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How to Configure a Server-level Backup

Backup is not just a feature but a business requirement to avoid loss and unforeseen situations. Learn how you can do it on Server-level.

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Written by Emmad
Updated over a week ago

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Nowadays, managing a website is no longer painful, but that does not mean things can’t go wrong. In the event when you mistakenly delete your critical application files, break your website’s functionality during development, or want to revert to a previous version of your website, an adequately configured backup can be your savior, so you can always restore your application.

Backup is not just a feature but a business requirement to avoid business loss and unforeseen situations. It is not difficult to configure the server-level backup because Cloudways Platform offers you automated off-site backup and on-demand backup features out-of-the-box. Automated backups are handy, so you don’t have to take manual backups regularly. This guide tends to explain the built-in functionality of server-level backups present within the Cloudways Platform and how you can maximize this functionality to your needs.

Off-site Backups vs Local Backups

As the name suggests, the off-site backups once created on the server are exported to a resilient and secure storage solution. This minimizes the risk of your files being jeopardized and reduces damage if your infrastructure provider or your server itself incurs any problem. This off-site backup can be automated, and you can take on-demand backup too. Learn more about the off-site backup mechanism.

Now we know that the off-site backups are first created on the server and then exported; therefore, it temporarily uses some disk space until the backed-up data is completely transferred. Once data is transferred, the system will wipe out the local copies, but if you wish to retain this local copy on the server, this arrangement is also known as Local Backup.

Server-level Backups vs Application-level Backups

The server-level backup means that a backup is taken of all the applications (web files including database) deployed on your server. On the other hand, an application-level backup means that only your chosen application is backed up. The application-level backup will contain all contents from your public_html and private_html directories along with a copy of its database. Any other folder or files present within your application home directory are not included in the backup. We suggest you keep any important files/folders within your private_html directory, so they are automatically included for the backup.

Now, to simplify a server-level backup, it is a collection of all the application’s backup from your server.

How to Configure Off-site Server-level Backup

The off-site server-level backups are already configured with default preferences when you launch a new server. Those default preferences include taking the server-level backup at any time between 1 am to 5 am (UTC) daily and retaining it for a week. These preferences can easily be customized to suit your needs. We recommend keeping the backup schedule to off-peak hours to avoid any disruption or degradation of server resources during the backup cycle. Let’s take a look at how you can configure server-level backup with your desired preferences using the Cloudways Platform.

You can follow this section for step-by-step instructions on how to configure your server-level backup. Alternatively, you can also review this video tutorial:

Step #1 — Navigate to Backups

Log in to your Cloudways Platform using your email address and password.

  1. From the top menu bar, open Servers.

  2. Next, choose your target server.

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  3. Under Server Management, select Backup.

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Step #2 — Setting Backup Preferences

Here, you have full control over how you want to set up your server backup cycle.

  1. Schedule Time: Use this option to take automated backups at your preferred time. This option is available only if the Backup Frequency is set for a day or above. Please note that your server uses the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), so make sure to convert it to your time zone.

  2. Backup Frequency: Set automated backup frequency ranging from one hour to every seven days. A frequency of 1 hour means that a backup of all applications on your server will automatically be taken every hour. A frequency of 7 days means that a backup of all applications on your server will be made every seven days (so one weekly backup).


    When configuring your backup settings, it's essential to align the frequency with the size of your data and server capacity. Opting for a higher backup frequency, such as hourly or every 3 hours, may strain your server, leading to extended completion times and potential skipping or failure of subsequent backups—particularly evident with larger application sizes.

    For optimal results, we suggest customizing your backup frequency based on the scale of your data. Users with smaller applications might find value in more frequent backups. In contrast, those managing larger applications are encouraged to consider less frequent schedules. This tailored approach ensures efficient server performance and minimizes the risk of backup disruptions. It's important to strike a balance that suits the unique characteristics of your data and server, fostering a reliable and effective backup strategy.

  3. Backup Retention: Set Backup Retention from 1 week to 4 weeks. This determines how long the backups are stored and are available to use.

  4. Once done setting up all the desired preferences, hit Save Changes.

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Off-site Backup Mechanism

Our backup software suite provides versioned and secure remote backups. The backup system works straightforwardly; when a backup is taken the first time, it will take a complete (full) backup and subsequently create incremental backups upon the next cycle.

Incremental backups consist of those web application files that were detected as new or modified since the previous backup cycle, but the database is fully backed up every time a backup is created because it is saved in a single file with .sql format. Incremental backups are quicker than a full backup, and it prevents retaking backup of unnecessary data. Therefore, your server also encounters minimum load, which helps to enhance the site performance. During the incremental backup process, the system will run a series of comparison checks to identify the required files to backup. We can recover your data to the point in time that any of the incremental or full backups were taken.

