Backup and restore

This document explains the technical implementation of the backup and restore into/from CNG.

Toolbox pod

The toolbox chart deploys a pod into the cluster. This pod will act as an entry point for interaction with other containers in the cluster.

Using this pod user can run commands using kubectl exec -it <pod name> -- <arbitrary command>

The Toolbox runs a container from the Toolbox image.

The image contains some custom scripts that are to be called as commands by the user. Those scripts are for running Rake tasks, backup, restore, and some helper scripts for interacting with object storage.

Backup utility

Backup utility is one of the scripts in the task runner container and as the name suggests it is a script used for doing backups but also handles restoring of an existing backup.


The backup utility script when run without any arguments creates a backup tar and uploads it to object storage.

Sequence of execution

Backups are made using the following steps, in order:

  1. Backup the database (if not skipped) using the GitLab backup Rake task
  2. Backup the repositories (if not skipped) using the GitLab backup Rake task
  3. For each of the object storage backends
    1. If the object storage backend is marked for skipping, skip this storage backend.
    2. Tar the existing data in the corresponding object storage bucket naming it <bucket-name>.tar
    3. Move the tar to the backup location on disk
  4. Write a backup_information.yml file which contains some metadata identifying the version of GitLab, the time of the backup and the skipped items.
  5. Create a tar file containing individual tar files along with backup_information.yml
  6. Upload the resulting tar file to object storage gitlab-backups bucket.

Command line arguments

  • --skip <component>

    You can skip parts of the backup process by using --skip <component> for every component that you want to skip in the backup process. Skippable components are the database (db), repositories (repositories), and any of the object storages (registry, uploads, artifacts, lfs, packages, external_diffs, terraform_state, or ci_secure_files).

  • -t <timestamp-override-value>

    This gives you partial control over the name of the backup: when you specify this flag the created backup will be named <timestamp-override-value>_gitlab_backup.tar. The default value is the current UNIX timestamp, postfixed with the current date formatted to YYYY_mm_dd.

  • --backend <backend>

    Configures the object storage backend to use for backups. Can be either s3 or gcs. Default is s3.

  • --storage-class <storage-class-name>

    It is also possible to specify the storage class in which the backup is stored using --storage-class <storage-class-name>, allowing you to save on backup storage costs. If unspecified, this will use the default of the storage backend.

    This storage class name is passed through as-is to the storage class argument of your specified backend.

GitLab backup bucket

The default name of the bucket that will be used to store backups is gitlab-backups. This is configurable using the BACKUP_BUCKET_NAME environment variable.

Backing up to Google Cloud Storage

By default, the backup utility uses s3cmd to upload and download artifacts from object storage. While this can work with Google Cloud Storage (GCS), it requires using the Interoperability API which makes undesirable compromises to authentication and authorization. When using Google Cloud Storage for backups you can configure the backup utility script to use the Cloud Storage native CLI, gsutil, to do the upload and download of your artifacts by setting the BACKUP_BACKEND environment variable to gcs.


The backup utility when given an argument --restore attempts to restore from an existing backup to the running instance. This backup can be from either an Omnibus GitLab or a CNG Helm chart installation given that both the instance that was backed up and the running instance runs the same version of GitLab. The restore expects a file in backup bucket using -t <backup-name> or a remote URL using -f <url>.

When given a -t parameter it looks into backup bucket in object storage for a backup tar with such name. When given a -f parameter it expects that the given URL is a valid URI of a backup tar in a location accessible from the container.

After fetching the backup tar the sequence of execution is:

  1. For repositories and database run the GitLab backup Rake task
  2. For each of object storage backends:
    • tar the existing data in the corresponding object storage bucket naming it <backup-name>.tar
    • upload it to tmp bucket in object storage
    • clean up the corresponding bucket
    • restore the backup content into the corresponding bucket
If the restore fails, the user will need to revert to previous backup using data in tmp directory of the backup bucket. This is currently a manual process.