Update: 7-29-2014
For your convenience and to make it easier for you to follow along, I made an E-Book that is free for you to download to your favorite e-reading device.

Download this article in EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and/or WEB formats.

I’ve been using Media Temple for hosting and overall it has been a very pleasant experience. There are some things that are a little inconvenient, especially things like no native support for a Media Temple Amazon S3 backup. You can’t blame Media Temple for that though… it’s mainly a Plesk thing. Fortunately enough, Plesk stays enough out of your way where you can set this up on your own. We can utilize free tools from Amazon to automate backups from MediaTemple DV 4.5 servers.

Media Temple recently has shifted their policies to frown upon root access. They don’t care too much about it, they just have been a little more stingy recently with giving you support on things that are not native with Plesk (understandable). Be sure that you make a backup of everything through their Snapshot tool or the native Plesk Backup Manager before moving forward.

Enable Root Access

Now since I’ve got the legal mumbo-jumbo taken care of, lets put the rubber to the asphalt by making sure that you have root access. We will be making changes to the system that require higher permissions, so if you are not doing this with the root account — we won’t be getting too far. By default, new Dedicated Virtual servers are shipped with root access disabled. You can do this in the Account Center at Media Temple.


When you click on that, you will need to configure BOTH items. This means you will have to enable root access and install the Developer Tools.


This may take a minute or two for this to complete. That’s okay, it is a perfect amount of time to grab a coffee/beer and come back to a screen with green text saying “Enabled” and “Installed”.

Download and Install Amazon AWS CLI Tools

Now that we have the correct access and libraries to do some compiling, we need to download Amazon AWS CLI Tools (Amazon Command Line Interface Tools). These tools will allow us to connect to Amazon’s services without installing all of this weird poo poo to get connected (been there, done that). Servers generally do not like poo poo so it is important that these tools are officially supported by Amazon and they do not make Plesk crap itself.

Before we dive in and start running Amazon commands, to the date of this post these tools do require Python 2.6 or higher. To do that, simply run the python –version command to see what version you are running. It should echo out the version on the line below.

Check Python Version (must be 2.6 or higher)

[[email protected] ~]# python --version
Python 2.6.6

Sweet, it looks like I am good to go on this server. Now we have to download the tools… OH WAIT! There’s more! Remember my line above where I said we do not have to download a bunch of weird poo poo? We do have to download something called pip (which is a package manager for Python), but trust me — this is very safe based off of the other methods that I have seen. Pip will simplify the installation process for us.

Install pip (Python Package Manager)

wget --no-check-certificate https://raw.github.com/pypa/pip/master/contrib/get-pip.py; python get-pip.py

Sweet! We have pip installed on our server, so lets use pip to install Amazon’s CLI Tools:

Install Amazon AWS CLI Tools

pip install awscli

Well, that was quite simple… check for errors, but if everything looks good — we are now ready to prepare our connection to Amazon S3.

Configure Amazon Access

Before we start hacking away to get this server connected, we need to make sure that we have S3 buckets created and the right credentials to run a backup. Log into Amazon AWS. Once you are logged in, then proceed to click on S3 then you should be able create your Amazon S3 bucket using the on-screen prompts.

In this example, I will be using a bucket named myserver-pleskfull, but your bucket name must be original and not conflict with any other bucket names on Amazon S3. Whatever you name this bucket, we will configure full server Plesk backups to go into this bucket. Make sure you change my code to whatever your bucket name is as you progress through the article.

Best Practice Note
If this Amazon account is only going to be accessed by one user, one server, only one user has root access to your server, and any Amazon buckets will be used only to store backups for this server… then you can proceed further down this post. If this is an existing account and you have multiple users, multiple servers, and/or you just want heightened security — then I would definitely configure policies and different security settings through Amazon IAM (Amazon Identity and Access Management). Configuring correct bucket access can help you prevent malicious users, software, etc. from gaining access to ALL of your buckets if you lock them down individually. Since I don’t want to go on a tangent talking about IAM, read that link for the AWS IAM Best Practices.

Create Access Keys

When you are logged into the AWS Console, click on your name and then choose security credentials.

Then choose Create New Access Key:


When you create the keys, be sure to download them — because you will NEVER see them again otherwise!


Once you have that downloaded, run aws configure you will be prompted to enter your credential information:

[[email protected] ~]# aws configure
AWS Secret Access Key [None]: 1a2b3c4d5e6f7g8h9i10j11k12k
Default region name [None]: us-east-1
Default output format [None]:<LEAVE BLANK -- JUST PRESS ENTER>

For the default region, I chose us-east-1, but you can choose whatever region you would like by seeing the list from Amazon here. For what we are doing in the scope of this article, the regions are irrelevant to Amazon S3 but if you do any management of other AWS regions — it may be very important to set this correctly. You can also see that I left Default output format [None]: blank. This will default to JSON. You can read more about your options here.

