Scheduled Cloudant Backups

May 15, 2019 | Glynn Bird | Backup COS Kubernetes

The Couchbackup project provides a simple command-line tool to backup a Cloudant database to a file. From there it can uploaded to IBM Cloud Object Storage for archival.

# backup a single database to a file
couchbackup --db mydatabase > mydatabase.txt

# copy the file to Object Storage
aws --endpoint-url=$ENDPOINT \
   s3 cp mydatabase.txt s3://mycloudantbackups/

As well a command-line tool, couchbackup can also be used as a Node.js library so that you can script your own workflows to suit your application. The couchbackup source code has example scripts which you can use as a basis of your own.

In this post we’ll create a Kubernetes service that runs periodically to backup a Cloudant database. This can be scheduled to run at hourly, daily, weekly or monthly intervals, for example.


Photo by Boba Jovanovic on Unsplash

Pre-requisites 🔗

  1. An IBM Cloud account.
  2. An IBM Cloudant service with a database containing documents you wish to backup.
  3. An IBM Cloud Object Storage service with set of HMAC credentials.
  4. An IBM Kubernetes Service.

Running the backup script on your machine 🔗

Using the s3-backup-stream.js as a basis for our script, we want our code to:

The source code of our script is here and can be executed on your machine as follows:

# Clone the repository.
git clone

# Install this project's dependencies.
cd scheduledcloudantbackup
npm install

# Create environment variables containing credentials.
# Replace <placeholders> with your data. 
# Swap "export" for "set" on a Windows machine.
export COUCH_URL="https://<username>:<password>@<host>/<db>"
export COS_ENDPOINT_URL="https://s3.<region>"
export COS_BUCKET="<bucket>"
export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID="<access key id>"
export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY="<secret access key>"

# Run the backup.
npm run start

Running as a Docker container 🔗

This script can also be run as a Docker container. If you have Docker installed on your machine, run the following commands:

# Build the image.
docker build -t scheduledcloudantbackup .

# Spin up a container based on this image passing in 
# environment variables with connection details.
docker run \
  --env COUCH_URL="$COUCH_URL" \

The values beginning with $ are replaced with the environment variables we created in the previous step.

Running automatically in Kubernetes 🔗

To run the backup unattended every hour, we need to schedule this process to run periodically. IBM’s Kubernetes service has a “cron job” function that is designed for just this purpose. First we need to register our Docker image with the IBM Kubernetes service:

  1. Sign up for a IBM Kubernetes service.
  2. Follow the instructions on how to install the ibmcloud command-line tools.
  3. Authenticate. e.g. ibmcloud login
  4. Set the Kubernetes target. e.g. ibmcloud ks region-set eu-gb. I chose the eu-gb region - others are available.
  5. Download the cluster config e.g. ibmcloud ks cluster-config scheduledcloudantbackup
  6. Log into the container registory service e.g. ibmcloud cr login
  7. Create a namespace e.g. ibmcloud cr namespace-add scheduledbackup
  8. Build an image e.g. ibmcloud cr build -t .

So we now have an image called in the IBM image registry - we next need to trigger it to run periodically with a Kubernetes cron job.

A “cron job” is a term taken from the Unix world - it means running a task periodically, say every hour. It has a syntax specifying the interval at which your code is to be run, in our case we want 0 * * * * (see “Crontab Guru” for an explanation of that syntax) which means “at the top of every hour”.

Our cron job definition resides in a “cronjob.yml” file which tells the Kubernetes cluster which image to spin up, at what interval and the environment variables it runs with. Edit the cronjob.yml to configure your Cloudant service and Object Storage environment variables before running:

kubectl create -f cronjob.yml

Now wait until the top of the hour for the backup process to begin. When it’s complete, you should see time-stamped backup in your Object Storage bucket!