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I've been writing a small site which is essentially just a service API for other applications but deals with the caching and serving of files. In an effort to make the site as scalable and maintainable as possible I did some research into the most efficient ways to serve files to the client, using PHP for access control.

I figured I'd probably need this sort of functionality again somewhere down the line so I decided to write a small-ish static utility class to serve up files. I'd like feedback on the overall robustness/efficiency of the code as well as comments on how well this follows the HTTP specifications. Improvements are always welcome as I haven't had a chance to really stress test the code yet.

A few of the optimizations are really targeted towards an Apache web-server, but the code itself should work on any PHP box. If anyone knows how to check for the mod_xsendfile module on Nginx/lighttpd accurately that would be a great addition.

class FileServer {
    const TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE = 8192;

     * void serveFile(string $filepath, string $realname, string $mimeType, [bool $publicFile=true, [bool $allowPartial=true, [callable $callback=false ]]])
     *  Serve the file residing at $filepath to the client.
     * @param $filepath     The absolute or relative URI to the file
     * @param $realname     The name to give the client for this file (such as in the Save dialog from a browser)
     * @param $mimeType     The desired MIME type to send with the response (allows for custom mime-types rather than just using PECLs FileInfo)
     * @param $publicFile   Whether the file is safe for public access or not (i.e you want to hide the true location of the file from clients). Optional, defaults to true
     * @param $allowPartial Whether or not to accept partial requests (via the HTTP_RANGE header) to download the file.
     * @param $callback     An optional callback to invoke before terminating the script, allows for any cleanup code to run. 
     *                          Function singature should match 'int function(int)' where the parameter indicates the status code being sent to the client.
     *                          The function should return the desired exit code
     * @remarks After calling this function the script will be guaranteed to terminate on all branches after invoking $callback
    public static function serveFile($filepath, $realname, $mimeType, $publicFile=true, $allowPartial=true, $callback=false) {
        if (!is_file($filepath)) {
            header('HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found', true, 404);
            exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 404));

        $size = filesize($filepath);
        $headers = array();

        // get all available headers
        foreach($_SERVER as $k=>$v) {
            $key = strtolower($k);
            if (strpos($key, 'http_') === 0) { $key = substr($key, 5); }
            $headers[$key] = $v;
        // pick up any apache http headers that weren't in $_SERVER (need reference as to whether this is even possible?)
        if (function_exists('apache_request_headers')) {
            $headers += array_change_key_case(apache_request_headers());

        // check if a range was specified
        $range = (isset($headers['range']) ? $headers['range'] : false);

        if ($range !== false && $allowPartial) { // need to handle a partial request
            if (($ranges = self::parseRange($range, $size)) === false) { // badly formatted range from client
                header('HTTP/1.1 416 Requested Range Not Satisfiable', true, 416);
                header('Content-Range: bytes */' . $size, true);
                exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 416));

        // Allow for some caching optimization, although in my experience this won't hit too often from browsers.
        $ims = !empty($headers['if_modified_since']) ? $headers['if_modified_since'] : false;
        $inm = !empty($headers['if_none_match']) ? $headers['if_none_match'] : false;

        if (self::cacheControl($filepath, $ims, $inm)) {
            header("HTTP/1.1 304 Not Modified", true, 304);
            exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 304));

        if (function_exists('apache_get_modules')) { // try to optimize with apache (x-sendfile header)
            if (in_array('mod_xsendfile', apache_get_modules())) {
                // note: X-Sendfile claims to handle HTTP_RANGE headers properly,
                // so that is why this is the leading code branch
                header('X-Sendfile: ' . $filepath);
                header("Content-Type: {$mimeType}");
                header("Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=\"{$realname}\"");
                exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 200));

        // Common headers 
        header("Content-Type: {$mimeType}", true);
        header("Accept-Ranges: " . ($acceptPartial ? 'bytes' : 'none'), true);

        // send a partial request
        if ($range !== false && $allowPartial) {
            $contentRanges = self::implodeAssoc($ranges, '-', ',');
            // send appropriate partial header info
            header("HTTP/1.1 206 Partial Content", true, 206);
            header("Content-Range: bytes {$contentRanges}/{$size}", true);

            if (($fp = fopen($filepath, 'r')) === false) {
                header("HTTP/1.0 500 Internal Server Error", true, 500);
                exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 500));

            foreach($ranges as $start=>$end) {
                $length = ($end - $start) + 1;

                // Open up a file stream to serve the chunked request
                if ($start > 0 && fseek($fp, $start, SEEK_SET) === -1) {
                    header("HTTP/1.0 500 Internal Server Error", true, 500);
                    exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 500));

                // Transfer the data, one TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE block at a time to
                // reduce the memory footprint on larger files
                $chunks = (int)($length / self::TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE);
                $delta = $length % self::TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE;

                for($i = 0; $i < $chunks; ++$i) {
                    echo fread($fp, self::TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE);
                // handle the residual data that didn't align along TRANSFER_CHUNK_SIZE
                echo fread($fp, $delta); 

            exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 206));

        // By now it's a pretty grim situation for file i/o.