Test Amazon Access

Now that we have our authentication configured, you should now be able to test it out. Create some test files in your home folder:

[[email protected] ~]# mkdir -p test-parent-folder/
[[email protected] ~]# touch testfolder/test1.txt

If you run ll or ls -l you should see your folder there. Now lets run the command to move it up to our S3 Bucket. Remember the bucket name that we chose from above is myserver-pleskfull. The syntax for the aws command is the following:

aws [options] <command> <subcommand> [parameters]

Using the syntax above (advanced syntax can be found here), we can now run our move command and watch its results:

[[email protected] ~]# aws s3 mv testfolder/ s3://myserver-pleskfull --recursive
move: testfolder/test1.txt to s3://myserver-pleskfull/test1.txt

Now when you check the bucket in the Amazon Console, you can see that it appears (notice how it copied just the file, not the folder):

You can also check via command line:

[[email protected] ~]# aws s3 ls s3://myserver-pleskfull-full --recursive
2014-04-03 12:13:13          0 test1.txt

Configure Full Server Backup

So this is going to be interesting on how this works… We are going to use the native Plesk Backup Manager, but we are going to choose the FTP solution and the server will essentially FTP the backup file to itself. Sounds very strange, but there are a few reasons why I did it this way which we will discover as we go through the set up.

Here is an image that essentially demonstrates our full server backup:

Now since we have the logic down, we have to create a Subscription to store our backups. But before we do that, we need to make sure that we have a Plan that will allow us to do that. Plesk would get quite emotional if we tried to store our 5GB backup in a plan that only allowed 1GB. To do this, select Service Plans, choose Add New Plan. Set the name to S3 Backup and make sure that you allow Unlimited storage a subscription and Traffic (you can choose whatever subdomain that you want). It would also be a wise choice to set the notifications to make sure that your subscription does not get out of control. Set these values to whatever you think suits your server best. Since our backups will be MOVED (not copy) to Amazon S3, we don’t have to worry about the subscription keeping an archive of backups.


Once you have the Service Plan created, it’s now time to create the Subscription. You can use any domain that you would like, but it just has to exist and have the DNS properly pointed to your server’s IP address. Once you have your domain configured, create the Subscription and assign it to the new plan that we created.


Once the subscription is created, let’s lock down that subscription so we don’t have any data leaks. We won’t be needing any web hosting, only FTP:


Now that we have the web hosting disabled, we can create our directories for our backup (be sure to change the path to the domain name that you chose):

mkdir -p /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver

Before we get too excited, we need to make sure that our backupuser has ownership of the s3backups folder.

chown -R backupuser:psacln /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/

This directory that we just created is what we will be using to store our full server backups. We now need to create an FTP account that will have access only to this directory.


The user is now configured, but we need to tell our server where to run the backup. Go to Tools & Settings and then choose Personal FTP Settings. Here is where you can enter in the information that we just created. When you are filling this out, be sure to select FTPS. Even though we are sending it to ourselves, we want to make sure that we use FTPS to secure the transfer. Also, it is a wise idea to create an archive password. This is another step that will prevent unauthorized hands from getting on your data. Be sure to save these passwords in a safe place!:


With the FTP settings set, we can now schedule our backup to run. Choosing the frequency of the backup is all up to you. Yes, Amazon is only pennies per GB, but it can add up fast if you are running large backups frequently. Go back to the Backup Manager then choose Scheduled Backup Settings.


When you are configuring your settings, be sure that you click Activate at the top (many people forget to select that). Fill out the other fields anyway you want, but you can put in your email for notifications upon any errors (very good idea). Also, make sure that you select All Configuration and Content and make sure you uncheck the domain suspension. This will disable your sites while the backup runs. Only in special cases would you want that to happen.


Testing The Backup

We’re almost there! Now we can test it by choosing Backup from the Backup Manager.


Here is where we can run our first test. Instead of backing up everything, lets just back up the server configuration. This will save A LOT of time in testing.

It will start to run a backup. This is your cue to go grab another coffee/beer while it finishes. Once it is complete, you will see it appear in the Personal FTP tab:

Since that backup is done, lets see where it is at. We can check by running the ll or ls command.

[[email protected] ~]# ll /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver
total 284
-rw-r--r-- 1 backupuser psacln 287916 Apr  3 16:18 test_1404031618.tar

Now since the file is there, lets move it to Amazon S3. This is going to be the same command as our test from before, but we need to change the directory to the fullserver directory. You will see its output as it moves the file.

