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Managing Resources with Apache mod_alias

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In many cases, all of the resources served by an Apache host are located in that host's DocumentRoot. The DocumentRoot is a directory specified in the <VirtualHost> configuration block. This directory is intended to represent the various files, directories, and resources that users access over HTTP on the file system. However, it is common for administrators to provide HTTP access to a resource on the file system which is not located in the DocumentRoot. While Apache will follow symbolic links in some situations, this can be difficult to maintain. As a result Apache makes it possible to specify an Alias that connects a location in the request to an alternate location.

This document explains how to use the Alias directive to manage resources on the file system while still providing access via HTTP. Furthermore, this guide assumes you have a working installation of Apache and have access to modify configuration files. If you have not installed Apache, you might want to consider one of our Apache installation guides or LAMP stack installation guides. If you want a more thorough introduction to Apache configuration, consider our Apache configuration basics and Apache configuration structure documents.

Contents

Creating Aliases

Typically, Virtual Host configurations specify a DocumentRoot which specifies a directory named, by convention, public_html/ or public/. If the document root for the ducklington.org virtual host is /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/, then a request for http://www.ducklington.org/index.htm will return the file located at /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/index.htm.

If the administrator needed to maintain the code/ resource on the file system at /srv/git/public/ but have it be accessible at http://ducklington.org/code/, an alias would be required. This is accomplished in the following example:

File excerpt:Apache Configuration

DocumentRoot /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/
Alias /code /srv/git/public
<Directory /srv/git/public>
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all
</Directory>

Without the Alias directive, a request for http://ducklington.org/code/ would return resources available in the folder /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/code/. However, the Alias would direct Apache to serve content from the /srv/git/public directory. The <Directory> section permits remote users to access this directory.

There are a couple of important factors to consider when using Alias directives:

In addition to Alias, Apache provides an AliasMatch directive that offers similar functionality. AlaisMatch provides the additional ability to alias a class of requests for a given resource to a location outside of the DocumentRoot. Let us consider another fictive ducklington.org virtual host configuration:

File excerpt:Apache Configuration

DocumentRoot /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/
AliasMatch /code/projects/(.+) /srv/git/projects/$1
<DirectoryMatch "^/srv/git/projects/.+$">
    Order allow,deny
    Allow from all
</Directory>

In this example, requests for URLs such as http://ducklington.org/code/projects/lollipop and http://ducklington.org/code/projects/glorishears will be served resources in /srv/git/projects/lollipop and /srv/git/projects/glorishears respectively. However, http://ducklington.org/code/projects would be served from /srv/www/ducklington.org/public_html/code/projects/ rather than /srv/git/projects/, because of the trailing slash in the alias to /code/projects/(.+).

Although the potential use case for Alias is somewhat narrow, the functionality is very powerful for maintaining a secure and well organized web server.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Last edited by Amanda Folson on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 (r2411).