There are few ways to backup a Chef server. Opscode has some documenation on their wiki Backing up Chef Server. Some of this is outdated now because chef no longer uses Couch DB.
However there is this little gem (pun intended) called knife-backup.
To put this to test, install it first
gem install knife-backup
More details are here https://github.com/mdxp/knife-backup
An execution looks like this
knife backup export -D ./backups
Backing up clients
Backing up clients chef-validator
Backing up clients chef-webui
Backing up clients test01.example.com
Backing up clients web01.example.com
Backing up nodes
This nicely exports all your settings such as nodes, clients, roles, environments and cookbooks into the backups directory. Typically your cookbooks would be version controlled via Git or some other revision control system and you can restore it from there as well. This method allows you to completely mirror cookbooks from one chef server to another along with the other stuff in couple of simple commands.
clients cookbooks data_bags environments nodes roles
To test your backup spin up a new server and install chef per your OS http://www.opscode.com/chef/install/
If you want to try this on a existing server, you can use the following
**WARNING** : This will erase all your chef server data
sudo chef-server-ctl cleanse
sudo chef-server-ctl reconfigure
Copy /etc/chef-server/admin.pem from the new server to your local workstation. You will use this user to perform the restore. Once you have restored you can use other clients/users that you were using with the original server.
knife backup restore -D ./backups -u admin -k -s
This will restore to the new server with the exception of few things. This is because knife restore does not overwrite existing clients.
The admin user and it’s credentials.
The chef-webui. This is used by the web-interface and so it makes sense to leave it.
The chef-validator client. Now this has some implications. chef-validator’s key is used on a node when it runs the chef-client for the first time in order to get an API client identity. Since this is now different from your original server, and if you are using knife to bootstrap nodes, you will need to re-copy this to your knife workstation setup. Existing nodes don’t need this as they are already registered.
All said this is a handy tool and with a little bit of scripting you can run these backups hourly/daily and use time stamped directories.