Manage Postgres Backups Separately

Customer Managed Applies to customer-managed instances of Alation

Available from version 2023.1


The information in this section applies to Backup V2. Refer to Check Current Backup Tool for information on how to check your current backup framework.

From version 2023.1, Alation Postgres backups are created using the pgBackRest tool by default. If necessary, the pgBackRest tool allows you to separate Postgres backups from the Alation application backups. Excluding Postgres backups from Alation backups can noticeably decrease the backup creation time and can be recommended for large implementations of the catalog. However, in this case Postgres backups will have to be maintained separately from Alation backups. The restore process is affected too as it requires the full set of backups of all components.


If you are managing an Alation PostgreSQL database on an external AWS RDS instance, Alation automatically uses the built-in functionality of AWS RDS to create snapshots of the database. You will not need to use the feature described on this page. See Move the Alation Database to AWS RDS for more information.


On previous releases, starting with 2022.2, the default backup tool was pg_probackup. The pgBackRest tool was additionally available and could be enabled by an Alation admin on demand.

Check if PgBackRest Is in Use

If necessary, you can validate that the pgBackRest tool is enabled on your Alation instance by checking the alation_conf parameter alation.feature_flags.enable_pgbackrest. From 2023.1, by default, this parameter is set to True.

To check the pgBackRest setting:

  1. Use SSH to connect to your Alation instance.

  2. Enter the Alation shell.

    sudo /etc/init.d/alation shell
  3. Run the command given below. The output will show the current value of the parameter.

    alation_conf alation.feature_flags.enable_pgbackrest
  4. Exit the Alation shell.


Enable pgBackRest

Applies to versions 2022.2 - 2022.4

To enable pgbackRest:

  1. Use SSH to connect to your Alation instance.

  2. Enter the Alation shell.

    sudo /etc/init.d/alation shell
  3. Run the following command:

    alation_conf alation.feature_flags.enable_pgbackrest -s True
  4. Enabling pgBackRest changes the WAL archive directory from pg_probackup (default) to pgbackrest. This change needs to be propagated down to the Postgres configuration on the Alation server. For this to happen, run the enable_backupv2 action after enabling pgBackRest:

    alation_action enable_backupv2

    No restart is required.

  5. Because pgBackRest does not support Celery-based scheduled backups, you need to disable them to avoid a daily backup failure. You can schedule pgBackRest backups using Crontab: Schedule pgBackRest Backups.

    Run the following command to disable daily backup schedule:

    alation_conf snapshot.enabled -s False


    If you later decide to return to the default backup tool, you’ll need to re-enable the daily backup schedule and disable the corresponding cron job.

6. If you are going to continue the backup configuration at this point, stay in the Alation shell. If not, exit the Alation shell: exit.

Except for backup scheduling, pgBackRest supports most of the backup configuration options available for Backup V2. With pgBackRest enabled, you can use incremental backups. For more information, see Configure Incremental Backups.

After enabling pgBackRest, decide if you want to exclude the Postgres backup from the compressed Alation backup. Excluding the Postgres backup from the Alation backup can noticeably decrease the backup creation time and is recommended for large implementations of the Catalog. However, in this case the Postgres backup must be maintained separately from the Alation backup files. Maintaining separate Postgres backups also affects the restore process as the Postgres backup needs to be provided in addition to the Alation backup.

Exclude Postgres Backup from Alation Backup

When using pgBackRest, you can exclude the Postgres backup from the Alation backup and maintain Postgres backups separately.

Whether or not the Postgres backup is excluded from the Alation backup is controlled by the alation_conf parameter alation.backup_v2.pgbackup_compression.

By default, the Postgres backup is included in the Alation backup and compressed together with the backup of the Alation application into the Alation .tar.gz file. The default state is reflected by the following setting of the parameter alation.backup_v2.pgbackup_compression:

alation.backup_v2.pgbackup_compression = True

To exclude the Postgres backup from the Alation backup, you need to modify the value of alation.backup_v2.pgbackup_compression and set it to False.

To exclude the Postgres backup from the Alation backup:

  1. Use SSH to connect to your Alation instance.

  2. Enter the Alation shell:

    sudo /etc/init.d/alation shell
  3. Disable the Postgres compression:

    alation_conf alation.backup_v2.pgbackup_compression -s False
  4. Next, you can designate a directory on the Alation host to store the uncompressed Postgres backups. By default, the Postgres backups will be created in the directory data2/pgbackrest. You can create a different directory in the Alation chroot for the Postgres backups. Use the following command to designate a custom pgBackRest directory:

    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.repo_dir_name -s path/to/directory
  5. Exit the Alation shell.


With this pgBackRest configuration, the next backup process will create three backup files:

  • In the backup directory data2/backup (default) or in the directory that you designated for backups using the parameter alation.backup.data_dump_dir, Alation will create the Alation backup and the Event Bus backup:

    • <timestamp_version>_alation_backup.tar.gz - A compressed Alation backup that does not include the Postgres backup.

