Deploying to a shared hosting environment using Phing

Note, this article was published over 8 years ago and hence the content may be stale. Consume with a pinch of salt.

Deploying applications to shared hosting environments can be a pain when no SSH access is provided. Consequently, it's hard to avoid using FTP to deploy files from your development environment to a production server. In such trying circumstances, it's easy to form self-destructive habits like using drag-and-drop FTP deployment - a very bad thing. Much better is to write an automated deployment script so that you can build to production in one clean step, a key tenet of The Joel Test for writing better code (highly recommended). Get deployment right at the start and making major changes to your application becomes trivial rather than a complete nightmare.

Phing is great for deploying PHP applications. It's well documented, easy to use and extend, and works well with other libraries such as PHPunit. Although it's not inthe current docs for version 2.3.x there is a useful FTP task (FtpDeployTask.php) in Phing 2.3.3 that can be used to create a simple build script for deploying to shared hosting environments using FTP. Syntax and usage are trivial given a glance through the source code (/usr/share/php/phing/tasks/ext/FtpDeployTask.php on Ubuntu systems).

Here's a simple build.xml deployment script for a CodeIgniter project that uses the FtpDeploy task:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<project name="Shared hosting deployment" default="deploy-application-files" basedir=".">

    <property name="" value="" />
    <property name="ftp.port" value="21" />
    <property name="ftp.username" value="user" />
    <property name="ftp.password" value="password" />
    <property name="ftp.dir" value="/public_html/" />
    <property name="ftp.mode" value="ascii" />

    <!-- FILESETS -->
    <fileset dir="." id="files.images">
        <include name="images/**/*" />
        <include name="favicon.ico" />
    <fileset dir="." id="files.application">
        <include name="system/application/**/*" />
        <include name="css/*" />
        <include name="js/*" />
    <fileset dir="." id="files.system">
        <include name="system/**/*" />
        <exclude name="system/application/**/*" />
        <include name="index.php" />
        <include name="robots.txt" />
        <include name=".htaccess" />

    <target name="deploy">
        <echo message="Copying fileset '${deploy.fileset.refid}' to ${} in ${ftp.mode} mode" />
            <fileset refid="${deploy.fileset.refid}" />
    <target name="deploy-images">
        <echo msg="Deploying image files" />
        <phingcall target="deploy">
            <property name="deploy.fileset.refid" value="files.images" />
            <property name="ftp.mode" value="binary" override="true" />
    <target name="deploy-application-files">
        <echo msg="Deploying application files" />
        <phingcall target="deploy">
            <property name="deploy.fileset.refid" value="files.application" />
    <target name="deploy-system-files">
        <echo msg="Deploying system files" />
        <phingcall target="deploy">
            <property name="deploy.fileset.refid" value="files.system" />
    <target name="deploy-all">
        <phingcall target="deploy-images" />
        <phingcall target="deploy-application-files" />
        <phingcall target="deploy-system-files" />

As we're forced into using clumsy, out-dated FTP (rather than the wonderful rsync) to copy the files onto the production server, each deployment overwrites existing files with the selected fileset and this can be quite time-consuming for large filesets as it often moves across a load of files that haven't changed. Using FTP, this is tricky to avoid and probably not worth the effort. Instead, there are four separate deployment targets that only move specific subsets of the total application fileset over to the production environment (split according to the standard CodeIgniter directory structure) - most of the time we only want to move the "files.application" fileset across. These targets make use of the extremely useful "phingcall" target which allows a parameterised "deploy" target to be created which takes a fileset id as an argument.

With the above build.xml in the root of your project, deploying to production is now as simple as:

cd /path/to/application/ && phing deploy-all

although most of the time the following suffices:

cd /path/to/application/ && phing

Note that FtpDeploy.php has a dependency on the PEAR package Net_Ftp which can be trivially installed in the usual manner:

sudo pear install Net_FTP

Of course, this script is overly simplistic and only works well with a single developer. However, it would be easy to extend to team development by integrating with SVN so that the latest revision (or designated tag/branch) is checked out into a temporary directory before being copied over to the production server.