Backing up locally with rsnapshot? Use ionice to reduce load.

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For quite some time now I've been using rsnapshot to create local backups on some web servers. However I lately saw increasing loads in the night during the rsnapshot backup which causes some services (like HTTP) to time out. That, of course, is not acceptable.

To reduce the load during the backup, I already used nice to decrease the CPU priority on the backup processes. However this caused no visible change in the load because nice handles CPU requests but not IO requests. And the timeouts of the services occurred due to disk latency, not CPU wait.

So to handle this scenario, ionice can be used. There are three classed ionice can be used with. For this purpose (backup) I decided to use class 3 (idle) - meaning that the rsnapshot process will only access the disk when the disk is idle. I was a bit afraid that the backup process would now take much longer but that wasn't actually the case.

Here is a graphic showing the system load before (red) and after (dark red) ionice was added.

System load reduced through ionice

As one can clearly see from the graphs, the CPU load decreased a lot!

I also checked the logs to see how much longer the backup process now takes and I was surprised that it wasn't such a big difference:

June 15: 42 minutes
June 16: 46 minutes
June 17: 42 minutes
June 18: 58 minutes
June 19: 48 minutes
Average: 47.2 minutes (without ionice)

On June 19th during the day I adapted the cronjob and added ionice (see above):

ionice -c 3 /usr/bin/rsnapshot daily

June 20: 69 minutes
June 21: 51 minutes
June 22: 54 minutes
June 23: 55 minutes
June 24: 73 minutes
Average: 60.4 minutes (with ionice)

That's an average of 13 minutes longer. I've expected much worse numbers and can greatly live with a backup process which takes 13mins longer.

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