    • <timestamp_version>_alation_eb_backup.tar.gz - A compressed Event Bus backup.

  • Separately, in the directory data2/pgbackrest or in the directory that you designated for Postgres backups using the parameter pgsql.pgbackrest.repo_dir_name, Alation will create a separate Postgres backup. Note that the Postgres backup is not one file but a set of files and directories.


For more information on how to create backups, see Create Backups Manually.

Configure External Storage on Amazon S3

You can use Amazon S3 as external storage for Postgres backups. If S3 is configured as external storage, every time you run the backup action or when a backup is created on schedule, Alation will copy the Postgres backup to the designated S3 bucket. Note that the backups are copied to S3, not moved. They will remain available in the backup folder of the Alation host, too. S3 serves as additional remote storage.

When restoring Alation, you can specify the S3 bucket as the source of the Postgres backup in order to restore Alation.


The existing configuration option for moving Alation backups to external storage alation.backup.post_script.path does not cover separate Postgres backups and only relocates the Alation backup and the Event Bus backup.

Perform this configuration after enabling pgBackRest with Postgres compression disabled.


  1. You will need to specify information about your Amazon S3 bucket in this configuration. Make sure you have these values at hand:

    • S3 bucket name

    • Your Amazon S3 region

    • AWS API key

    • AWS API secret

Your Alation instance must be able to establish a connection to S3. Make sure your Amazon S3 environment allows connections from the Alation IP address.


To configure the external Postgres backup storage on Amazon S3:

  1. From the Alation shell, set the following parameters:

    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.enabled -s True
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.type -s s3
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.s3.endpoint -s
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.s3.bucket -s <your_ AWS_S3_bucket>
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.s3.region -s <AWS_region_for_S3_bucket>
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.s3.key -s <AWS_API_key>
    alation_conf pgsql.pgbackrest.redundancy.s3.secret -s <AWS_API_secret>


    Alation will store the AWS API key and secret in the encrypted format.

  2. No restart is required. When you run the backup action next time, Alation will copy the Postgres backup to the S3 bucket as per this configuration.


    When you restore Alation from the backup on a new instance, before you run the restore command, you will need to repeat the same configuration for S3 as was on the old instance. See Restore Alation with Postgres Backup on Amazon S3.

Schedule pgBackRest Backups

Use the information for your Alation version.

Versions 2022.3 and Newer

From Version 2022.3, pgBackRest backups can be scheduled using alation_conf. See Set Up a Custom Backup Schedule.

Version 2022.2

Scheduled pgBackRest backups are based on UTC. The current backup scheduling capabilities using alation_conf are based on Celery task scheduling which uses PST. This results in a failure of scheduled backups when pgBackRest is enabled.

In order to schedule backups when using pgBackRest, turn off Celery-based daily backups and set up the corresponding system Cron job.

To schedule backups when using pgBackRest:

  1. On the Alation host, enter the Alation shell:

    sudo /etc/init.d/alation shell
  2. Make sure that the Celery-based backup schedule is turned off or turn it off.

    • To check if Celery-based schedule is turned off:

      alation_conf snapshot.enabled

      If this command returns False, it has already been turned off and you can proceed to the next step. If this command returns True, change the value to False:

      alation_conf snapshot.enabled -s False
  3. Exit the shell.

  4. Outside of chroot, add the following crontab entry. It sets the backup job to run daily at 4 AM.

    sudo crontab -l | { cat; echo "0 4 * * * source /opt/alation/alation/opt/alation/ops/alation_constants; sudo chroot "${ALATION_CHROOT}" /bin/su - ${ALATION_USER} -c "alation_action backup_all""; } | sudo crontab -
  5. Check the new setting.

    sudo crontab -l

    The output should be:

    * * * * * /opt/alation/alation/opt/alation/ops/actions/unjailed_update_auto_alation > /dev/null 2>&1
    0 4 * * * source /opt/alation/alation/opt/alation/ops/alation_constants; sudo chroot "${ALATION_CHROOT}" /bin/su - ${ALATION_USER} -c "alation_action backup_all"

You can generate your preferred crontab using and configure a custom crontab. Use the following example to change to a new schedule:

sudo crontab -e # replace "0 4 * * *" with "0 6 * * *"
sudo crontab -l

The output should be similar to:

* * * * * /opt/alation/alation/opt/alation/ops/actions/unjailed_update_auto_alation > /dev/null 2>&1

0 6 * * * source /opt/alation/alation/opt/alation/ops/alation_constants; sudo chroot "${ALATION_CHROOT}" /bin/su - ${ALATION_USER} -c "alation_action backup_all"

Location of pgBackRest Logs

Enabling and using pgBackRest does not change the location of the backup logs /var/lib/pgsql/<version>/ inside the Alation chroot.