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Backing up Riak

Choosing your Riak backup strategy will largely depend on the backend configuration of your nodes. In many cases, Riak will conform to your already established backup methodologies. When backing up a node, it is important to backup both the ring and data directories that pertain to your configured backend.

In addition to data and ring directories, it is useful to backup your configuration directory at the same time to ease recovering from a node failure.

The default Riak data, ring, and configuration directories for each of the supported operating systems is as follows:

Debian and Ubuntu

Fedora and RHEL



NOTE: OS X paths are relative to the directory in which the package was extracted.



Due to Riak’s eventually consistent nature, backups can become slightly inconsistent from node to node. Data could exist on some nodes and not others at the exact time a backup is made. Any inconsistency will be corrected at read time with Riak’s read-repair system, however.

Bitcask Backups

Due to its log-structured design, backups of Bitcask can be accomplished through a variety of common methods. Standard utilities such cp, rsync, and tar can be used as well as any backup system or methodology already in place in your environment.

A simple cron job such as the following example is sufficient for creating a backup of your Bitcask data, ring, and Riak configuration directories for a binary package based Riak Linux installation:

tar -czf /mnt/riak_backups/riak_data_`date +%Y%m%d_%H%M`.tar.gz \
  /var/lib/riak/bitcask /var/lib/riak/ring /etc/riak

Consult the Bitcask documentation to learn more about this backend.

LevelDB Backups

Currently, LevelDB data and log backups require that the node not be running when the backup is performed. This can present the challenge of coordinating node shutdown and startup with the backup process, but otherwise, backup of a LevelDB based node is similar to that of other Riak backends.

A simple cron job such as the following example is sufficient for creating a backup of your LevelDB data, ring, and Riak configuration directories for a binary package based Riak Linux installation

The basic process for getting a backup of LevelDB from a node is as follows:

  1. Stop the node
  2. Back up the appropriate data, ring, and configuration directories as relevant to your operating system.
  3. Start the node
One handy means to avoid excessive downtime is to store Riak data on a file system with snapshot capabilities, such as ZFS. The process would be to stop the node, take a snapshot of the data directory and start the node. You can then dump the snapshot and delete it later.

Consult the LevelDB documentation to learn more about this backend.

Restoring a Node

The method you use to restore a node will differ depending on a combination of factors, including node name changes and your network environment.

If you are replacing a node with a new node that has the same node name (typically a fully qualified domain name or IP address), then restoring the node is is a simple process.

  1. Install Riak on the new node.
  2. Restore your old node's configuration files, data directory, and ring directory.
  3. Start the node and verify proper operation with riak ping, riak-admin status, and other methods you use to check node health.

If any node names have been changed (that is, the -name argument in the vm.args configuration file for any node is different than the backup being restored to that node), then you will need to additionally:

  1. Mark the original instance down in the cluster using riak-admin down <node>
  2. Join the restored node to the cluster using riak-admin cluster join <node>
  3. Replace the original instance with the renamed instance with riak-admin cluster force-replace <node1> <node2>
  4. Plan the changes to the cluster with riak-admin cluster plan
  5. Finally, commit the cluster changes with riak-admin cluster commit
For more information about the riak-admin cluster commands, refer to the cluster section of “Command Line Tools - riak-admin”.

For example, if there are five nodes in the cluster with the original node names through and you wish to restore as, you would execute the following commands on

# Join to any existing, cluster node
riak-admin cluster join
# Mark the old instance down
riak-admin down
# Force-replace the original instance with the new one
riak-admin cluster force-replace
# Display and review the cluster change plan
riak-admin cluster plan
# Commit the changes to the cluster.
riak-admin cluster commit

The -name setting in the vm.args configuration file should also be changed to match the new name in addition to running the commands. If the IP address of any node has changed, verify that the changes are reflected in the app.config file to ensure that the HTTP and PB interfaces are binding to the correct addresses.

A robust DNS configuration can simplify the restore process if the IP addresses of the nodes change, but the hostnames are used for the node names and the hostnames stay the same. Additionally, if the HTTP and PB interface settings are configured to bind to all IP interfaces (, then no changes will need to be made to the app.config file.

It is recommended when performing restore operations involving riak-admin cluster force-replace to start only one node at a time, and verify that each node that is started has the correct name for itself and any other nodes whose names have changed.

First, verify that the correct name is present in the vm.args configuration file. Then, once the node is started, run riak attach to connect to the node. It may be necessary to enter an Erlang atom and press enter to obtain a prompt, by typing x. and pressing enter. The prompt obtained should contain the correct node name. Disconnect from the attached session with ^d (control-d). Finally, run riak-admin member_status to list all of the nodes and verify that all nodes listed have the correct names.

Restoring a Cluster

Restoring a cluster from backups is documented on its own page.