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Month: October 2010

Automatic repository and web server synchronization on commit

When developing a web site or web application, it is always a hassle to first commit the code to the repository, and then use FTP or SCP to update the code on the web server. Various IDEs allow to automatize this “code synchronization” process with a simple button to click, however this is still one additional step on the developer’s mind. We all went through these moments where, developing late in the night, we were trying to fix a bug and realized that we were working on the wrong version as we had forgotten to update the code on the web server. What a waste of time! For the development of a recent project, that includes sharing code with other developers, I decided to put an end to this code synchronization issue, by making it fully automatic. In this article, I first present the problem and my design of a configuration-independent solution. Then, I apply this solution to the specific context of my project, which uses Python as a web server, BitBucket/Mercurial as a repository solution, and Apache/PHP to handle the commit notifications.


Manually updating the files on a web server after a commit is a simple and straightforward step. However, it can be the source of various errors, such as:

1. Accidentally uploading the files in a wrong location on the web server
2. Forgetting to update the code on the web server and waste time debugging a deprecated version
3. Being distracted by thinking about updating the code on the web server, and losing focus on the development flow
4. Wasting time, as even if updating manually takes only a few seconds, these seconds will add up dramatically

The actual step of committing the code to the repository can hardly be automatized, as only the developer can say when the code is ready to be pushed. On the contrary, updating the code on the web server could easily be avoided. A simple system would be to get the web server to update its files and restart automatically whenever a commit is made to the repository. Figure 1 below describes the design of this automatic synchronization system.

Figure 1 - Automatic synchronization of web server and repository on commit