|PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration Guide|
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 204 pages
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10.3 Continuous Archiving and Point-In-Time Recovery (PITR)
At all times, PostgreSQL maintains a write ahead log (WAL) in the ‘pg_xlog/’ subdirectory of the cluster's data directory. The log describes every change made to the database's data files. This log exists primarily for crash-safety purposes: if the system crashes, the database can be restored to consistency by “replaying” the log entries made since the last checkpoint. However, the existence of the log makes it possible to use a third strategy for backing up databases: we can combine a file-system-level backup with backup of the WAL files. If recovery is needed, we restore the backup and then replay from the backed-up WAL files to bring the backup up to current time. This approach is more complex to administer than either of the previous approaches, but it has some significant benefits:
- We do not need a perfectly consistent backup as the starting point. Any internal inconsistency in the backup will be corrected by log replay (this is not significantly different from what happens during crash recovery). So we don't need file system snapshot capability, just tar or a similar archiving tool.
- Since we can string together an indefinitely long sequence of WAL files for replay, continuous backup can be achieved simply by continuing to archive the WAL files. This is particularly valuable for large databases, where it may not be convenient to take a full backup frequently.
- There is nothing that says we have to replay the WAL entries all the way to the end. We could stop the replay at any point and have a consistent snapshot of the database as it was at that time. Thus, this technique supports point-in-time recovery: it is possible to restore the database to its state at any time since your base backup was taken.
- If we continuously feed the series of WAL files to another machine that has been loaded with the same base backup file, we have a warm standby system: at any point we can bring up the second machine and it will have a nearly-current copy of the database.
As with the plain file-system-backup technique, this method can only support restoration of an entire database cluster, not a subset. Also, it requires a lot of archival storage: the base backup may be bulky, and a busy system will generate many megabytes of WAL traffic that have to be archived. Still, it is the preferred backup technique in many situations where high reliability is needed.
To recover successfully using continuous archiving (also called "online backup" by many database vendors), you need a continuous sequence of archived WAL files that extends back at least as far as the start time of your backup. So to get started, you should setup and test your procedure for archiving WAL files before you take your first base backup. Accordingly, we first discuss the mechanics of archiving WAL files.
|ISBN 0954612043||PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 3 - Server Administration Guide||See the print edition|