»Consul Snapshot Agent

Command: consul snapshot agent


This feature requires Consul Enterprise.

The snapshot agent subcommand starts a process that takes snapshots of the state of the Consul servers and saves them locally, or pushes them to an optional remote storage service.

The agent can be run as a long-running daemon process or in a one-shot mode from a batch job, based on the -interval argument. Snapshotting a remote datacenter is only available in one-shot mode.

As a long-running daemon, the agent will perform a leader election so multiple processes can be run in a highly available fashion with automatic failover. The agent will also register itself with Consul as a service, along with health checks that show the agent is alive ("Consul Snapshot Agent Alive") and able to take snapshots ("Consul Snapshot Agent Saving Snapshots"). The latter check is only added on agents who have become a leader, so it's possible for operators to tell which instances are alive and on standby and which instance has become leader and starting saving snapshots.

As snapshots are saved, they will be reported in the log produced by the agent:

2016/11/16 21:21:13 [INFO] Snapshot agent running
2016/11/16 21:21:13 [INFO] Waiting to obtain leadership...
2016/11/16 21:21:13 [INFO] Obtained leadership
2016/11/16 21:21:13 [INFO] Saved snapshot 1479360073448728784

The number shown with the saved snapshot is its ID, which is based on a UNIX timestamp with nanosecond resolution, so collisions are unlikely and IDs are monotonically increasing with time. This makes it easy to locate the latest snapshot, even if the log data isn't available. The snapshot ID always appears in the file name when using local storage, or in the object key when using remote storage.

Snapshots can be restored using the consul snapshot restore command, or the HTTP API.

If ACLs are enabled the following privileges are required:

aclN/AwriteAll snapshotting operations require this privilege due to snapshots containing ACL tokens including unredacted secrets.
key<lock key>writeThe lock key (which defaults to consul-snapshot/lock) is used during snapshot agent leader election.
session<agent name>writeThe session used for locking during leader election is created against the agent name of the Consul agent that the Snapshot agent is registering itself with.
service<service name>writeThe Snapshot agent registers itself with the local Consul agent and must have write privileges on its service name which is configured with -service.


Usage: consul snapshot agent [options]

»API Options

  • -ca-file=<value> - Path to a CA file to use for TLS when communicating with Consul. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_CACERT environment variable.

  • -ca-path=<value> - Path to a directory of CA certificates to use for TLS when communicating with Consul. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_CAPATH environment variable.

  • -client-cert=<value> - Path to a client cert file to use for TLS when verify_incoming is enabled. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_CLIENT_CERT environment variable.

  • -client-key=<value> - Path to a client key file to use for TLS when verify_incoming is enabled. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_CLIENT_KEY environment variable.

  • -http-addr=<addr> - Address of the Consul agent with the port. This can be an IP address or DNS address, but it must include the port. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_HTTP_ADDR environment variable. In Consul 0.8 and later, the default value is, and https can optionally be used instead. The scheme can also be set to HTTPS by setting the environment variable CONSUL_HTTP_SSL=true. This may be a unix domain socket using unix:///path/to/socket if the agent is configured to listen that way.

  • -tls-server-name=<value> - The server name to use as the SNI host when connecting via TLS. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_TLS_SERVER_NAME environment variable.

  • -token=<value> - ACL token to use in the request. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_HTTP_TOKEN environment variable. If unspecified, the query will default to the token of the Consul agent at the HTTP address.

  • -token-file=<value> - File containing the ACL token to use in the request instead of one specified via the -token argument or CONSUL_HTTP_TOKEN environment variable. This can also be specified via the CONSUL_HTTP_TOKEN_FILE environment variable.

»Config File Options:

  • -config-dir - Directory to look for JSON config files. Files will be read in alphabetical order and must end with the extension ".json". This won't recursively descend directories. This can be specified multiple times on the command line.

  • -config-file - File to read JSON configuration from. Files must end with the extension ".json". This can be specified multiple times on the command line.

