How to Perform AWS EC2 Backup: Step-By-Step Guide

Over the last decade, the sheer amount of data in the world has grown exponentially, thus making it hard for some organizations to manage and store critical pieces of information on a daily basis, let alone protect it from unexpected data loss as a result of hardware failure, software corruption, accidental deletion, malicious attack, or an unpredictable disaster. More issues may arise still when it comes to managing AWS EC2 environments and protecting data stored in the cloud.

In short, to back up AWS EC2 instances, you should choose one of the following options:

  1. Take an EBS snapshot;
  2. Create a new AMI;
  3. Design an AWS EC2 Backup plan;
  4. Automate AWS EC2 backup with a third-party solution.

AWS Backup is a rather new addition to the rich set of AWS services and tools, and is definitely worth your attention. AWS Backup is a valuable tool which can help you automatically back up and protect your data and applications in the AWS cloud as well as on-premises IT environments.

If you want to learn how to back up AWS EC2 instances, read this blog post which describes the different backup strategies available for the AWS EC2 environment. Moreover, read further to discover how NAKIVO Backup & Replication can backup AWS EC2 instances and how the product’s advanced functionality can improve your AWS EC2 backup performance, reduce management complexity, and help you stay within your budget.

How to Back Up AWS EC2 Instances

AWS is a high-performance, constantly evolving cloud computing platform that allows you to store data and applications in the cloud environment. AWS can provide you with the tools you need to create EC2 instances which act as virtual servers with varying CPU, memory, storage, and networking capacity.

Currently, there are three ways to back up AWS EC2 instances: taking EBS snapshots, creating AMIs, or designing an AWS Backup plan. Let’s take a closer look at each of these approaches and see how they differ.

Taking EBS Snapshots

If you want to back up an AWS EC2 instance, you should create snapshots of EBS volumes, which are stored with the help of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Snapshots can capture all data within EBS volumes and create their exact copies. Moreover, these EBS snapshots can then be copied and transferred to another AWS region to ensure safe and reliable storage of critical data. Thus, in case of a disaster or accidental data loss, you can be sure that you have a backup copy securely stored in a remote location which you can use for restoring critical data.

Prior to running AWS EC2 backup, it is recommended that you stop the instance or at least detach an EBS volume which is about to be backed up. This way, you can prevent failure or errors from occurring and affecting the newly created snapshots.

Please note that, for security purposes, some sensitive information has been removed.

To back up AWS EC2 instance, you need to take the following steps:

1. Sign in to your AWS account to open the AWS console.

2. Select Services in the top bar and click EC2 to launch the EC2 Management Console.

EC2 Services in AWS EC2 Backup

3. Select Running Instances and choose the instance you would like to back up.

Running Instances in AWS EC2 Backup

4. In the bottom pane, you can view the central technical information about the instance. In the Description tab, find the Root device section and select the /dev/sda1 link.

Selecting Root Device in AWS EC2 Backup

5. In the pop-up window, find the volume’s EBS ID name and click it.

6. The Volumes section should open. Click Actions and select Create Snapshot.

Creating Snapshot in AWS EC2 Backup

7. The Create Snapshot box should open, where you can add a description for the snapshot to make it distinct from other snapshots, as well as assign tags to easily monitor this snapshot. Click Create Snapshot.

Configuring a New Snapshot in AWS EC2 Backup

8. The snapshot creation should start and be completed in a minimal amount of time. The main factor here is the size of data in your Amazon EBS volume.

After the snapshot creation is complete, you can find your new snapshot by selecting the Snapshots section in the left pane. As you can see, we have successfully created a point-in-time copy of the EBS volume, which can later be used to restore your EC2 instance.

Snapshot Storage (AWS EC2 Backup)

For this purpose, you need to select the snapshot of the backed up volume, press the Actions button above, and click Create Volume. Following the prompts, configure the volume details (volume type, size, IOPS, availability zone, tags). Then, click Create Volume for the new volume to be created, which can later be added to the AWS EC2 instance of your choice.

Restoring the snapshot in AWS EC2 Backup

Creating a new AMI

The next approach to performing AWS EC2 backups is creating an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) of your AWS EC2 instances. An AMI contains all the information required for creating an EC2 instance in the AWS environment, including configuration settings, the root volume template, launch permissions, and block device mapping. Basically, the AMI can act as a template for launching a new AWS EC2 instance and replacing the corrupted one. Note that, prior to creating the new AMI, it is recommended that you stop the AWS EC2 instance which you want to back up.

To create a new AMI and ensure AWS EC2 backup, you should do the following:

1. Sign in to your AWS account to open the AWS console.

2. Select Services in the top bar and click EC2 to launch the EC2 Management Console.

EC2 Services in AWS EC2 Backup 2

3. Select Running Instances and choose the instance you want to back up.

Select Running Instances in AWS EC2 Backup

4. Click Actions > Image > Create Image.

How to Create Image in AWS EC2 Backup

5. The Create Image menu should open. Here, you can specify the image name, add the image description, enable/disable reboot after the AMI creation, and configure instance volumes.

Do note that when you create an EBS image, an EBS snapshot should also be created for each of the above volumes. You can access these snapshots by going to the Snapshots section.

The Create Image menu in AWS EC2 Backup

6. Click Create Image.

7. The image creation process should now start. Click the link to view the pending AMI.

8. It should take some time for the new AMI to be created. You can starting using the AMI when its status switches from pending to available.

