Creating a Simple, Cheap, and Automated Backup Solution with Tarsnap

Background:

So I host a variety of small websites on a VPS at Ramnode (affiliate link). I’ve been extremely happy with their service, and their performance per dollar ratio. Previously I had been using DigitalOcean, but their VPS performance lately was a bit lacking compared to other providers (sorry DigitalOcean, I still love ya). As part of my evaluation of a handful of providers I performed extensive benchmarking to determine which VPS provider would be best for my (amateur) needs. It was also an excuse to use Excel again — oh Excel how I miss thee — but I digress.

I’ve been a very happy camper at Ramnode until I realized the weaknesses of having picked OpenVZ Linux containers vs. KVM virtualization which I’ve used in the past. Long story short, with OpenVZ containers the user (me) does not have access to much of the low-level system (including the kernel). This leads to problems with things like iptables logging, syslog, or when trying to access information about a given partition within your container. This lack of partition information unfortunately means that when you try to backup your data with a traditional backup solution like R1Soft you — as a lowly user — do not have the right permissions to read and then backup your data within your own container. Not a problem I said — Ramnode provides customers with regular backups. That was one of the reasons I picked them. 

Well, that was the case until recently: https://clientarea.ramnode.com/announcements.php?id=368 They casually announced that they had disabled the weekly automated backup system. So that sucks, a lot. 

My VPS provider decided to stop backing up my data (even though they sold me plan saying they would) and due to OpenVZ limitations many of the common automated backup tools simply won’t work.

So I needed to come up with a solution.

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Creating a Simple, Cheap, and Automated Backup Solution with Tarsnap