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Backup with snapshots

When you start a new instance, you can choose the Instance Boot Source from the following list:

  • boot from image
  • boot from instance snapshot
  • boot from volume
  • boot from volume snapshot

Launching an Instance Boot Source

When the instance boots from image or from snapshot, the instance has an ephemeral disk. This means that the disk of the instance is not listed under the "Volumes" list. This also means that if you delete the instance all the data on that disk is lost forever.

To make a backup of the ephemeral disk you will need to create a snapshot of instance itself. The resulting snapshot in this case will be a openstack image type. You will be able to find it listed in the "Compute -> Images" list.

When the instance boots from volume this means that it will use an existing volume listed in the "Volumes" menu. In this case the volume is persistent and will not be deleted even if the instance is deleted, unless explicitely selected the Yes option on "Delete Volume on Instance Delete".

Create and use Instance snapshots

The OpenStack snapshot mechanism allows you to create new images from your instances while they are either running or stopped.

This mainly serves two purposes:

  • *As a backup mechanism: save the main disk of your instance to an image and later boot a new instance from this image with the saved data.

  • As a templating mechanism: customise and upgrade a base image and save it to use as a template for new instances.

How to create an instance snapshot

Using the CLI

  • Prerequisites

To run the OpenStack CLI commands, you need to have:

To snapshot an instance to an image using the CLI, do this:

Using the openstack client
openstack server image create --name <name of my snapshot> --wait <instance name or uuid>
To view newly created snapshot image
openstack image show --fit-width <name of my snapshot>

Using this snapshot, the VM can be rolled back to the previous state with a server rebuild.

openstack server rebuild --image <name of my snapshot> <existing instance name or uuid>

For e.g.

openstack server image create --name my-snapshot --wait test-nerc-0

openstack image show --fit-width my-snapshot

openstack server rebuild --image my-snapshot test-nerc-0

Important Information

During the time it takes to do the snapshot, the machine can become unresponsive.

Using Horizon dashboard

Once you’re logged in to NERC's Horizon dashboard, you can create a snapshot via the "Compute -> Instances" page by clicking on the "Create snapshot" action button on desired instance as shown below:

Ceate Instance Snapshot

Instance Snapshot Information

Once created, you can find the image listed under Images in the Horizon dashboard:

Snapshot Instance Created

You have the option to launch this image as a new instance, or by clicking on the arrow next to Launch, create a volume from the image, edit details about the image, update the image metadata, or delete it:

Snapshot Instance Options

You can then select the snapshot when creating a new instance or directly click "Launch" button to use the snapshot image to launch a new instance.

Live snapshots and data consistency

We call a snapshot taken against a running instance with no downtime a "live snapshot". These snapshots are simply disk-only snapshots, and may be inconsistent if the instance's OS is not aware of the snapshot being taken.

Take and use Volume Snapshots

Volume snapshots

You can also create snapshots of a volume, that then later can be used to create other volumes or to rollback to a precedent point in time. You can take a snapshot of volume that may or may not be attached to an instance. Snapshot of available volumes or volumes that are not attached to an instance does not affect the data on the volume. Snapshot of a volume serves as a backup for the persistent data on the volume at a given point in time. Snapshots are of the size of the actual data existing on the volume at the time at which the snapshot is taken. The creation of a snapshot takes a few seconds and it can be done while the volume is in-use.


Taking snapshots of volumes that are in use or attached to active instances can result in data inconsistency on the volume.

Once you have the snapshot, you can use it to create other volumes based on this snapshot. Creation time for these volumes may depend on the type of the volume you are creating as it may entitle some data transfer.

How to create a volume snapshot

Using the OpenStack CLI

  • Prerequisites

To run the OpenStack CLI commands, you need to have:

To snapshot an instance to an image using the CLI, do this:

Using the openstack client commands
$ openstack volume snapshot create --volume <volume name or uuid> <name of my snapshot>

For e.g.

$ openstack volume snapshot create --volume test_volume my-volume-snapshot
| Field       | Value                                |
| created_at  | 2022-04-12T19:48:42.707250           |
| description | None                                 |
| id          | f1cf6846-4aba-4eb8-b3e4-2ff309f8f599 |
| name        | my-volume-snapshot                   |
| properties  |                                      |
| size        | 25                                   |
| status      | creating                             |
| updated_at  | None                                 |
| volume_id   | f2630d21-f8f5-4f02-adc7-14a3aa72cc9d |

Important Information

if the volume is in-use, you may need to specify --force

You can list the volume snapshots with the following command.

$ openstack volume snapshot list

For e.g.

$ openstack volume snapshot list
| ID                                   | Name               | Description | Status    | Size |
| f1cf6846-4aba-4eb8-b3e4-2ff309f8f599 | my-volume-snapshot | None        | available |   25 |

Once the volume snapshot is in available state, then you can create other volumes based on that snapshot. You don't need to specify the size of the volume, it will use the size of the snapshot.

openstack volume create --description --source <name of my snapshot> "Volume from an snapshot" <volume name or uuid>

You can delete the snapshots just by issuing the following command

$ openstack volume snapshot delete <name of my snapshot>

For e.g.

$ openstack volume snapshot delete my-volume-snapshot

Using NERC's Horizon dashboard

Once you’re logged in to NERC's Horizon dashboard, you can create a snapshot via the "Volumes" menu by clicking on the "Create Snapshot" action button on desired volume as shown below:

Create Volume Snapshot

In the dialog box that opens, enter a snapshot name and a brief description.

Volume Snapshot Information

Once a snapshot is created, you can manage them under the Volumes menu in the Horizon dashboard under Volume Snapshots:

Volume Snapshots List

Create Volume from Snapshot:

Create Volume from Volume Snapshot

In the dialog box that opens, enter a volume name and a brief description.

Create Volume Popup

Any snapshots made into volumes can be found under Volumes:

New Volume from Volume Snapshot


Keep in mind that any volumes and snapshots stored take up space in your project. Delete any you no longer need to conserve space.