Native SQL Backup And Restores on AWS RDS

Native SQL Backup And Restores on AWS RDS

Native SQL Backup And Restores on AWS RDS

Amazon recently announced the availability of native backups to and from RDS for MS SQL. This is fantastic news for those of us used to working in the SQL world. More importantly, it provides a MUCH easier way to move your SQL data into and out of your RDS instance(s).

While getting things set up to do this may take a bit of time, once you do, I think you’ll find you’ll be much happier. You only need the following things:

  1. An RDS instance of MS Sql server to backup (skip if you are just importing a .bak file into an empty instance)
  2. An RDS instance of MS Sql server to restore to (skip if you are just taking a .bak you want to store off of AWS)
  3. An S3 storage bucket to contain your .bak files
  4. An option group defined (and applied to your RDS instances) that includes the SQLSERVER_BACKUP_RESTORE option added to it (which includes configuring it for a IAM role and the S3 storage bucket)

Please note, these instructions are for accomplishing these steps using the AWS Console web site rather than the CLI or APIs. Perhaps we’ll modify this for these in the future. We also won’t cover things like creating RDS instances as we assume that if you are interested in this, you’ll already know how to do it.

First thing we want to do is to create our Options group and apply it to the db(s) in question. The easiest way is to go into the RDS Dashboard and in the left pane, click on Option Groups. You will most likely have one (or more) called default:sqlserver-xxxxx-xx-xx and it will be described as “Default option group for sqlserver-type version“. Take note that the license type (like web in my case) and the version 12.00 match the  Engine listed on your RDS instance.

Click on Create button, give it a Name, Description, and select the appropriate Engine and Major Engine Version.  Once created, select your group and click Add Option. The only Option available to you should be SQLSERVER_BACKUP_RESTORE and it will ask you to select an IAM role (or create a new one). Select one you have or create a new one. Mark Apply Immediately and then hit Add Option button to add it.

Now go to your RDS instances, select the instance you want and under Instance Actions, select Modify. Note that many of the operations we are going to do cannot be accomplished while a db is being backed up just so you know.

After you’ve got everything in place, you can now jump into MS SQL Server Management Studio (or other Query tool) and do the following:

Backup Jobs:
Note that you must be logged into the db you wish to backup:

Restore Jobs:


View Your Jobs:
The following will show all the tasks run on the named db, most recent first.

where X is the task ID given by SQL when you started the job

Cancel a Job:

where X is the task ID you want to cancel. Note that this can take upwards of 5 minutes or more to complete so use wisely.

General Notes:

  • You cannot restore a backup to an RDS instance that contains the db to be restored.
  • You can’t rename the db in the target that you want to restore to either.
  • You CAN, however, delete the db and then you can restore to the same instance.
  • These aren’t super fast (backup of a 100gb db took about an hour and 15 minutes and the restore took about 40 minutes. However in most instances, I’ve found it quicker than doing a snapshot and restoring the snapshot to a new instance.


This particular technique saved my bacon when an RDS instance was running out of space and I couldn’t shrink it enough to make a difference. Since you can’t change the storage allocation on a MS SQL instance in RDS, you need to create a whole new instance. I used this technique to copy the db over to the new instance with the larger storage allocation much quicker than I could have otherwise.



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Michael Gibbs

I'm a technologist at heart, assisting companies best utilize the Internet to market themselves and sell their products and services online. This includes organizations as large as Google and as small as one or two individuals.
At Over The Top and Exhibit A Communications, I've programmed solutions for Google as well as at least one other company that was later acquired by Google.

I've been CTO of an Internet SaaS company and spent my time pretty evenly between guiding the future technical strategy of the company, architecting software solutions for my dev teams, designing and running a data center to service our clients world-wide as well as being a technical evangalist/sales engineer to our media clients large and small.

I've also been Chief Photographer of the Daily Sun/Post newspaper back when it was a 5-day a week daily newspaper.

I also spent a great many years as a beach lifeguardfor the City of San Clemente as well as Jr. Lifeguard instructor and then as it's program coordinator.
Bragging rights
Private Pilot with Instrument rating and proud husband of soon to be 25 years (and counting).
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