After the AMI has been successfully created, it can then be used to create a new AWS EC2 instance, which will be an exact copy of the original instance. For this purpose, simply go to the Instances section, click Launch Instance, select the AMI you have created in the My AMIs section, and follow the prompts to finish the instance creation.

Restoring EC2 Instance with the AMI (AWS EC2 Backup)

Creating AMIs is arguably a more effective backup strategy than taking EBS snapshots. This is due to the fact that AMIs often contain EBS snapshots as well as a software configuration which allows you to simply and easily launch the new AWS EC2 instance in just a few clicks, created free of charge (you only pay for snapshot storage).

However, both methods require significant manual input on your part and cannot be set to run automatically. AWS EC2 backup in large-scale environments using these two approaches has proven itself to be a complicated and error-prone process.

Automating AWS EC2 backup

Previously, the only way to automate AWS EC2 backup was by running scripts or using API calls, which was a very challenging and resource-intensive process. The person responsible for backup automation had to be highly proficient in scripting in order to avoid any issues and inconsistencies. However, there was still a high risk that you would waste your time, effort, and money on a backup job configuration and still be left with failed or corrupted AWS EC2 backups.

Due to this ongoing concern, AWS decided to introduce the AWS Lambda service which allowed you to run your codes for managing the AWS services you need and performing various tasks in AWS environments. However, the downside of this approach is that you had to create your own codes or look for those available in open-source platforms. Ultimately, it could end up taking an excessive amount of time and effort to set up a workable code to perform the AWS Lambda function the way you want.

To deal with the existing issues further, the new AWS EC2 backup service referred to as AWS Backup was designed, allowing you to rapidly create automated data backups across AWS services and easily manage them using the central console. With AWS Backup, you can finally create a policy-based backup plan which can automatically back up the AWS resources of your choosing. At the core of each plan lies a backup rule which defines the backup schedule, backup frequency, and backup window, thus allowing you to automate the AWS EC2 backup process and requiring minimum input on your part.

To create an AWS backup plan, take the following steps:

1. Sign in to your AWS account to open the AWS Management Console.

2. Select Services in the top bar and then type AWS Backup in the search bar. Click Backup plans in the left pane.

3. Press the Create Backup plan button.

Backup Plans in AWS EC2 Backup

4. Here, you have three start options: Start from an existing plan, Build a new plan, and Define a plan using JSON. Click Info if you want to learn more about available options to help you make the right decision.

As we don’t have any existing backup plans, let’s build a new plan from scratch. Enter the new backup plan name and proceed further.

Building a New Plan in AWS EC2 Backup

5. The next step is Backup rule configuration. Here, you should specify the backup rule name.

6. After that, you can set up a backup schedule. You should determine the backup frequency (Every 12 hours, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Custom cron expression); backup window (Use backup window defaults or Customize backup window); backup lifecycle (Transition to cold storage and Expiration of the backup).

Backup Rule Configuration in AWS EC2 Backup

7. At this step, you should select the backup vault for storing your recovery points (the ones created by this Backup rule). You can click Create new Backup vault if you want to have a new customizable vault. You can also use the existing Backup vault if you have one. Alternatively, you can choose the default AWS Backup vault.

Choosing the Backup Vault in AWS EC2 Backup

8. Next, you must add tags to recovery points and your backup plan in order to organize them and easily monitor their current status.

Adding Tags in AWS EC2 Backup

After that, you can click Create plan to proceed to the next stage, the backup rule creation.

9. Your backup plan has been successfully created. However, before you can run this plan and deploy it in your environment, you should also assign resources which need to be backed up. Click the Assign resources button, which can be found in the top bar.

New Backup Plan in AWS EC2 Backup

10. In the next menu, you can specify the resource assignment name and define the IAM (Identity and Access Management) role.

By selecting the IAM role, you specify what a user can or cannot do in AWS and determine which users are granted permission to manage selected AWS resources and services.

Additionally, you can assign resources to this Backup plan using tags or resource IDs, meaning that any AWS resources matching these key-pair values should be automatically backed up by this Backup plan.

Assigning Resources in AWS EC2 Backup

11. Click Assign resources to complete the configuration process. After that, the backup job should run automatically. You can go to the AWS Backup dashboard to see the current status of your backup jobs and verify that they are working as planned.

Data Protection Options in AWS EC2 Backup

As you can see, our backup job is already in progress. In this menu, you can also Manage Backup plans, Create an on-demand backup, or Restore backup. Choose the required option and set up another data protection job in AWS environment following the prompts.

Data Protection with NAKIVO Backup & Replication

As you can see, AWS can provide you with a wide variety of options for backing up your data. However, to make the process of data protection even simpler and easier, it is recommended that you use a third-party solution. With its rich feature set, affordable pricing, and intuitive UI, NAKIVO Backup & Replication is widely considered one of the most effective and reliable data protection solutions on the market.

Let’s find out what NAKIVO Backup & Replication has to offer to improve your experience in the AWS EC2 environment:

Request a live demo by one of our engineers or download a full-featured free trial to test NAKIVO Backup & Replication in your virtual environment today and see for yourself the multiple benefits that the product provides.

How to Perform AWS EC2 Backup: Step-By-Step Guide
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