    Config files referenced using -config-dir and -config-file have the following format (shown populated with default values):

  "snapshot_agent": {
    "http_addr": "",
    "token": "",
    "datacenter": "",
    "ca_file": "",
    "ca_path": "",
    "cert_file": "",
    "key_file": "",
    "tls_server_name": "",
    "log": {
      "level": "INFO",
      "enable_syslog": false,
      "syslog_facility": "LOCAL0"
    "snapshot": {
      "interval": "1h",
      "retain": 30,
      "stale": false,
      "service": "consul-snapshot",
      "deregister_after": "72h",
      "lock_key": "consul-snapshot/lock",
      "max_failures": 3,
      "local_scratch_path": ""
    "local_storage": {
      "path": "."
    "aws_storage": {
      "access_key_id": "",
      "secret_access_key": "",
      "s3_region": "",
      "s3_bucket": "",
      "s3_key_prefix": "consul-snapshot",
      "s3_server_side_encryption": false,
      "s3_static_snapshot_name": ""
    "azure_blob_storage": {
      "account_name": "",
      "account_key": "",
      "container_name": ""
    "google_storage": {
      "bucket": ""

All fields are optional, and config files without a snapshot_agent object will be ignored. At least one config file needs to have a snapshot_agent object, or the snapshot agent will fail to start. The Consul agent is set up to ignore any snapshot_agent object, so it's safe to use common config directories for both agents if desired.

»Snapshot Options

  • -interval - Interval at which to perform snapshots as a time with a unit suffix, which can be "s", "m", "h" for seconds, minutes, or hours. If 0 is provided, the agent will take a single snapshot and then exit, which is useful for running snapshots via batch jobs. Defaults to "1h"

  • -lock-key - A prefix in Consul's KV store used to coordinate between different instances of the snapshot agent order to only have one active instance at a time. For highly available operation of the snapshot agent, simply run multiple instances. All instances must be configured with the same lock key in order to properly coordinate. Defaults to "consul-snapshot/lock".

  • -max-failures - Number of snapshot failures after which the snapshot agent will give up leadership. In a highly available operation with multiple snapshot agents available, this gives another agent a chance to take over if an agent is experiencing issues, such as running out of disk space for snapshots. Defaults to 3.

  • -retain - Number of snapshots to retain. After each snapshot is taken, the oldest snapshots will start to be deleted in order to retain at most this many snapshots. If this is set to 0, the agent will not perform this and snapshots will accumulate forever. Defaults to 30.

  • -local-scratch-path - Location to store all temporary snapshots in prior to sending them off to the configured storage backend. If not configured the system temporary directory will be used. When using the local storage backend this is not configurable and -local-path will be used.

»Agent Options

  • -deregister-after - An interval, after which if the agent is unhealthy it will be automatically deregistered from Consul service discovery. This is a time with a unit suffix, which can be "s", "m", "h" for seconds, minutes, or hours. If 0 is provided, this will be disabled. Defaults to "72h".

  • -log-level - Controls verbosity of snapshot agent logs. Valid options are "TRACE", "DEBUG", "INFO", "WARN", "ERR". Defaults to "INFO".

  • -service - The service name to used when registering the agent with Consul. Registering helps monitor running agents and the leader registers an additional health check to monitor that snapshots are taking place. Defaults to "consul-snapshot".

  • -syslog - This enables forwarding logs to syslog. Defaults to false.

  • -syslog-facility - Sets the facility to use for forwarding logs to syslog. Defaults to "LOCAL0".

»Local Storage Options

  • -local-path - Location to store snapshots locally. The default behavior of the snapshot agent is to store snapshots locally in this directory. Defaults to "." to use the current working directory. If an alternate storage option is configured, then local storage will be disabled and this option will be ignored.

»S3 Storage Options

Note that despite the AWS references, any S3-compatible endpoint can be specified with -aws-s3-endpoint.

  • -aws-access-key-id and -aws-secret-access-key - These arguments supply authentication information for connecting to S3. These may also be supplied using the following alternative methods:

    • AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY environment variables
    • A credentials file (~/.aws/credentials or the file at the path specified by the AWS_SHARED_CREDENTIALS_FILE environment variable)
    • ECS task role metadata (container-specific)
    • EC2 instance role metadata
  • -aws-s3-bucket - S3 bucket to use. Required for S3 storage, and setting this disables local storage. This should be only the bucket name without any part of the key prefix.

