Remote FTP Backups with Plesk
A common control panel that’s being sold at providers such as 1&1 is the Parallels Plesk Panel. It’s fairly simple and straight forward to use, and is provided at a discount compared to the popular cPanel. Like cPanel, Plesk allows an Administrator to configure domains, customer subscriptions, and provide web hosting services to their own customers. An important aspect that any webhost needs to provide for their customers, and for their own infrastructure, is a backup solution.
I’ve previously gone in depth about Backup Solutions and ideas for the 1&1 Cloud Server, which is a perfect place to start since it has the most backup options self contained at 1&1, but you may want something a bit different, something where the backups are kept with you and are in your full possession.
Typically, Plesk’s Backup Manager can be set up on a schedule which stores either Full or Incremental backups in the /var/lib/psa/dumps directory. This is great if we’re on a dedicated server and have hundreds of GigaBytes of disk space, but with the Cloud Servers, every GB is valuable to us and space is limited. Most of us have a local computer that has almost a TB of space available to us, even more if we look at having a USB Harddrive. We’ll want to leverage that space by configuring Plesk to send backups to that drive using free software such as FileZilla FTP Server.
Right off the bat, I don’t like FTP, due to many reasons of security which I won’t delve on, but it’s all that Plesk allows right off the bat. Later, I’ll write alternative setups to try to get rid of FTP from the equation and use something a bit more secure.
- FileZilla FTP Server
- Know you local IP Address
- DynDNS (optional)
Please read up on the Plesk Admin Guide to understand how to setup and use the feature in depth. I’ll only be covering the basic jist of setting it up.
IP Address Concern
Many ISP providers choose to provide IP Address dynamically which means that they are constantly changing. This provides a huge issue for trying to configure FTP Schedules when Plesk doesn’t know the IP of where to connect to.
If this is the case, I recommend looking into a service like DynDNS or No-IP. These services will create a domain like “mydomain.dyndns.net” which is pointed at your IP. A client program is ran on your computer to update this domain whenever your IP changes. We provide this domain to the FTP Storage setting instead of using just an IP address, and won’t have to worry about this IP concern.
FileZilla FTP Server
Right off the bat, you’re going to want to get FileZilla setup and running, Firewall Exceptions added, and as needed, port forwarding completed. http://portforward.com/ is a great site that explains steps for various routers and configurations to forward ports. Forwarding is needed in this world of multiple devices connected to a single gateway like your Cable Modem.
Create a user, password, and Shared folders of where you’re going to place the files and call that storage the user’s “home”. Password authentication is at least a piece of security, another piece is to add IP Filtering to block all IPs except for your server. This at least means the only way someone is accessing these files are to be coming from your server. That’s a start I suppose.
In the “Settings” configuration of FileZilla, set the “IPs are not allowed access..” and give it a “*” which basically is a wildcard saying All IPs are not allowed access. “Exclude the following IPs…” and give it your server’s IP.
Backup Settings in Plesk
After you configure Plesk for FTP Storage, you’ll want to start looking at the Schedule for an option that fits your business model. Personally, I like the idea of doing a Full backup every week, with incremental backups everyday. The incremental will make sure that only small changes are recorded and saved, which will help keep filesize down. You should check the “Suspend Domains” while the Backups get processed. This will ensure there’s no file conflicts of files being in use or changing, but it will also mean that you’re sites on that domain will be unavailable, so schedule during the late night hours when your business can be safely taken offline.