For each of my various websites, I back up the web site files and the associated database for into a single dated compressed archive file (one zip file per website) and download that to my local Windows Vista machine. My websites are hosted on Unix machines accessible via ssh. I've decided to use Python Fabric as it seems to be well-fit for the job.

This works but it's kind of a mess because I just hacked it together. I want to make it cleaner and a little more generalized. For example, right now it hard-codes where I'm storing web apps on the server, but actually for some of my websites they are stored in different places. Also, it feels a little wonky to save a db file to a web file directory, but I'm not sure how else I can easily get it into the zip archive.

import time
from fabric.api import *

env.hosts = ['example.com']
env.user = 'someuser'
env.password = 'somepassword'

def backup_database(app_name, db_name):
    db_passwords = {'somedatabasename': 'somedbpassword'}
    mysqldump_command = 'MYSQL_PWD=%(password)s ionice -c2 -n6 mysqldump -u' + 
        ' %(database_name)s %(database_name)s ' +
        '> ./webapps/%(app_name)s/%(database_name)s.sql' % {
        'password': db_passwords[db_name],
        'database_name': db_name,
        'app_name': app_name

def backup_site(app_name):
    date = time.strftime('%Y-%m-%d')
    zip_filename = '%(app_name)s-%(date)s.zip' % { 'date': date, 'app_name': app_name }
    zip_command = 'zip -r %(zip_filename)s ./webapps/%(app_name)s > /dev/null' % {
        'zip_filename': zip_filename, 'app_name': app_name }
    get(zip_filename, zip_filename)
    run('rm ' + zip_filename)

def backup_webapp(app_name, db_name):
    backup_database(app_name, db_name)
    rm_command = 'rm $HOME/webapps/%(app_name)s/%(database_name)s.sql' % {
        'database_name': db_name,
        'app_name': app_name

def backup():
    backup_webapp('somewebappfoldername', 'somedatabasename')

Using the fabric tool I call the script like this:

c:> fab backup

If you don't know fabric, the script file is Python and the run commands are executed via ssh on the remote server. And the get command will pull a file from the remote server to the local machine.

What it does is:

  1. Backup database to a an SQL file and put it in webdirectory
  2. Zip web directory
  3. Download zip to my local machine
  4. Delete the zip file on the server and delete the database backup from the web directory

1 Answer 1


The names are chosen well. The code is clear. Obviously it is for a specialized case so there are many constants in the code - that is OK. It is strictly procedural, which is a good thing - OOP has a tendency to just become boilerplate for small things like these (it would be useful if you intended to make a framework for a general backup tool)

I would definitely remove the unnecessary variables.

  • db_passwords = {'somedatabasename': 'somedbpassword'} which is only used a few lines later as db_passwords[db_name], take the password as an argument to the function instead.
  • date = time.strftime('%Y-%m-%d'), it would be understandable if you had to use it twice and be sure it still was the same day (in that case I would argue for a function argument), but in your case you only use it once. So remove the variable and do instead ... 'date': time.strftime('%Y-%m-%d').

Some variables could be better as functions, for example - zip_command, I would put that into a function which would take app_name and filename as argument and then return the command. Of course, the day you want different zip commands depending on database size or backup time you just add an extra argument.

Perhaps more subjective but I would go for the new Advanced String Formatter.

To generalize your tool, I would do one of the two: a) put your options on the command line (e.g. argparse or optparse) or b) use a configuration file (fabric can take an environment file as argument). I would absolutely only put those options that do vary between the sites (rather than making everything possible with an explosion in code for no added real utility).


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