How to Backup Your MySQL Database(s) to S3 Using the AWS CLI

It is good practice to create systematic backups of your databases and store them in a location separate from your server. Using MySQL and Amazon S3 we can set this up effortlessly. We will be preparing the commands needed to create the backup, send it to your S3 bucket using the AWS CLI, and finally setting up a cron job to do a daily backup.

This guide was created using MySQL version 5.7 and AWS CLI version 1.11.

Backing Up the Databases

Let's start with the command that safely backs up all of your MySQL databases:

mysqldump -u<user> -p \
          --single-transaction \
          --routines \
          --all-databases > database_backup_$(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M).sql

Replace <user> with the user you'd like to use for the dump.

  • --single-transaction

    This flag initiates a transaction so active reads and writes will not be blocked. This is a mandatory flag for any mysqldump on a live database.

  • --routines

    This flag will include stored routines. Note the timestamp attributes will change since the routines will be recreated. Making a dump of the mysql.proc table is the accepted method if you need to preserve the timestamps.

  • --all-databases

    This flag is pretty self-explanatory. It will dump of all available databases the user has access to.

Note: Using $(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M) simply concatenates a timestamp to the file name. This serves the dual purpose of documenting the date of the backup and creating a unique file name that cannot be overwritten (unless the the clock gets set back on the server).

Compressing the Database Backup

Let's save some space on these backups by compressing them using gzip:

mysqldump -u<user> -p \
          --single-transaction \
          --routines \
          --all-databases | \
gzip > database_backup_$(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M).sql.gz

Uploading Compressed Database Backup to Amazon S3

In order to use the AWS CLI you will need to install it and configure it with an IAM access key and secret. You will also need to create a bucket in S3 to store the backups. I created a bucket called database-backups to upload mine to. We can pipe our gzipped dump straight into S3 without creating any files on our server:

mysqldump -u<user> -p \
          --single-transaction \
          --routines \
          --all-databases | \
gzip | \
aws s3 cp - s3://database-backups/database_backup_$(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M).sql.gz

If you'd like to create a copy on the server as well, you can use this command:

DATE=$(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M) && \
mysqldump -u<user> -p \
          --single-transaction \
          --routines \
          --all-databases | \
gzip > database_backup_$DATE.sql.gz && \
aws s3 cp database_backup_$DATE.sql.gz s3://database-backups/

Finally, Cron Job for Daily Backup

Cron jobs tend to like absolute paths to executables so let's find the path to our AWS CLI:

which aws

Create a file named .my.cnf in your ~/ directory. The file should look like this:


Open your user specific crontab:

crontab -u $(whoami) -e

At the end of the file, add a cron job that runs once per day (need to escape % for cron to work):

0 0 * * * mysqldump --single-transaction --routines --all-databases | gzip | aws s3 cp - s3://database-backups/database_backup_$(date +\%Y\%m\%d\%H\%M).sql.gz


You should now have a daily cron job running that creates a compressed backup of all your MySQL databases and sends them to an S3 bucket. Next steps might include rotating out older backups in the S3 bucket, either by deleting them after a certain amount of time, or moving them to Amazon Glacier.