Learning how to properly backup your Plex server is an important aspect of managing a Plex Media Server. Anything can happen to your data at any time. Hard drives could fail, malware could corrupt your files, or you can accidentally change or delete files. A good backup is important to help recover if any of these events occur.
What should you backup to best protect your Plex server? Let's look at what you should backup and some suggestions as to how best to protect your files.
What to backup for Plex
Backing up your Plex data is easy to do. There are two things that you need to backup, excluding your media:
- The Plex settings
- Metadata and databases
All instances of Plex will have the above two things that will need to be backed up. The location of each of them will be different depending on the operating system you are using for your Plex Media Server.
The Plex settings
The Plex settings consist of the options you have specified in the Plex administration section of your Plex server. The settings also contain the email and authentication token that is used to claim your server for your account.
Backing up the settings will make it easier to restore your server with the same configuration you have set, so you shouldn't need to go through all the Plex options on a new server.
To backup the settings, you will need to determine where the Plex advanced settings are stored for your operating system. Once the settings have been located, you can schedule a job to run to make the backup.
For example, the settings for Windows are located in the registry. If you are using Windows, you can follow the steps outlined in the How to Backup Plex Data in Windows article.
The Plex settings won't change frequently, so a backup schedule of once a week should be sufficient. You can, of course, schedule more frequent backups if you choose.
Metadata and databases
The bulk of the data you will need to backup is located in the Plex data directory on the server. This directory contains all the metadata and databases used by Plex, so it can change daily. This means that scheduling a backup each day is recommended.
By backing up the database, it would help to restore or repair a corrupt Plex database.
As with the settings, the location of the data directory will be different for each operating system. You can easily locate the Plex data directory for your operating system so you know exactly what to backup.
There are several directories that you won't need to include in your backup jobs, which will help reduce the size of your backups. These directories include:
- Crash Reports
Some of the above directories, such as Cache and Updates, could become very large, and can be recreated once Plex is started, or an update becomes available.
You may have noticed I haven't talked about backing up your media files. This will need to be done on a user-by-user basis. Each user will have a different amount of media files to backup, and some users have hundreds of terabytes.
When backing up your media, though, I don't recommend you use a cloud provider as many have storage restrictions too low, or it can get expensive to store terabytes of data.
There are also legal aspects to think about when storing media files in the cloud.
Restoring a Plex backup
To restore your backup, it is simply a matter of stopping Plex on the server, and copying the backed up data directory to the same location on the server - overwriting any directories and files.
For the settings, simply copy the file back to the original location (overwriting any existing file), or in the case of Windows, merge the registry data.
Once both the data directories and settings have been restored, restart the Plex Media Server.
Best backup practices
While backing up Plex is straightforward, having a good backup plan in place takes some more planning. A good backup plan follows the 3-2-1 backup rule:
- 3 copies of your data.
- 2 different types of media.
- 1 of the backups is stored offsite.
The above means that you should always have one primary copy of your Plex data, with two additional copies stored on different media, and one of those additional copies located offsite - a different geographical location.
This can be easy to solve by simply storing a backup copy of your data on another NAS or external hard drive. In addition, you should also copy the data to a NAS stored somewhere else, or store the data online, in the cloud.
My Plex data is backed up to another local hard drive, and then to another hard drive, I disconnect and swap with another hard drive every month.
Since my Plex server is on Windows, I use Backblaze as my cloud storage provider. I pay a flat monthly rate and currently have 1.6 TB stored in the cloud. This service works with both Windows and Macs.
For Linux or NAS users, Backblaze offers B2, an S3 equivalent, for which you pay for what you use. B2 is popular as it has a low price of $0.005 per gigabyte.
By knowing what Plex data you will need to backup, and having a good backup plan in place, you can protect your Plex data from being lost.