  • -aws-s3-key-prefix - Prefix to use for snapshot files in S3. Defaults to "consul-snapshot".

  • -aws-s3-region - S3 region to use. Required for S3 storage.

  • -aws-s3-endpoint - Optional S3 endpoint to use. Can also be specified using the AWS_S3_ENDPOINT environment variable.

  • -aws-s3-server-side-encryption - Enables saving snapshots to S3 using server side encryption with Amazon S3-Managed Encryption Keys

  • -aws-s3-static-snapshot-name - If this is given, all snapshots are saved with the same file name. The agent will not rotate or versionize snapshots, and will save them with the same name each time. Use this if you want to rely on S3's versioning capabilities instead of the agent handling it for you.

  • -aws-s3-enable-kms - Enables using Amazon KMS for encrypting snapshots.

  • -aws-s3-kms-key - Optional Amazon KMS key to use, if this is not set the default KMS master key will be used. Set this if you want to manage key rotation yourself.

»S3 Required Permissions

Different S3 permissions are required depending on the configuration of the snapshot agent. In particular extra permissions are required when snapshot rotation is enabled. S3 storage snapshot rotation is enabled when the retain configuration is greater than 0 and when there is no aws-s3-static-snapshot-name configured.

PermissionResourceWhen you need it
PutObjectarn:aws:s3:::<bucket name>/<key>Required for all operations.
DeleteObjectarn:aws:s3:::<bucket name>/<key>Required only when snapshot rotation is enabled
ListBucketarn:aws:s3:::<bucket name>Required only when snapshot rotation is enabled
ListBucketVersionsarn:aws:s3:::<bucket name>Required only when snapshot rotation is enabled

Within the table <key> refers to the the key used to store the snapshot. When aws-s3-static-snapshot-name is configured the <key> is simply the value of that configuration. Otherwise the <key> will be the <aws-s3-key-prefix configuration>/consul-*.snap.

The following example IAM policy document assumes that the aws-s3-bucket is consul-data with defaults for aws-s3-key-prefix, aws-s3-static-snapshot-name and retain:

  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [
      "Sid": "",
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": ["s3:PutObject", "s3:DeleteObject"],
      "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::consul-data/consul-snapshots/consul-*.snap"
      "Sid": "",
      "Effect": "Allow",
      "Action": ["s3:ListBucketVersions", "s3:ListBucket"],
      "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::consul-data"

»Azure Blob Storage options

Note: This currently only works on non-Solaris platforms due to library limitations

From Consul Enterprise version 1.5.0 onwards, you can store snapshots in Azure Blob storage.

  • -azure-blob-account-name and -azure-blob-account-key - These arguments supply authentication information for connecting to Azure Blob storage.

  • -azure-blob-container-name - Container to use. Required for Azure blob storage, and setting this disables local storage.

  • -azure-blob-environment - Environment to use. Defaults to AZUREPUBLICCLOUD. Other valid environments are AZURECHINACLOUD, AZUREGERMANCLOUD and AZUREUSGOVERNMENTCLOUD. Introduced in Consul 1.7.3.

»Google Cloud Storage options

From Consul Enterprise version 1.6.1 onwards, you can store snapshots in Google Cloud Storage. Authentication relies on automatic discovery through the sdk as described here:

  • First, ADC checks to see if the environment variable GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDENTIALS is set. If the variable is set, ADC uses the service account file that the variable points to. The next section describes how to set the environment variable.

  • If the environment variable isn't set, ADC uses the default service account that Compute Engine, Kubernetes Engine, App Engine, and Cloud Functions provide, for applications that run on those services.

  • If ADC can't use either of the above credentials, an error occurs.

This integration needs the following information:


Running the agent with no arguments will run a long-running daemon process that will perform leader election for highly available operation, register itself with Consul service discovery with health checks, take snapshots every hour, retain the last 30 snapshots, and save snapshots into the current working directory:

$ consul snapshot agent

To run a one-shot backup, set the backup interval to 0. This will run a single snapshot and delete any old snapshots based on the retain settings, but it will not perform any leader election or service registration:

$ consul snapshot agent -interval=0

Please see the HTTP API documentation for more details about snapshot internals.