        // Possible redirect opportunity using the Location header. Note: this only works
        // on public documents, $publicFile should be false when serving restricted content.
        // Also, the file must reside in the document root to be accessible by setting Location
        if ($publicFile && ($url = self::filepathToUrl($filepath, true)) !== false) { 
            header("Location: {$url}", true);
            exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 302));

        // Give up, going to have to use PHP :)
        header("Content-Length: {$size}", true);
        header("Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=\"{$realname}\"", true);
        exit(self::invokeCallback($callback, 200));

    // Pretty self-explanatory, just a helper to abstract the way ETags are generated
    public static function generateETag($filepath, $salt='') {
        return hash('sha256', $filepath . $salt);

    // Another lazy helper to validate a callback and invoke it, or return a default value
    private static function invokeCallback($callback, $response, $default=0) {
        if (is_callable($callback)) {
            return call_user_func($callback, $response);
        return $default;

    private static function cacheControl($filepath, $ifModifiedSince, $ifNoneMatch) {
        // Do the caching housekeeping.
        // Function returns true if the cached version is up-to-date (i.e a 304 is acceptable), or false otherwise
        $mtime = filemtime($filepath);
        $time = gmdate('D, d M Y H:i:s \G\M\T', $mtime);
        $etag = self::generateETag($filepath, $mtime);

        if ($ifModifiedSince !== false || $ifNoneMatch !== false) {
            if ($ifModifiedSince == $time || $etag == str_replace('"', '', stripslashes($ifNoneMatch))) {
                return true;
        // send some validation headers for cache-control later
        header('Last-Modified: ' . $time, true);
        header('Cache-Control: must-revalidate', true);
        header('ETag: ' . $etag, true);     

        return false;

    private static function implodeAssoc($assoc, $keyValueSeparator, $entrySeparator) {
        // A really, really lazy way to implode an array by first delimiting the keys and values by one delimiter
        // then delimiting this new array by another delimiter
        return implode($entrySeparator, 
            array_map(function($k,$v) use($keyValueSeparator) {
                return "{$k}{$keyValueSeparator}{$v}";
            }, array_keys($assoc), $assoc)

    private static function filepathToUrl($filepath, $relative=false) {
        // normalize to *Nix path separators
        $root = str_replace('\\', '/', $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT']);
        $filepath = str_replace('\\', '/', realpath($filepath));

        $relpath = str_replace($root, '', $filepath);

        if ($filepath === $relpath && $filepath[0] !== '/') // can't convert the absolute path to a URL because it's outside the document root
            return false;

        if ($relpath[0] != '/') $relpath = '/' . $relpath;
        if (!$relative) {
            $protocol = "http" . ((empty($_SERVER['HTTPS']) || $_SERVER['HTTPS'] === 'off') ? '' : 's') . '://';
            return $protocol . $_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] . $relpath;

        return $relpath;        

     * Parse a HTTP_RANGE header value into an array of 'start' => 'end' ranges
     * @param $range the raw HTTP_RANGE value to parse
     * @param $size the size of the file that is being partially requested
     * @return an associative array of 'start' => 'end' integer pairs if the range is valid, false otherwise
    private static function parseRange($range, $filesize) {
        if (!preg_match('/^bytes=\\d*-\\d*(,\d*-\d*)*$/', $range)) {
            return false;

        $ranges = explode(',', substr($range, 6));
        $specs = array();

        for($i = 0; $i < count($ranges); ++$i) {
            $parts = explode('-', $ranges[$i]);
            if (empty($parts[0]) && empty($parts[1])) {
                return false; //have to specify at least one side of the range

            // Try to comply with the standard as best I understand it here
            $end = !empty($parts[1]) ? intval($parts[1]) : $filesize - 1;
            $start = !empty($parts[0]) ? intval($parts[0]) : ($filesize - ($end + 1));
            if ($end > ($filesize - 1)) $end = $filesize - 1;

            if ($start > $end) {
                return false;

            $specs[$start] = $end;

        return $specs;

Appreciate the advice.

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1 Answer

That's a lot of code

It looks like it works but since it's apache specific what's wrong with using virtual? It's an apache-specific php function for serving files. I.e.

public static function serveFile($filepath, $realname, $mimeType, $publicFile=true, $allowPartial=true, $callback=false) {

    // do whatever and then just hand the file to apache to handle

Not testable

The biggest failing with the code as written is that you can't unit test it - I.e. you can't use PHPUnit, mock things and verify that it handles all circumstances you think it can. The main roadblock to this is putting exit() directly in the same method that does things. A better idea is to do:

public static function whatever() {

protected static function _stop($reason = null) {

In this way you can mock the test class, or simply subclass it and override _stop so that it does not exit execution.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the reply, I hadn't heard of the virtual method before today, so I'll be sure to look into that as an alternate method when it's available. Presumably it doesn't work with range requests but it'd be a nice alternative to the final readfile case on Apache servers. As for the testable aspect, I can't say I spent much time considering it as a lot of the branches are server-specific and not really something a unit-test would be able to handle anyway. Valid point though. Thanks again. –  Jason Larke Jan 29 '13 at 7:59
why would you presume that passing a request back to apache does not handle range requests? Code you can't test - is code you cannot be sure actually works :). Being server-specific does not affect whether code should be testable. –  AD7six Jan 29 '13 at 9:20
I said using virtual is unlikely to check the HTTP_RANGE header. X-Sendfile had to write specific code to handle this. Just because code does not work specifically with your chosen testing suite, does not make it untestable; I ran few of my own tests against this. –  Jason Larke Jan 30 '13 at 15:36
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