Last updated December 14, 2022
Table of Contents
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Backups of your data are crucial to any application. Every Heroku Postgres database on the Standard tier or higher comes with an automatic, behind-the-scenes Continuous Protection mechanism that captures physical backups for disaster recovery.
For testing, setting up environments, and migrating data, logical backups offer more portability than physical backups. Heroku Postgres has a PGBackups feature that allows you to take manual and scheduled logical backups. These backups are in a compressed binary format, and are much smaller in size than your database’s actual size on disk.
This article explains how to take manual and scheduled logical backups, show existing backups, restore backups, and transfer data directly between two databases.
Use PGBackups only for moderately loaded databases up to 20 GB. The backup process can time out for databases that are heavily loaded, larger than 20 GB, or databases with many schemas or large objects. See Heroku Postgres Logical Backups for instructions on taking logical backups for databases not suitable for PGBackups.
For all production Heroku Postgres plans, use continuous protection for data backup and recovery. Logical backups such as those taken by PGBackups are better suited for use cases requiring data portability.
Create a Manual Backup
pg:backups operates against your primary database, identified by the
DATABASE_URL config var:
$ heroku pg:backups:capture --app example-app Hit Ctrl-C at any time to stop watching progress; the backup will continue running. Stop a running backup with heroku pg:backups:cancel. HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_BLACK (DATABASE_URL) ----backup---> b251 Running... done
Capturing a backup adds some load on your database for the duration of the backup. How this impacts your application varies with the size of your database and the nature of the app. Consider taking backups on a follower if there’s a significant impact from running them on the leader. Read more about the performance impact of logical backups.
Create a Manual Backup on Another Database
If you have multiple databases on your application, choose which one to back up by specifying the database name:
$ heroku pg:backups:capture HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_PINK Hit Ctrl-C at any time to stop watching progress; the backup will continue running. Stop a running backup with heroku pg:backups:cancel. HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_PINK ----backup---> b252 Running... done
Use the flag
--verbose to see logs as your backup progresses.
Cancel Manual Backup Creation
To stop a backup, use the
$ heroku pg:backups:cancel Canceled backup b252
Manual Backup Retention Limits
There’s a limit to the number of manual backups you can retain, depending on your database plan.
If you’ve reached this limit and take additional backups, the capture command automatically deletes the oldest manual backup before capturing a new one.
In addition to manually triggered backups, you can schedule regular automatic backups. These backups run daily against the specified database.
Set Up a Backup Schedule
$ heroku pg:backups:schedule DATABASE_URL --at '02:00 America/Los_Angeles' --app example-app
--at option uses a 24-hour clock to indicate the hour of the day that you want the backup taken. It also accepts a timezone in either the full TZ format (America/Los_Angeles) or the abbreviation (PST), but we recommend using the full TZ format.
You must use the
--at option when scheduling a backup. For Windows enclose the
--at time and timezone in double-quotes (
"), for example,
There are no notifications for scheduled backup failures. You must verify your scheduled backup manually.
You can lose the backup schedule if:
- You upgrade the database from an Essential-tier plan to a plan in another tier.
- A backup is restored to a new database.
- You update your Heroku Postgres plan with a follower changeover. The schedule from the original database remains associated to the original database. You must create a schedule for the promoted database if it doesn’t exist.
Stop Scheduled Backups
To stop regular backups, use
$ heroku pg:backups:unschedule DATABASE_URL --app example-app
View Backup Schedules
To view current schedules for your app, use
$ heroku pg:backups:schedules --app example-app Current backup schedules: RED: daily at 2:00 (America/Los_Angeles)
Scheduled Backups Retention Limits
Scheduled backups have a different retention policy as compared to manual backups. This policy is also based on the database plan.
|Plan||Daily Backups Retained||Weekly Backups Retained||Monthly Backup Retained|
|Mini||7 days||1 week||0 months|
|Basic||7 days||1 week||0 months|
|Standard-*||7 days||4 weeks||0 months|
|Premium-*||7 days||8 weeks||12 months|
|Enterprise||7 days||8 weeks||12 months|
- A daily backup is taken each day at your scheduled time. Daily backups are retained for the last 7 days. That means that 7 backups exist, one for each of the last 7 days.
- A weekly backup means that one backup is saved over a 7-day period. For example, a Standard-4 database has 4 weeks of weekly backups, one for each of the last 4 weeks.
- A monthly backup means that 1 backup is saved over the course of a month. For example, a Premium-0 database has 12 monthly backups, one for each of the last 12 months.
We delete all backups for deprovisioned add-ons 30 days after the time of deprovisioning. To retain backups for a deprovisioned database, download your backup within this timeframe and store it in an external data storage service.
Downloading Your Backups
Download via a URL
You can create a publicly accessible backup URL with the
pg:backups:url command. This URL is useful for exporting your data outside of Heroku Postgres
When the command is specified without a backup id, it returns the latest available backup URL.
