Pop quiz: when will a filesystem copy be an incomplete backup?

Let’s suppose that your backup process looks like this: you stop a replication replica, shut down MySQL, and copy away the data directory. Assume that the replica is perfect and has the same data as the master. Nothing is broken, nothing is wrong, everything is working fine. In most cases, this should work, right?

Under what kinds of circumstances will you not get all your data back if you restore the file copy and start MySQL?

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I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.