes:triangles

Now let’s make sure the entry was removed:

  1. GET shapes:triangles

The output should be:


Save and exit:

  1. save
  2. exit

Optional: Setting Up New Redis Server

Now, if you plan to restore to a new Redis server, make sure that new Redis server is up and running.

For the purposes of this tutorial we’ll follow just Step 1 of this Redis Cluster tutorial, although you can follow the whole article if you want a more sophisticated setup.

If you follow Step 2, where you add a password and enable AOF, make sure you account for that in the restoration process.

Once you’ve verified that Redis is up on the new server by running redis-benchmark -q -n 1000 -c 10 -P 5, you can proceed.

Stopping Redis

Before we can replace the Redis dump file, we need to stop the currently running instance of Redis. Your database will be offline once you stop Redis.

sudo service redis-server stop

The output should be:

Stopping redis-server: redis-server

Check that it’s actually stopped:

sudo service redis-server status
redis-server is not running

Next we’ll rename the current database file.

Renaming Current dump.rdb

Redis reads its contents from the dump.rdb file. Let’s rename the current one, to make way for our restoration file.

sudo mv /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb.old

Note that you can restore dump.rdb.old if you decide the current version was better than your backup file.

If AOF Is Enabled, Turn It Off

AOF tracks every write operation to the Redis database. Since we’re trying to restore from a point-in-time backup, though, we don’t want Redis to recreate the operations stored in its AOF file.

If you set up your Redis server from the instructions in the Redis Cluster tutorial, then AOF is enabled.

You can also list the contents of the /var/lib/redis/ directory. If you see a .aof file there, you have AOF enabled.

Let’s rename the .aof file to get it out of the way temporarily. This renames every file that ends with .aof, so if you have more than one AOF file you should rename the files individually, and NOT run this command:

  1. sudo mv /var/lib/redis/*.aof /var/lib/redis/appendonly.aof.old

Edit your Redis configuration file to temporarily turn off AOF:

  1. sudo nano /etc/redis/redis.conf

In the AOF section, look for the appendonly directive and change it from yes to no. That disables it:

appendonly no

Restoring the dump.rdb File

Now we’ll use our restoration file, which should be saved at /home/sammy/redis/dump.rdb if you followed the previous steps in this tutorial.

If you are restoring to a new server, now’s the time to upload the file from your backup server to the new server:

  1. scp /home/sammy/redis/dump.rdb sammy@your_new_redis_server_ip:/home/sammy/dump.rdb

Now, on the restoration server, which can be the original Redis server or a new one, you can use cp to copy the file to the /var/lib/redis folder:

  1. sudo cp -p /home/sammy/redis/dump.rdb /var/lib/redis

(If you uploaded the file to /home/sammy/dump.rdb, use the command sudo cp -p /home/sammy/dump.rdb /var/lib/redis instead to copy the file.)

Alternately, if you want to use rdiff-backup, run the command shown below. Note this will only work if you are restoring from the folder you set up with rdiff-backup originally. With rdiff-backup, you have to specify the name of the file in the destination folder:

  1. sudo rdiff-backup -r now /home/sammy/redis/dump.rdb /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb

Details about the -r option are available on the project’s website given at the end of this article.

Setting Permissions for the dump.rdb File

You probably have the correct permissions already if you’re restoring to the same server where you made the backup.

If you copied the backup file to a new server, you’ll likely have to update the file permissions.

Let’s view the permissions of the dump.rdb file in the /var/lib/redis/ directory.

  1. ls -la /var/lib/redis/

If you see something like this:

-rw-r-----  1 sammy sammy   70 Feb 25 15:38 dump.rdb
-rw-rw----  1 redis redis 4137 Feb 25 15:36 dump.rdb.old

You’ll want to update the permissions so the file is owned by the redis user and group:

  1. sudo chown redis:redis /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb

Update the file to be writeable by the group as well:

  1. sudo chmod 660 /var/lib/redis/dump.rdb

Now list the contents of the /var/lib/redis/ directory again:

  1. ls -la /var/lib/redis/

Now your restored dump.rdb file has the correct permissions:

-rw-rw----  1 redis redis   70 Feb 25 15:38 dump.rdb
-rw-rw----  1 redis redis 4137 Feb 25 15:36 dump.rdb.old

If your Redis server daemon was running before you restored the file, and now won’t start — it will show a message like Could not connect to Redis at Connection refused — check Redis’s logs.

If you see a line in the logs like Fatal error loading the DB: Permission denied. Exiting., then you need to check the permissions of the dump.rdb file, as explained in this step.

Starting Redis

Now we need to start the Redis server again.

sudo service redis-server start

Checking Database Contents

Let’s see if the restoration worked.

Log in to Redis:

  1. redis-cli

Check the shapes:triangles entry:

  1. GET shapes:triangles

The output should be:

"3 sides"

Great! Our restoration worked.


  1. exit

If you’re not using AOF, you’re done! Your restored Redis instance should be back to normal.

(Optional) Enabling AOF

If you want to resume or start using AOF to track all the writes to your database, follow these instructions. The AOF file has to be recreated from the Redis command line.

Log in to Redis:

  1. redis-cli

Turn on AOF:


You should get the output:

Background append only file rewriting started

Run the info command. This will generate quite a bit of output:

  1. info

Scroll to the Persistence section, and check that the aof entries match what’s shown here. If aof_rewrite_in_progress is 0, then the recreation of the AOF file has completed.

# Persistence

. . .


If it’s confirmed that recreation of the AOF file has completed, you may now exit the Redis command line:

  1. exit

You can list the files in /var/lib/redis again:

  1. ls /var/lib/redis

You should see a live .aof file again, such as appendonly.aof or redis-staging-ao.aof, along with the dump.rdb file and other backup files.

Once that’s confirmed, stop the Redis server:

  1. sudo service redis-server stop

Now, turn on AOF again in the redis.conf file:

  1. sudo nano /etc/redis/redis.conf

Then re-enable AOF by changing the value of appendonly to yes:

appendonly yes

Start Redis:

  1. sudo service redis-server start

If you’d like to verify the contents of the database one more time, just run through the Checking Database Contents section once more.

That’s it! Your restored Redis instance should be back to normal.


Backing up your Redis data in the manner given in this article is good for when you don’t mind backing up the data to a directory on the same server.

The most secure approach is, of course, to back up to a different machine. You can explore more backup options by reading this article about backups:

You can use many of these backup methods with the same files in the /var/lib/redis directory.

Keep an eye out for our future article about Redis migrations and restorations. You may also want to reference the rdiff-backup documentation’s examples for how to use rdiff-backup effectively:

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Did know about rdiff-backup, nice one! Your article will be shared in our next RedisWeekly today!

Nice article (as always). Worth noting that a solution exists in DigitalOcean Marketplace to automate Redis backups with a service called SimpleBackups. It helps you schedule all of this and get your backups stored remotely without any code or maintenance.

I’ve found that it’s much simpler to just set an instance to be a slave of another one until the data is migrated. I would even suggest just having another server with the sole purpose of continually syncing session data with it.

It takes just a few minutes to sync ~10GB of data the first time, then it will sync on regular intervals. I would start a locally-forwarded SSH tunnel on another port, like 6380, then start redis-cli:

$> redis-cli
$> slaveof 6380

If you want a continuous backup, just keep the local forward open. If not, and it’s just for a one-time migration, issue the following, and the instance will now be a master again, then close the SSH tunnel:

$> slaveof no one

Good walkthrough - one comment though: you almost never want to use SAVE and should always prefer BGSAVE, as the former is synchronous and blocking. Read the respective documentation pages for more info:

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