Backups Tool

Learn how to backup your Drupal or WordPress site on Pantheon.

The Backups tab is where you manage all the details for your site's backup. Each backup contains three components: code, database, and files.

  • Code is anything version controlled and committed via the Site Dashboard. Uncommitted SFTP changes to code are not backed up.
  • Database is a mysqldump of your site's db.
  • Files images and assets stored in the standard upload path wp-content/uploads for WordPress and sites/all/default/files for Drupal. Various content generated by your application is not backed up, e.g. generated images from image styles and aggregated CSS and JS assets.

We strongly urge you to backup your site regularly.

Backups tab

Create a Backup

You can create a new backup and set the timing for how long the backup is kept. This should be set for every environment (Dev, Test, Live).

Select the Backups tab, and click Create New Backup. The status is shown in the progress bar as it's being created, and the jobs workflow shows the number of active jobs. You can continue on with development while the backup is in progress.

Create site backup Pantheon Dashboard

If you prefer the command line, you can use Terminus to create backups:

terminus backup:create <site>.<env> --element=<element> --keep-for=<days>

Backup Schedule and Retention

Paid sites: You can enable or disable automatic backups. If enabled, your nightly backup is stored for a week and your weekly backup is stored for a month. You can select the day the weekly backup is run.

All sites: You can run manual backups for free, and choose to keep them for one month or six months.

Access Backups

Backups created on Pantheon are stored offsite on Amazon EC2 instances for redundancy, however a full-fledged backup solution is strongly recommended for retention. For example, the following script can be executed from an external cron job to send backups to your own Amazon instance:

# Script to backup Pantheon sites and copy to Amazon s3 bucket
# Requirements:
#   - Pantheon terminus cli
#   - Valid terminus machine token
#   - Amazon aws cli
#   - s3 cli access and user configured

# The amazon S3 bucket to save the backups to (must already exist)
# Optionally specify bucket region
# The Pantheon terminus user (email address)
# Site names to backup (e.g. 'site-one site-two')
# Site environments to backup (any combination of dev, test and live)
SITEENVS="dev live"
# Local backup directory (must exist, requires trailing slash)
# Add a date and unique string to the filename
BACKUPDATE=$(date +%Y%m%d%s)
# This sets the proper file extension

# connect to terminus
terminus auth:login $TERMINUS_USER

# iterate through sites to backup
for thissite in $SITENAMES; do
  # iterate through current site environments
  for thisenv in $SITEENVS; do
    # create backup
    terminus backup:create $thissite.$thisenv

    # download current site backups
    terminus backup:get $thissite.$thisenv --to=$BACKUPDIR$SITENAMES.$SITEENVS.$BACKUPDATE.$EXTENSION

# sync the local backup directory to aws s3
if [ -z "${S3BUCKETREGION}" ]; then
    aws s3 sync $BACKUPDIR s3://$S3BUCKET
  aws s3 sync $BACKUPDIR s3://$S3BUCKET --region $S3BUCKETREGION


Via the Dashboard

When the backup has finished, the jobs indicator returns to its start state to let you know that the task is complete. You will notice a new backup in your log with three separate archives (code, database, and files).

Access site backups Pantheon Dashboard

The newest backup will appear at the top of the list. When the retention period expires for a backup, it will no longer be in the list of available archives.

Click the down arrow next to Code, Database, or Files to access the link for the offsite backup.

Via the Command Line

If you have the temporary URL provided via the Dashboard, you can download it from the command line using wget:

wget ""

You can also use Terminus to download backups. Note that --element=all is only available when creating backups and not when downloading.

terminus backup:get <site>.<env> --element=<code|files|db> --to=path/to/file.tar.gz

Select an older archive by running terminus backup:list <site>.<env>, copying the filename, and pasting it in the --file=<filename> option when downloading:

terminus backup:get <site>.<env> --file=<filename> --to=path/to/file.tar.gz

Now that you have created the archive files, check out how to restore an environment from a backup.

Restore From an Existing Backup

Each manual and automatic backup can be directly restored to that environment from the Pantheon Dashboard. For detailed instructions, see Restoring an Environment From a Backup.

About Your Code Archives

Code archives contain the full remote Git repository and reflect the state of code for the given environment. Backups created on the Test and Live environments automatically checkout the git tag associated with the most recent deployment.

For a clear visual of the Git repo contents, you can use a free tool like Sourcetree to inspect the branches that the repo contains.


The .gitignore file determines paths ignored by version control and consequently excluded in code archives. To see the default .gitignore file refer to Pantheon's upstreams for WordPress, Drupal 8, and Drupal 7.

Backup Log

The backup log displays a list of existing backups for that environment. You can also create a new backup or restore your site from an existing backup.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the backups stored?

Backups are currently stored offsite for redundancy on Amazon EC2 instances.

How do I restore from my site from a full environment backup?

In the event that you need to get your site to a certain point, you can use a full backup to restore an environment.

How long does a backup take?

This depends on how much content you have. When you are doing a full environment backup, it can take some time depending on the size of your code, database, and files.

How can I specify the time for my backups to run?

Daily backups are run at a random time during the day. You must have a plan associated with a site to select a specific day for a weekly backup. See Manage Plans in the Site Dashboard for details about site plans on Pantheon.

What time zone is the backup time shown in?

Backups are shown in your time zone.

Why do my automated backups not always run when I scheduled them to run?

If Pantheon's resources are occupied by other backups, your backup will be placed in a backup queue. The time that the backup is actually run will be shown in the backups label.

As a product in general, Backup & Migrate is perfectly fine and fulfills many site owners’ needs, but it is not recommended within the context of the Pantheon platform. On Pantheon, ​​Backup & Migrate can make your Drupal site work harder for a number of reasons:

  • Requires a full Drupal bootstrap
  • Monopolizes an appserver process and MySQL process while running
  • Backups are written to Valhalla, our Network File System that is not optimized for large files (and explicitly does not work for files above 256MB)
  • Does not use mysqldump by default (it is available as an experimental destination)
  • Can cause excessively long Drupal cron runs, which blocks other operations if it times out
  • Creates monolithic archives by default

Additionally, security vulnerabilities can occur by ignoring interface warnings and configuring backups that are placed in web accessible locations.

In comparison, Pantheon’s backup mechanism:

  • Does not require a full, or any, Drupal bootstrap
  • Does not utilize an appserver process
  • Does not write to Valhalla, so there are no file size limitation. Instead, backups are stored in Amazon S3 for black-swan redundancy
  • Uses mysqldump for minimal database impact
  • Executed using job scheduling, and will wait in the queue if the system is busy and execute as soon as its ready
  • Creates distinct archives (code, database, files)
  • Secures access to archives through Pantheon authentication (no anonymous users can access)

Additionally, you can manually trigger a full Pantheon backup job for any site environment at any time on your own schedule using Terminus. Also, you can get S3 download links for retrieval (the links expire and are renewed for additional security).

terminus backup:get <site>.<env> --file=<filename> --element=<element>

See also Modules and Plugins with Known Issues

What Can I Do During Backups?

From the Backup Log tab on the Site Dashboard, you can see the status of currently running backups for your code, database, and files:

Backups in progress

If your Code or Database backup is taking an inordinately long time to complete, we suggest you contact support to discuss why, and possible solutions. Don't deploy code or change database values during these backups, as it can destroy the integrity of the backup or cause it to fail.

If you have large amounts of static files, this can slow down the Files backup. For this and other reasons, we suggest large file repositories be stored on a CDN. Otherwise, during a long file backup, you can still make changes to your code and database, provided those changes don't affect static files.