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Backup and restore configuration on a Linux package installation

It is recommended to keep a copy of /etc/gitlab, or at least of /etc/gitlab/gitlab-secrets.json, in a safe place. If you ever need to restore a GitLab application backup you need to also restore gitlab-secrets.json. If you do not, GitLab users who are using two-factor authentication will lose access to your GitLab server and ‘secure variables’ stored in GitLab CI will be lost.

It is not recommended to store your configuration backup in the same place as your application data backup, see below.

All configuration for Linux package installations is stored in /etc/gitlab. To backup your configuration, just run sudo gitlab-ctl backup-etc. It creates a tar archive in /etc/gitlab/config_backup/. Directory and backup files will be readable only to root.

Running sudo gitlab-ctl backup-etc --backup-path <DIRECTORY> will place the backup in the specified directory. The directory will be created if it does not exist. Absolute paths are recommended.

To create a daily application backup, edit the cron table for user root:

sudo crontab -e -u root

The cron table will appear in an editor.

Enter the command to create a tar file containing the contents of /etc/gitlab/. For example, schedule the backup to run every morning after a weekday, Tuesday (day 2) through Saturday (day 6):

15 04 * * 2-6  gitlab-ctl backup-etc && cd /etc/gitlab/config_backup && cp $(ls -t | head -n1) /secret/gitlab/backups/
Make sure that /secret/gitlab/backups/ exists.

You can extract the tar file as follows.

# Rename the existing /etc/gitlab, if any
sudo mv /etc/gitlab /etc/gitlab.$(date +%s)
# Change the example timestamp below for your configuration backup
sudo tar -xf gitlab_config_1487687824_2017_02_21.tar -C /

Remember to run sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure after restoring a configuration backup.

Your machines SSH host keys are stored in a separate location at /etc/ssh/. Be sure to also backup and restore those keys to avoid man-in-the-middle attack warnings if you have to perform a full machine restore.

Limit backup lifetime for configuration backups (prune old backups)

GitLab configuration backups can be pruned using the same backup_keep_time setting that is used for the GitLab application backups

To make use of this setting, edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb:

   ## Limit backup lifetime to 7 days - 604800 seconds
   gitlab_rails['backup_keep_time'] = 604800

The default backup_keep_time setting is 0 - which keeps all GitLab configuration and application backups.

Once a backup_keep_time is set - you can run sudo gitlab-ctl backup-etc --delete-old-backups to prune all backups older than the current time minus the backup_keep_time.

You can provide the parameter --no-delete-old-backups if you want to keep all existing backups.

If no parameter is provided the default is --delete-old-backups, which will delete any backups older than the current time minus the backup_keep_time, if backup_keep_time is greater than 0.

Separate configuration backups from application data

Do not store your GitLab application backups (Git repositories, SQL data) in the same place as your configuration backup (/etc/gitlab). The gitlab-secrets.json file (and possibly also the gitlab.rb file) contain database encryption keys to protect sensitive data in the SQL database:

  • GitLab two-factor authentication (2FA) user secrets (‘QR codes’)
  • GitLab CI ‘secure variables’

If you separate your configuration backup from your application data backup, you reduce the chance that your encrypted application data will be lost/leaked/stolen together with the keys needed to decrypt it.

Creating an application backup

To create a backup of your repositories and GitLab metadata, follow the backup create documentation.

Backup create will store a tar file in /var/opt/gitlab/backups.

If you want to store your GitLab backups in a different directory, add the following setting to /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and run sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure:

gitlab_rails['backup_path'] = '/mnt/backups'

Creating backups for GitLab instances in Docker containers

The backup command requires additional parameters when your installation is using PgBouncer, for either performance reasons or when using it with a Patroni cluster.

Backups can be scheduled on the host by prepending docker exec -t <your container name> to the commands.

Backup application:

docker exec -t <your container name> gitlab-backup

Backup configuration and secrets:

docker exec -t <your container name> /bin/sh -c 'gitlab-ctl backup-etc && cd /etc/gitlab/config_backup && cp $(ls -t | head -n1) /secret/gitlab/backups/'
To persist these backups outside the container, mount volumes in the following directories:
  1. /secret/gitlab/backups.
  2. /var/opt/gitlab for all application data, which includes backups.
  3. /var/opt/gitlab/backups (optional). The gitlab-backup tool writes to this directory by default. While this directory is nested inside /var/opt/gitlab, Docker sorts these mounts, allowing them to work in harmony.

    This configuration enables, for example:

    • Application data on regular local storage (through the second mount).
    • A backup volume on network storage (through the third mount).

Restoring an application backup

See restore documentation.

Backup and restore using non-packaged database

If you are using non-packaged database see documentation on using non-packaged database.

Upload backups to remote (cloud) storage

For details check backup documentation.

Manually manage backup directory

Linux package installations create the backup directory set with gitlab_rails['backup_path']. The directory is owned by the user that is running GitLab and it has strict permissions set to be accessible to only that user. That directory will hold backup archives and they contain sensitive information. In some organizations permissions need to be different because of, for example, shipping the backup archives offsite.

To disable backup directory management, in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb set:

gitlab_rails['manage_backup_path'] = false
If you set this configuration option, it is up to you to create the directory specified in gitlab_rails['backup_path'] and to set permissions which will allow user specified in user['username'] to have correct access. Failing to do so will prevent GitLab from creating the backup archive.