Skeddly – cheap and easy control of cloud servers

What’s the problem ?

Servers on Amazon EC2 can easily be backed up using the command line interface. These commands can be called from another server to do things like copy volumes (disks) and to start and stop servers. The problem becomes, where to send these commands from ? You could run a shell script on another dedicated server using cron, or issue commands from a desktop machine, but the integrity of your back up will depend on these machines being up and running correctly.
Your scripts will also need to send you alerts when the backup fails. In my experience the resulting shell scripts become complicated and expensive to maintain.

Skeddly

I was pleased to come across Skeddly, a cheap automatic service for running EC2 commands on your behalf.
They charge $0.15 to backup an EC2 instance and the same to stop or start one. This is handy if you’ve got multiple EC2 staging or development servers that are only used during the working day and don’t want to pay for them during the night.

How it works

An obvious concern is how to give this third party control over your EC2 resources while still keeping the data safe ? Amazon offer a way for you to set up IAM users with limited permissions and you can then use their credentials with third parties like Skeddly. You can log in to EC2 as  admin and set up an IAM group, a security policy for this group and a user. The policy I used was;

The Third party only gets sufficient permission to do the tasks it needs and no more.

Backs ups only work if you’ve tested them

There seems to be a law of nature that unless you’ve tested a backup or recovery plan recently, it probably does not work.  And you won’t find out until you need it.   Its something to do with Schrödinger’s cat, not sure exactly.

But Skeddly simplifies the backup process and for that I am grateful.  

About OldGuy