Docker volume backup and restore

I'm using Docker to deploy some services on a CentOS 6.4 server, and I'm trying to figure out how to properly backup data they generate.

For example, one of the services is a web application where users can upload files. For this container, I have a /files volume which I want to backup. Host mounts looks like they are somewhat frowned upon, because such mount is in no way portable — as said in this blog post and the docker documentation for volumes.

I know from the same blog post that I don't need a host mount to access the files in a volume, I can use docker inspect to find out where the files are.

But here's my problem: I was thinking about backing up just the dockerfiles needed to build the containers and the volumes associated with them. In the likely event that I have to restore everything from the backup, how would I go about knowing which volume directory corresponds to which container? Rebuilding the container causes the id and the volume path to change, so I would need some extra information to match them. What else, if anything, should I backup to be able to actually restore everything?

You're right. Since you can have multiple containers with volumes on their own, you need to keep track which volume corresponds to which container. How to do that depends on your setup: I use the name -data for the data container, so it's obvious to which container a image belongs. That way it can be backed up like this:

VOLUME=`docker inspect $NAME-data | jq '.[0].Volumes["/path/in/container"]'`
tar -C $VOLUME . -czvf $NAME.tar.gz

Now you just need to rebuild your image and recreate your data container:

cat $NAME.tar.gz | docker run -name $NAME-data -v /path/in/container \
                              -i busybox tar -C /path/int/container -xzf -

So this means you need to backup:

  • Dockerfile
  • volume
  • volume path in container
  • name of the container the volume belongs to

Update: In the meanwhile I created a tool to backup containers and their volume(s) (container(s)): and a backup image that can create backups and push them to s3:

In newer Docker (tested in 1.9.1, build 9894698) you can use the cp command.

Here is an example how to copy a directory from the container to the host:

docker cp wordpress:/var/www/html backups/wordpress.`date +"%Y%m%d"`/

Here is an example how to copy a directory from the container to a tar file:

docker cp wordpress:/var/www/html - > backups/wordpress.`date +"%Y%m%d"`.tar

Last but not least an example how to copy a directory from the container to a tar.gz file:

docker cp wordpress:/var/www/html - | gzip > backups/wordpress.`date +"%Y%m%d"`.tar.gz