Sample Case

Let’s look at an example case to see what happens if you set the backup frequency one day and backup retention as one week (default preference) to understand this mechanism better.

In this case, the total number of full copies will be two, along with six incremental copies. For instance, if you launched a server on 31st December, then the first full backup copy will be generated on 1st January. After that, it will keep creating incremental backups for the next six days. On 8th January, the system will create your new full backup, followed by a series of incremental backups.

Keeping the daily backup frequency the same and increasing the retention period to more than one week will generate a linear increment in the number of backups; hence, more space will be required over your off-site backup location to hold the amount of data being copied.

As per the above example, we can observe that we have three full backups, with twelve incremental backups being created. Once the 4th full backup is created, the 1st backup set will be removed.


  • Backups are compressed before being exported to off-site storage.

  • The backups are stored securely and anonymously to safeguard your privacy.

Off-site Backup Size

Now you can also view your backup data size for a particular server being stored at an off-site location. Please note that these statistics are not updated on a real-time basis; therefore, these numbers may vary in terms of what was stored and what size is shown. So, make sure to see the Last Updated day and time to verify the backed-up data size at that given instant. The last updated day and time do not represent that your server was backed up at that given instant, as the server will keep taking backups considering your set preferences.

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How to Take an On-demand Backup

Besides automated backups, you can also take a manual backup, a.k.a, on-demand server-level backup, at leisure by clicking Take Backup Now. On-demand backups will show up in your restore points, yet the routine automated backups will have no impact.

An on-demand backup will create an incremental backup or a full backup according to the last backup type and status. If the previously scheduled backup was full, it would then create an incremental backup. On the other hand, if a full backup is next in a queue or has never been created (1st backup), it will create a full backup.

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Local Backups

The off-site backups are first created on the server and then exported; therefore, it uses some disk space temporarily until the backed-up data is completely transferred. Once data is transferred, the system will wipe out the local copies. Should you wish to retain this local copy on the server, you can enable the local backup to maintain your most recent backup on the server. To avoid filling your server with extra backup copies, it will only keep the latest backup, and any other copies will be deleted when the new backup is created. Please note that you cannot create local backups for a single application, yet it will contain the backup of all the applications present on your server.

How to Download Backups

It is a good and wise approach to keep your backups at more than one location. The backups are all downloadable, so you can always store them on your hard drive or pen drive. You can enable local backups to download the most recent backup maintained on your server.

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How to Delete Local Backups

If you would like to delete the local backup copy from your server, then click trash, as shown in the snapshot below.

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Is it possible to take a backup of only one application?

Yes, taking an on-demand backup of a specific application is possible. You may read this article for more information.

Can I download the backup to my computer?

Yes, you can easily download the server-level backup (on-demand backup) to your local computer by enabling the local backups. Please review this article for more information.

How long does Cloudways keep a backup of deleted servers?

We keep a backup of all applications in a server for 14 days after the server has been deleted. After that period, we cannot recover your applications, and Cloudways will not be responsible for any data loss. For more information, please visit this article.

I want to retain my server-level backups for more than four weeks; how can I do that?

With Cloudways Platform, you can retain your server-level backups for a maximum of four weeks, but with SnapShooter, you can retain those backups for more extended periods.

SnapShooter was acquired by DigitalOcean, and Cloudways customers can leverage this partnership to simplify backup workflows. Click here to learn more about the SnapShooter tool, its features, and how you can use it at Cloudways.

Can I use my storage for off-site backups?

Previously, it was impossible to use your storage to store the off-site backups, but thanks to SnapShooter's value addition, now you can use your storage.

You can choose to store your backups at SnapShooter’s storage or use your S3 storage options, such as DigitalOcean Spaces, Amazon S3, Google Drive, Dropbox, Firebase Wasabi, Blackbase B2, and Upcloud Scaleway. Click here to learn more about the SnapShooter tool, its features, and how you can use it at Cloudways.

What should I do if my backups fail?

Opting for a more frequent backup schedule, such as every hour, can impose a significant strain on the server and potentially prolong the duration of a single backup task beyond an hour. As a consequence, this may lead to the omission or failure of subsequent backup tasks. Therefore, it is advisable to decrease the backup frequency to 6 hours or lower to mitigate these issues.

That’s it! We hope this article was helpful. If you need any help, then feel free to search your query on Cloudways Support Center or contact us via chat (Need a Hand > Send us a Message). Alternatively, you can also create a support ticket.

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