The Worlds Largest Moodle Backup File (and how to avoid it)


Here’s a quick tip to keep your Moodle from becoming out of shape and over weight, illustrated with a quick story.

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A few years ago I was in charge of managing 80 courses that were tailored for teacher professional development. The courses ran every 6 weeks or so which required a new version of the course to be restored (but always from the most current version of the course as we were constantly upgrading, improving and adding to the courses that were being delivered).  Many of the courses had interactive, narrated presentations as a mode for delivering asynchronous content (lecture style); these often would be 15-50 MB in size and there was one each for all of the course weeks (4-8 weeks depending on the course).

As you can imagine a single course instance could be 50 – 250 MB total.  However, the course files started to get larger and larger over time (until the largest course was larger than 1GB (and often caused issues when trying to restore it).

So what had happened?

What had happened is that I was backing up old backup data from the course (either that had been uploaded manually, but not to the backupdata folder) or that had been accumulating from previous backup/restore operations of managing our course catalog.  All this extra baggage was certainly no good for our over all Moodle server load.  At it’s worst this caused our largest courses to include 3 or 4 additional zipped copies of themselves in the course files (but there was no use to them).

As a quick fix and policy we started deleted backup files from the Moodle server and stored them on external hard drives instead.  Additionally, after a course was newly restored from the freshest version, the backup file was deleted from it’s course files to save space.  This helped us trim the over all storage of our Moodle site by several GB (which matters more if you’re paying for dedicated hosting).

In addition, I started serving these presentation files from the site file directory.  While this might be a little controversial, it did have the affect of trimming our course size significantly again (because instead of 5 courses all having their own sets of presentations, we now had 5 courses all calling 1 master set of presentation files).  These days provide a host of alternative storage methods for course content which can help keep your Moodle lean and happy (embedding video rather than uploading, for example).  What are your strategies for building courses with a small storage footprint?


  1. 1 Gb is nothing, I just restored a course for a teacher last week that was over 5Gb of course files + an additional 2Gb of student data. Let me just say I’m one of those server admins that’s looking forward to the 2.0 files system.


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