Why does one need to usermod to www-data

Posted December 28, 2020 1k views
Server OptimizationQuickstartDigitalOcean Droplets

In many tutorials around the DO knowledge base you get a suggestion to first do

sudo usermod -aG www-data $USER

and then do

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/

In one of my older droplets all I did was simply

sudo chown -R $USER /var/www/

and never had any problems.

Am I missing something here?

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1 answer

Hi there @louigiverona,

This is needed as most web servers like Nginx and Apache run as the www-data user. So if the www-data user does not have write permissions to the document root, your website might not work as expected.

In some cases, if you have a static website that does not write files this is not needed.

You can find the user that your web server is running as with the ps aux command for example.

Another option is to change the user that the web server is running with and set it to your user instead. That way you will not use the www-data user but the one that you created. Of course, never set the web server to run as root as this is going to be a huge security concern.

Hope that this helps.