The Nginx Command

The nginx command can be used to perform some useful actions when Nginx is running.

  • Get current Nginx version and its configured compiling parameters: nginx -V
  • Test the current Nginx configuration file and / or check its location: nginx -t
  • Reload the configuration without restarting Nginx: nginx -s reload

Rewrite and Redirection

Force www

The right way is to define a separated server for the naked domain and redirect it.

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name example.org;
    return 301 $scheme://www.example.org$request_uri;
}

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name www.example.org;
    ...
}

Note that this also works with HTTPS site.

Force no-www

Again, the right way is to define a separated server for the www domain and redirect it.

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name example.org;
}

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name www.example.org;
    return 301 $scheme://example.org$request_uri;
}

Force HTTPS

This is also handled by the 2 server blocks approach.

server {
    listen 80;
    return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
}

server {
    listen 443 ssl;

    # let the browsers know that we only accept HTTPS
    add_header Strict-Transport-Security max-age=2592000;

    ...
}

Force Trailing Slash

This configuration only add trailing slash to URL that does not contain a dot because you probably don’t want to add that trailing slash to your static files. Source.

rewrite ^([^.]*[^/])$ $1/ permanent;

Redirect a Single Page

server {
    location = /oldpage.html {
        return 301 http://example.org/newpage.html;
    }
}

Redirect an Entire Site

server {
    server_name old-site.com
    return 301 $scheme://new-site.com$request_uri;
}

Redirect an Entire Sub Path

location /old-site {
    rewrite ^/old-site/(.*) http://example.org/new-site/$1 permanent;
}

Performance

Contents Caching

Allow browsers to cache your static contents for basically forever. Nginx will set both Expires and Cache-Control header for you.

location /static {
    root /data;
    expires max;
}

If you want to ask the browsers to never cache the response (e.g. for tracking requests), use -1.

location = /empty.gif {
    empty_gif;
    expires -1;
}

Gzip Compression

gzip  on;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_comp_level 6;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_min_length 256;
gzip_proxied any;
gzip_vary on;
gzip_types
    text/xml application/xml application/atom+xml application/rss+xml application/xhtml+xml image/svg+xml
    text/javascript application/javascript application/x-javascript
    text/x-json application/json application/x-web-app-manifest+json
    text/css text/plain text/x-component
    font/opentype application/x-font-ttf application/vnd.ms-fontobject
    image/x-icon;
gzip_disable  "msie6";

Open File Cache

If you have a lot of static files to serve through Nginx then caching of the files’ metadata (not the actual files’ contents) can save some latency.

open_file_cache max=1000 inactive=20s;
open_file_cache_valid 30s;
open_file_cache_min_uses 2;
open_file_cache_errors on;

SSL Cache

Enable SSL cache for SSL sessions resumption, so that sub sequent SSL/TLS connection handshakes can be shortened and reduce total SSL overhead.

ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_timeout 10m;

Upstream Keepalive

Enable the upstream connection cache for better reuse of connections to upstream servers. Source.

upstream backend {
    server 127.0.0.1:8080;
    keepalive 32;
}

server {
    ...
    location /api/ {
        proxy_pass http://backend;
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Connection "";
    }
}

Monitoring

The Stub Status, which is not built by default, is a very simple to setup module but only provide basic status of Nginx.

location /status {
    stub_status on;
    access_log off;
}

It provides the following status for the whole Nginx server in plain text(!) format:

  • Client connections: accepted, handled, active (includes reading, writing and waiting).
  • Total number of client requests.

[Shameless Plug] A better way to capture Nginx status can be added by using Luameter which is a bit more complicated to setup and required the Nginx Lua module (which is awesome). It provides following metrics for each configurable groupas a JSON API:

  • Total number of requests / responses.
  • Total number of responses groupped by status code: 1xx, 2xx, 3xx, 4xx, 5xx.
  • Total bytes received from / sent to client.
  • Sampled latency snapshot for estimation of: mean, max, median, 99th percentile, etc., latency.
  • Moving average rate of requests for easier monitoring and predicting.
  • And some more.

Here is a sample dashboard built with Luameter’s metrics.

ngxtop is also a good way to check for Nginx status and checking / troubleshooting a live server.

Security

Enable Basic Authentication

You will need a user password file somewhere first.

name:{PLAIN}plain-text-password

Then add below config to server/location block that need to be protected.

auth_basic "This is Protected";
auth_basic_user_file /path/to/password-file;

Only Allow Access From Localhost

location /local {
    allow 127.0.0.1;
    deny all;
    ...
}

Secure SSL settings

# don’t use SSLv3 ref: POODLE CVE-2014-356 - http://nginx.com/blog/nginx-poodle-ssl/
ssl_protocols  TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;  

# Ciphers set to best allow protection from Beast, while providing forwarding secrecy, as defined by Mozilla (Intermediate Set) - https://wiki.mozilla.org/Security/Server_Side_TLS#Nginx
    ssl_ciphers 'ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:DHE-DSS-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:DHE-DSS-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:DHE-DSS-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:AES128-GCM-SHA256:AES256-GCM-SHA384:AES128-SHA256:AES256-SHA256:AES128-SHA:AES256-SHA:AES:CAMELLIA:DES-CBC3-SHA:!aNULL:!eNULL:!EXPORT:!DES:!RC4:!MD5:!PSK:!aECDH:!EDH-DSS-DES-CBC3-SHA:!EDH-RSA-DES-CBC3-SHA:!KRB5-DES-CBC3-SHA';
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers  on;

Miscellaneous

Sub-Request Upon Completion

There are some cases that you want to pass the request to another backend in addition to and after serving it. One use case is to track the number of completed downloads by calling an API after user completed download a file. Another use case is for tracking request where you want to return as fast as possible (perhaps with an empty_gif) and then do the actual recording in background. The post_action that allows you to define a sub-request that will be fired upon completion of the current request are perfect solution for these use cases.

location = /empty.gif {
    empty_gif;
    expires -1;
    post_action @track; 
}

location @track {
    internal;
    proxy_pass http://tracking-backend;
}

Enable Cross Origin Resource Sharing

Simple, wide-open configuration to allow cross-domain requests to your server.

location ~* \.(eot|ttf|woff) {
    add_header Access-Control-Allow-Origin *;
}

Links

Some other awesome resources for configuring Nginx: