Why you should use a .htaccess file

A .htaccess file helps you to configure and modify the use of the Apache web server. Read our article¬† If you are using a .htaccess file, you don’t need to modify the web server itself. Adapting the use of the web server as per your requirements is one of the primary uses of a .htaccess file. By default, the .htaccess file is a part of the web configuration of the hosting account. Thus, the file is hidden by default. You can enable show hidden files on the web hosting panel in order to view your .htaccess file.

Here it is very important to note that the .htaccess file impacts it’s current folder and files and also all sub-folders and files within it. This means that you can have more than one .htaccess file for different folders. This is particularly helpful when you are creating various sections for the website and require different Apache settings for each section.

Know This Before Staring the use of .htaccess

1. A .htaccess file will reduce the speed of your server:

Using the .htaccess file to modify the Apache settings will typically slow down the speed of the website. The reason being that: Apache needs to apply your changed directives to the folders and files which are being influenced by the file. This consumes time and server side resources. For high speed dedicated servers and high end VPSes, this increase in time is hardly visible. However, if you are on a low end VPS or worst if you are on a shared hosting solution where the hosting provider is overselling the resources, then the speed and resource utilization change is quite visible. Thus, you need to consider your hosting environment before deciding to use a .htaccess file.

2. Lots of security and configuration changes are possible with the .htaccess file:

If security is one of your main concerns, then it is advisable to use a dedicated environment and make the modifications you need in the Apache configuration rather than using a .htaccess file.

If permission is granted for users to alter the Apache server configuration using the .htaccess file then, user account compromises can be harmful. Hackers can gain access to control the web server and cause irreparable damage to it. Simply explained, any directive placed within the .htaccess file has a similar impact as it would have if the Apache configuration was changed.

Actually, Apache and other web server software discourage the use of a .htaccess file; especially when you have a dedicated server and can easily modify the server configuration itself. So, the best scenarios when you should be using a .htaccess file is when:

  1. You’re using a shared hosting account on a large enough infrastructure or,
  2. You require to make many modifications in Apache settings which, need a lot of changes on the web-server and,
  3. You’re installing a CMS which automatically uses a .htaccess file to make required server configuration changes.

Please Note: Modifying a web hosting server is a technical task and should only be undertaken when you are a hundred percent sure of what you are doing. Also, errors in the .htaccess file can render various kind of errors in the front end of your website. Errors like the 500 internal server error are very common. So, be very cautious while editing and modifying your .htaccess file.  To be safe, take the services of a web developer who has complete knowledge of how to configure the .htaccess file.

Most CMS by default use a .htaccess file which they create and modify automatically as you make changes in the CMS. These modifications may include URL redirects, caching changes, Gzip feature utilization and many other such functions.

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