Web Hosting

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The CSC offers web hosting for clubs and our members in accordance with our Machine Usage Agreement. This is a quick guide for the kinds of hosting we offer on our webserver, csclub.uwaterloo.ca, also known as caffeine.

We run an Apache httpd webserver and we offer you the use of a MySQL database.

What can I host on my website?

Web hosting is provided in accordance with the CSC Machine Usage Agreement. As a reminder, you are not permitted to host any of the following:

  • Ads. Advertisements are not permitted because using our machines for commercial purposes is forbidden by university policy.
  • Your start-up's website. Again, commercial use of our hosting is not permitted.
  • Unauthorized copyrighted materials. Violating the law is a violation of our Machine Usage Agreement.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Websites may be taken down without notice at the discretion of the Systems Committee. (We will always let you know that we took your site down, but if it is breaking our shared environment, we can't provide an advance warning.)

Some great examples of things members host on our webserver:

How do I make a website?

If this is your first time making a website, this section may be useful to you.

To build your website, CS Club suggests you use http://blog.getpelican.com/ (Python) or https://jekyllrb.com/ (Ruby). They generate static sites and are faster, simpler and more secure than CMSs like WordPress (dyamic and written in PHP) for small sites. We routinely disable WordPress sites that are more than a few weeks out of date.

You can transfer files to the CS Club via SFTP (if you run Windows use https://winscp.net/eng/index.php and if you use OS X use https://cyberduck.io/?l=en, Linux can directly access SFTP by using ssh:// urls in their GUI file managers). You can use SSH for direct shell access, just run ssh a25huang@corn-syrup.csclub.uwaterloo.ca or look at https://wiki.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/Machine_List for our other machines. You can also just create your site on our servers or in our office to avoid having to shuffle files around. Your home directory is distributed everywhere via NFS. Bonus points if you use Git to sync your own computer with our servers.

Email syscom@csclub.uwaterloo.ca if you need help, or come to the CS Club office on the MC 3rd floor across from the Mathsoc CnD.

DNS and Your Domain Name

You can serve files without any additional configuration by placing them in your www directory and accessing them at http://csclub.uwaterloo.ca/~userid, where userid is your CSC user ID. However, many of our members and clubs prefer to use a custom domain name.

Note that this means you do not have to register a domain name to be able to use our services. You can just put a website at http://csclub.uwaterloo.ca/~userid.

uwaterloo.ca domain Names

If you represent a UWaterloo organization, you may be eligible for a custom uwaterloo.ca domain name, such as csclub.uwaterloo.ca. We can request this on your behalf.

In order to do so, we must have verified that the organization is a legitimate UWaterloo-affiliated group, and that you, the representative, are authorized to request a domain name on their behalf. This all takes place when you request club hosting with the Computer Science Club.

Once you register as a club representative of your particular organization, you can send an email from your official club account to syscom@csclub.uwaterloo.ca to request the domain yourdomain.uwaterloo.ca. Assuming it is available, we will file a ticket and request the domain in your name.

Your personal domain name

These virtual hosts must be approved by the Executive and Systems Committee. If interested, send syscom@csclub.uwaterloo.ca an email. If your request is approved, the Systems Committee will direct you to create a CNAME record for your domain and point it at csclub.uwaterloo.ca.

If you are interested in receiving mail or having other records on your domain, the apex of your domain cannot be a CNAME. If this is the case, then your domain should contain an "A" record of and a (optional, but recommended) "AAAA" record of 2620:101:f000:4901:c5c::caff:e12e.

Static Sites

You can place all your static content into your web directory, /users/userid/www.

If you have been approved for a virtual host, you can access this content using your personal domain once the Systems Committee makes the appropriate configuration changes. Here is an example configuration file:

 <VirtualHost *:80>
 	ServerName foobar.uwaterloo.ca
 	ServerAlias *.foobar.uwaterloo.ca foobar
 	ServerAdmin your@email.here.tld
 	DocumentRoot /users/userid/www/
 	ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/luser-userid-error.log
 	CustomLog /var/log/apache2/luser-userid-access.log combined

Dynamic Sites

If you require use of a database, we offer you the sole choice of MySQL. See this guide for how to create your database and connect to MySQL.


 We STRONGLY discourage the use of content management systems such as
 WordPress. These packages are notorious for the number of security
 vulnerabilities they contain and pose a threat to our systems if they are not
 kept up to date. The Systems Committee WILL, at its discretion, disable
 any website using a package such as WordPress that is not updated to the latest
 version or that is found to contain exploitable security flaws. In such a case,
 the member or club serving that site will be notified of the termination; the
 site will not be re-enabled until the issues are addressed.

Using PHP

Because we use Apache, it's as simple as placing your index.php file in your /users/userid/www. That's it!

You can even include rewrite rules in an .htaccess file in your web directory.

Reverse Proxy (Python, Ruby, Perl, etc.)

(In progress... Cliff Notes below)

If computationally expensive, please run the server on a general-use server and proxy to Caffiene.

If Python, (1) use a virtual environment (2) host your app (within the virtualenv) with Gunicorn on a high port, bound to localhost

If Ruby (Note, I've never used Ruby so take this with a grain of salt), use Unicorn

.htaccess Config

Put the following in the appropriate .htaccess file. Replace HOST with localhost if running on Caffiene or the hostname if running elsewhere; replace port with your chosen port number.

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{SCRIPT_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteCond %{SCRIPT_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule "^(.*)$" "http://HOST:RANDOM_PORT/$1" [P]

[Deprecated] Using WSGI

We newly support mod_wsgi for dynamic frameworks you may not want to run through FCGI, such as Django. If you'd like to set up one of these sites, you'll need Systems Committee approval and assistance with the configuration. You will be responsible for setting up the site in your home directory and all the associated WSGI scripts.

Here is a sample configuration file for a Django site:

 <VirtualHost *:80>
   ServerName foobar.uwaterloo.ca
   ServerAlias *.foobar.uwaterloo.ca foobar
   ServerAdmin your@email.here.tld
   ErrorLog /var/log/apache2/luser-userid-error.log
   CustomLog /var/log/apache2/luser-userid-access.log combined
   WSGIDaemonProcess process_name python-path=your/path/here/:possibly:/users/userid/site:/users/userid/.env/...
   WSGIScriptAlias / /path/to/your/wsgi/script
   WSGIProcessGroup process_name
   Alias /robots.txt /path/if/necessary/robots.txt
   Alias /favicon.ico /path/if/necessary/favicon.ico
   <Directory /path/to/your/wsgi/script>
     <Files wsgi.py>
       Require all granted


Disabling insecure or infringing sites

To disable a webspace that has known security vulnerabilities add the following snippet to `/etc/apache2/conf-available/disable-vuln-site.conf`. This rewrites all accesses of the directory or its children to the given file. Note that our disable page uses PHP to always return HTTP status code 503. (TODO: move files to somewhere in /srv)

 <Directory /users/$BADUSER/www>
     AllowOverride None
     RewriteEngine On
     RewriteRule . /~sysadmin/insecure/index.php [L]

Expired Websites

There is a cron job running hourly on caffeine which disables expired member's websites (and re-enables them when they've renewed their membership).

The script is here: http://git.csclub.uwaterloo.ca/?p=public/expire-sites.git;a=summary

Some highlights:

  • The script provides a 1-month grace period (corresponding to the grace period of pam-csc)
  • The expired page returns HTTP status code of 503 (Service Unavailable)