$ heroku pg:backups:url b001 --app example-app The following URL will expire at 2015-04-07 18:35:50 +0000: "http://email@example.com/b004.dump?AWSAccessKeyId=ABCD1234&Expires=1289261668&Signature=3mMBeKISewgEUDT%2FL5mRz4EYS4M%3D"
The URL is public but not easily guessable. It expires after 60 minutes.
pg:backups:url command outputs when the URL expires, along with the URL itself. If you pipe the URL to other commands,
pg:backups:url refrains from adding the expiration information to the output so that all subsequent commands only have the URL. For example, if to list the URL in the terminal without the extra information:
$ heroku pg:backups:url --app example-app | cat http://firstname.lastname@example.org/b004.dump?AWSAccessKeyId=ABCD1234&Expires=1289261668&Signature=3mMBeKISewgEUDT%2FL5mRz4EYS4M%3D
Download via the Command Line
To download your backup via the command line, you can use the
$ heroku pg:backups:download
See our documentation on importing and exporting Heroku Postgres databases with PGBackups for more info.
Check Backup Status and Info
To list your backups and their statuses, run the following:
$ heroku pg:backups --app example-app === Backups ID Backup Time Status Size Database ---- ------------------------- ---------------------------------- ------ -------- b013 2015-03-18 19:03:16 +0000 Running IVORY b011 2015-02-18 17:55:38 +0000 Finished 2015-02-18 17:55:39 +0000 1.9GB IVORY b010 2015-02-17 19:14:43 +0000 Finished 2015-02-17 19:14:48 +0000 1.9GB IVORY b004 2015-02-11 19:00:55 +0000 Finished 2015-02-17 19:14:48 +0000 1.9GB IVORY ==== Restores ID Restore Time Status Size Database ---- ------------------------- ---------------------------------- ------ -------- r002 2015-03-16 17:33:19 +0000 Finished 2015-03-16 17:33:19 +0000 1.9GB IVORY r001 2015-03-15 12:13:44 +0000 Failed 2015-03-15 12:13:47 +0000 1.7GB IVORY
To get more details about a given backup, use the
$ heroku pg:backups:info b017 --app example-app === Backup info: b017 Database: HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_IVORY Started: 2013-06-24 17:11.28 UTC Status: Running Type: Manual Size: 1.2GB Schema: 0bff3ac
With the optional
--verbose flag, you can also see the backup’s logs. If the backup is still running, the command prints the ongoing logs until the backup finishes or you cancel the command by typing
PGBackups stores backups in a compressed binary format. The backups include commands to recreate indexes instead of storing the indexes themselves. As a result, backups are much smaller in size than your database’s current size on disk from
Delete a Backup
You can manually delete a backup to remove obsolete backups or to make room for new captures. Use the backup ID to specify which backup to remove.
$ heroku pg:backups:delete b101 --app foo Deleting b101... done
Restore a Backup
To restore a backup, use the
$ heroku pg:backups:restore b101 DATABASE_URL --app example-app
This command restores backup id
b101 to the specified database URL in the app
example-app. Note: you can omit the backup id and the target database to restore the latest backup to
DATABASE_URL, otherwise you must provide both the backup id and target database.
You can also restore from a backup on another app (from
$ heroku pg:backups:restore example-app::b101 DATABASE_URL --app example-staging-app
Or from a publicly accessible URL:
$ heroku pg:backups:restore 'https://s3.amazonaws.com/me/items/mydb.dump' DATABASE_URL -a example-app
To ensure your data is encrypted while in transit, always use an HTTPS URL. Restoring over HTTP is unsupported.
Over time, a database grows on disk due to table bloat and unused index data. As a result, restoring a backup into a new database almost always result in a reduction in overall disk size as reported by
Unlike with the previous
pg:backups commands, you can’t restore a partial backup into an existing database. When you run
pg:backups:restore, all data is deleted from the target database before restoring the backup.
Direct Database-to-Database Copies
In addition to backups and restores,
pg:backups also provides the ability to transfer data directly between databases.
To perform a transfer, run the following:
$ heroku pg:copy COBALT GREEN --app example-app
This command copies all data from the
COBALT database to the
GREEN database in the
You can also transfer directly from a database on another app, for example, to copy production data into a staging app for testing purposes.
$ heroku pg:copy example-app::HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_ORANGE_URL GREEN --app example-staging-app
This command copies data from the
HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_ORANGE database of the
example-app to the
GREEN database in
These commands use a shorthand to identify the databases. For example,
COBALT refers to the database called
HEROKU_POSTGRESQL_COBALT in the output of
heroku addons --app example-app. The first database you create is called
DATABASE by default. Additional databases are given a color name, such as
COBALT, and so on, can all be used to select a database in the Heroku Postgres CLI commands.
Heroku Postgres must connect to your database using your credentials in order to capture a backup. This connection counts against your plan connection limit. You can identify connections made by Heroku Postgres by running the following command from your terminal:
$ heroku pg:psql -c "select * from pg_stat_activity where application_name = 'Heroku Postgres Backups'"
All backups captured via
pg:backups are stored in the U.S., regardless of where your database is located.