Jan 08, 2019 . 2 min

A really simple nginx config

This is another installment of "this is not a blog but a note for my future reference".

Here, I will introduce you to writing a very simple nginx config file. The use case I will go over here assumes you have a directory of static files and a backend running somewhere.

Where to put the files #

First of all the config file is supposed to be located at /etc/nginx/sites-available/yourapp. Here is a stackoverflow link to what is sites-available. You will have to have symlink it to sites-enabled.

You can actually write the config at /etc/nginx/nginx.conf but you just create(you will probably have one) a base config there and include this file there. The /etc/nginx/nginx.conf file will have(need) something like this inside the http block.

include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/*;

What to put in the files #

OK, now to write a really simple nginx config file. Below will be something that you will end up with.

A great guide to static file serving and stuff is given here.

server {
    listen   80;

    client_max_body_size 200M;

    root /home/username/ui/dist;
    index index.html;

    location / {
        try_files $uri @backend;

    location @backend {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:8080;

So, you write the whole thing inside.

server {
 -- STUFF --

Btw, you might see code blocks which have server wrapped inside http. You can skip that we have http inside nginx.conf and we are including this file inside of it. Maybe a better explanation on stackoverflow.

listen #

If it ain't obvious by now, it says nginx has to listen to port 80 for requests.

client_max_body_size #

Define the max size of the content that the client can send. Duh!

server_name #

Define the name of your server. You use this to say where the requests will come from. Each server block will have one of these.

So that if you have a subdomain that you would like to map to a completely different project you could do it here. A quick googling lead me here.

root and index #

root to specify where to look for static files. Give the path to where your static files are.

index is defined so as to say where to look for when there is no file defined, as in which is your index.html equivalent.

location @backend #

This is used to tell nginx where your backend is. This could be a local link or even a link to an external server.

With proxy_pass http://localhost:8080; we tell that our backend is at localhost:8080.

location / #

The final piece, we tell nginx when a request comes in. You could have multiple location blocks if you have a specific endpoint like /api or something for your backend.

Here we check if a file like that exists in static directory that we gave, if yes then serve the static file. Otherwise route it to the backend.

Updating changes in nginx #

Once you have changed the nginx config files, you will have to update running nginx instance. You can do the by doing:

nginx -t  # check if config looks OK
systemctl reload nginx

Starting and stopping nginx #

Well, usually you will have systemctl running nginx, in which case you have the following commands.

systemctl status nginx  # check status
systemctl start nginx # start nginx
systemctl stop nginx # stop nginx
systemctl restart nginx # stop then start nginx

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