For the backup directive, The Nginx documentation states rather minimally:

marks the server as a backup server. It will be passed requests when the primary servers are unavailable.

What if you have multiple backups and the primary server goes down, is one of the backups appointed the new primary? Or will Nginx Round Robin between them?


I have a primary server and multiple backups, but all connections should always go to the same primary or backup. Sort of like the ip_hash load balancing mode except it should use the same server for all connections and clients.

  • very interesting. And how are you going to provide sticky balancing when you need more than 1 primary server in your scheme?
    – ffeast
    Oct 20 '17 at 21:34

While it does not support multi-backup servers in a context as @Alberto Mendoza answered --

If you place the backups to another VPS running a NGINX load balancer to its own backups... this is a work around I am currently using for a multi-regional network.

upstream routing {
    server main_server:8080 max_fails=2 fail_timeout=5;
    server backupServer1:8080 max_fails=1 fail_timeout=5;
    server backupServer2:8080 backup;

If your main server is unresponsive for 2 fails -- it will attempt your first VPS backup -- if for some odd reason that is being DDOS or for whatever reason is down also -- it will go to your third VPS .. You can continue to daisy chain as needed.


Well, recently I also did the test... just like @alberto-mendoza:

upstream a {
    server main_server:8080 max_fails=2 fail_timeout=5;
    server backup1:8080 backup max_fails=1 fail_timeout=30;
    server backup2:8080 backup max_fails=1 fail_timeout=60;

And nginx did the right load balance betwen the backup servers when the main goes down (using the same balancing method chosen for the main servers).

It's also accept parameters like max_fails and fail_timeout for backup servers.


I did a test and seems that nginx does not support multi-backup servers.

upstream a {
    server main_server:8080 max_fails=2 fail_timeout=5;
    server backup1:8080 backup;
    server backup2:8080 backup;

Whenever main_server:8080 is down, backup1:8080 replies properly. When main_server:8080 and backup1:8080 are down, the connection is refused and it never makes it to backup2:8080.

  • Nginx definitely allows multiple backup servers in their configurations, it's in their examples: nginx.org/en/docs/http/ngx_http_upstream_module.html. It's possible they require all backups to be available but that seems quite silly. I think one option would be to set another upstream for the backup and set a load balance and/or backup within that upstream. Inception! Feb 25 '20 at 22:54
  • Is it possible to do that? Add an upstream to another upstream
    – JMSamudio
    Jul 27 '20 at 15:37

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