[[email protected] ~]# aws s3 mv /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver/ s3://myserver-pleskfull --recursive
move: ../var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver/test_1404031618.tar to s3://myserver-pleskfull/test_1404031618.tar

We can now list out the directory on the Amazon S3 bucket to confirm our file made it safely. When I run the command, you can see it shows our test text file as well:

[[email protected] ~]# aws s3 ls s3://myserver-pleskfull --recursive
2014-04-03 12:13:13          0 test1.txt
2014-04-03 16:47:19     287916 test_1404031618.tar

Automating The Process

We have made it this far, but it would be really pointless if this was not automated. Fortunately, Linux allows us to run a script every hour to check if there is a new backup. If there is a backup, then it will then execute the move to Amazon S3. Our script will be located in /etc/cron.hourly/. Create the file using nano and be sure to NOT have .sh at the end of the filename (otherwise it will not execute).

nano /etc/cron.hourly/aws-s3move

Here is the code that we can use to check our directory:

Write the file out with nano and then set the file permissions so our script can be executed:

chmod 755 /etc/cron.hourly/aws-s3move

Since our script is now executable, it is now ready for a test run. Run another backup (like what we did before — just the server configuration). Only this time when it completes, we will run our script. When you run it via BASH, you should see the results below:

[[email protected] ~]# bash /etc/cron.hourly/aws-s3move
move: ../var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver/test_1404031716.tar to s3://myserver-pleskfull/test_1404031716.tar

Restore From A Backup

The most important piece in a backup process is the restoration. For most people, it’s usually the least tested piece of the process. To get this to work, we are just going to copy the file that we want back into our FTP folder. Make sure you change backup-file.tar to your actual file name that you want.

aws s3 cp s3://myserver-pleskfull/test_1404031618.tar /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver

We will get the results below:

[[email protected] ~]# aws s3 cp s3://myserver-pleskfull/test_1404031618.tar /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver/
download: s3://myserver-pleskfull/test_1404031618.tar to ../var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/fullserver/test_1404031618.tar

Once you have it in the FTP folder, you should now be able to copy it to your server repository. (It will ask you for your restore password, so I hope you wrote that down!):

Then once it is in your server repo, you can click on that file to initiate the restore:


Configure Retention Policies

To prevent from paying a butt-load in Amazon S3 charges, it is a wise idea to configure retention policy. You can automatically have Amazon S3 delete the file after X amount of days or you can archive it to Amazon Glacier. The thing that you have to plan for on Amazon Glacier, is that when you want your file for restoration, it takes Glacier 4 hours to get your file ready before you can download it. That could be a disaster if that is a very important backup file that you need RIGHT AWAY.

Log into your Amazon AWS Console and then select the bucket. Under Properties you will find an accordion menu that says Lifecycle. Click on that then press Add rule.


Then you can configure the bucket to delete any objects X amount of days from its creation date.

Taking It A Step Further

You can also store single site backups in a separate bucket. Why would we want to do that? A separate bucket makes sense because we can run different backup frequencies and also apply different retention policies. Here is how it would work:

To configure the backups, we would have to create another folder for our site backups:

mkdir -p /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/sites/

Be sure to set the right permissions after that:

chown -R backupuser:psacln /var/www/vhosts/backup.mysite.com/s3backups/sites/

Now you can go into the backup.mysite.com subscription and create specific FTP users for your sites. Once you have those users created, you can then go into the subscription that you want to backup and configure the Backup Manager (just like how we did it for our Full Server backup). We will also have to modify our script in the cron.hourly:

nano /etc/cron.hourly/aws-s3move

Then update the script to this. Be sure to configure the options at the top!

#! /bin/bash
# Author: Jay Rogers - [email protected]


#Check to see if there are any individual SITES to back up. If so, move the backups to Amazon S3
if [ "$(find /var/www/vhosts/$BACKUPDOMAIN/s3backups/sites/ -name "*.tar")" ]; then
        #Make sure that CRON is able to find the AWS Configuration File
        export AWS_CONFIG_FILE=/root/.aws/config
        #Execute S3 moved to Bucket configured above
        aws s3 mv /var/www/vhosts/$BACKUPDOMAIN/s3backups/sites/ s3://$SITESBUCKETNAME --recursive

#Check to see if there are any SERVER backups to move. If so, move the backups to Amazon S3
if [ "$(find /var/www/vhosts/$BACKUPDOMAIN/s3backups/fullserver/ -name "*.tar")" ]; then
        #Make sure that CRON is able to find the AWS Configuration File
        export AWS_CONFIG_FILE=/root/.aws/config
        #Execute S3 moved to Bucket configured above
        aws s3 mv /var/www/vhosts/$BACKUPDOMAIN/s3backups/fullserver/ s3://$SERVERBUCKETNAME --recursive
        exit 0
        #If nothing exists in any of these folders, then do nothing
        exit 0

No matter how many other individual site backups you add, this script does not need to be modified. It grabs recursively from s3backups/sites/ and will upload them to Amazon S3.

Hopefully this all makes sense and works as well for you as it does for me. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment below if you have any thoughts/feedback/questions on anything!