Automated Amazon EBS Snapshots - Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

20 August 2015 on AWS, EBS, Ubuntu, Cloud, Linux, and Python. 20 minutes Intermediate

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could schedule EBS Snapshots with features like backup purging based on how old they are, or possibly target specific instances that are tagged?

I ran across a great repository that’s aptly named “aws-missing-tools” that’s been created by Colin Johnson.

It contains an insane amount of awesome stuff, but this post will detail one specific tool named ec2-automate-backup. We’re specifically going to use the the script and not the The script we’re using utilizes the awscli python package where as the other script utilizes EC2 API Tools. ec2-automate-backup was created to provide easy backup/snapshot functionality for multiple EC2 EBS volumes

One thing to note, the server you run that script from does not have to be within the Amazon umbrella. It’ll work anywhere.


We need two packages before getting started, Python 2.x or 3.x and Setup Tools

sudo apt-get update
apt-get install python python-setuptools

Use easy_install to install pip

easy_install pip

Finally use pip to install awscli

pip install awscli


Run the awscli configuration tool and fill in, your Access Key ID, your Secret Access Key, Default Region (us-east-1, us-west-1, us-west-2, etc) and finally output format

aws configure
  AWS Access Key ID [None]: 1234564789987654321
  AWS Secret Access Key [None]: abcdefghijklmnop
  Default region name [None]: us-west-2
  Default output format [None]: json

Create a new user named backup-agent, and create the home directory

useradd -m -d /home/backup-agent -s /bin/bash backup-agent

Download the script

curl -O

Directions For Use

Example of Use -v vol-6d6a0527

the above example would provide a single backup of the EBS volumeid vol-6d6a0527. The snapshot would be created with the description “vol-6d6a0527_2012-09-07”.

Required Parameters requires one of the following two parameters be provided:

-v <volumeid> - the “volumeid” parameter is required to select EBS volumes for snapshot if is run using the “volumeid” selection method - the “volumeid” selection method is the default selection method.

-t <tag> - the “tag” parameter is required if the “method” of selecting EBS volumes for snapshot is by tag (-s tag). The format for tag is key=value (example: Backup=true) and the correct method for running in this manner is -s tag -t Backup=true. #### Optional Parameters -r <region> - the region that contains the EBS volumes for which you wish to have a snapshot created.

-s <selection_method> - the selection method by which EBS volumes will be selected. Currently supported selection methods are “volumeid” and “tag.” The selection method “volumeid” identifies EBS volumes for which a snapshot should be taken by volume id whereas the selection method “tag” identifies EBS volumes for which a snapshot should be taken by a key=value format tag.

-c <cron_primer_file> - running with the -c option and a providing a file will cause to source a file for environmental configuration - ideal for running under cron. An example cron primer file is located in the “Resources” directory and is called

-n - tag snapshots “Name” tag as well as description

-h - tag snapshots “InitiatingHost” tag to specify which host ran the script

-k <purge_after_days> - the period after which a snapshot can be purged. For example, running “ -v “vol-6d6a0527 vol-636a0112” -k 31” would allow snapshots to be removed after 31 days. purge_after_days creates two tags for each volume that was backed up - a PurgeAllow tag which is set to PurgeAllow=true and a PurgeAfter tag which is set to the present day (in UTC) + the value provided by -k.

-p - the -p flag will purge (meaning delete) all snapshots that were created more than “purge after days” ago. looks at two tags to determine which snapshots should be deleted - the PurgeAllow and PurgeAfter tags. The tags must be set as follows: PurgeAllow=true and PurgeAfter=YYYY-MM-DD where YYYY-MM-DD must be before the present date.

Potential Uses and Methods of Use

To backup multiple EBS volumes use as follows: -v "vol-6d6a0527 vol-636a0112"

To backup a selected group of EBS volumes on a daily schedule tag each volume you wish to backup with the tag “Backup=true” and run using cron as follows:

0 0 * * * -s tag -t "Backup=true"

To backup a selected group of EBS volumes on a daily and/or monthly schedule tag each volume you wish to backup with the tag “Backup-Daily=true” and/or “Backup-Monthly=true” and run using cron as follows:

0 0 * * * backup-agent /home/backup-agent/ -s tag -t "Backup-Daily=true"

0 0 1 * * backup-agent /home/backup-agent/ -s tag -t "Backup-Monthly=true"

To perform daily backup using cron and to load environment configuration with a “cron-primer” file:

0 0 * * * backup-agent /home/backup-agent/ -c /home/backup-agent/ -s tag -t "Backup=True"

-u - the -u flag will tag snapshots with additional data so that snapshots can be more easily located. Currently the two user tags created are Volume=”ebs_volume” and Created=”date.” These can be easily modified in code.


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