March 1, 2018

Heroku vs DigitalOcean: Handling Redirects with DigitalOcean

I asked for total control and I got total control. One of the first issues I came across was that my site was no longer reading my .htaccess file. I had all these lovely redirects for previous blogs, non-www traffic, etc. Welp…all gone. I was so used to MediaTemple handling that for me. Well, those days are gone now that I’m on DigitalOcean, or at least until the end of my 30 days are over.

I had to get my hands dirty if I wanted to get my redirects back in order. That meant turning to DigitalOcean’s documentation. Apache does not allow .htaccess files to override things out the box. Not sure why. I’m sure it’s a good reason but that reason is beyond me. Again…I’m not a DevOps guys. You can do this one of a few ways: via the command line or FTP into your Droplet and navigate to /etc/apache2/apache2.conf. I chose the latter. But also not that you STILL will need to access your Droplet via command line so that you can restart Apache and enable mod_rewrite.

Towards the bottom of apache2.conf you want to add the following:

<Directory /var/www/html/>
    AllowOverride All

Save this out, turn to the command line if you are not already there and SSH into your Droplet. You’re going to need mod_rewrite so that WordPress can use permalinks and various other reasons. To enable mod_rewrite insert the following after you’ve logged into your Droplet via SSH:

sudo a2enmod rewrite

You can run sudo apache2ctl configtest to ensure that you haven’t made any syntax errors. You should see Syntax OK. If you see the following, that’s fine:

AH00558: apache2: Could not reliably determine the server’s fully qualified domain name, using Set the ‘ServerName’ directive globally to suppress this message

If you want to suppress this message, we will need to open the main configuration file:

sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

At the bottom of this file you will need to add what’s called a ServerName directive pointing to your domain (or IP Address if you have not set up your domain yet).

ServerName replace_this_with_your_server_domain_or_IP_here

Save and close the file when you are finished. You can re-run sudo apache2ctl configtest and you should not get that long message above Syntax OK.

Last but not least, restart Apache.

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Pretty intense, right? Well, that was just the beginning. You still have to add rules to 000-default-le-ssl.conf if you installed a SSL Certificate! Like I said before: if you are scared of the command line or running things yourself, run away!!!

Navigate to /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default-le-ssl.conf in you FTP client or open it up in the command line by typing sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default-le-ssl.conf. We want to add rewrite rules in here. You could enable .htaccess files and do it that way but since I have control over config files, I figured I’d do it this way.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}   !^www\.example\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^/(.*)$1 [L,R]

Replace with your own domain. If you are looking to use a non-www URL for your site, remove the www from the block above. Save the file and restart Apache.

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Again, not for the faint at heart. If you are having issues yourself, I suggest you refer to DigitalOcean’s amazing documentation for more help.

Disclaimer: Some of the links provided in this article are referral links where I get bonus time on the services if you click and sign up.