Getting started with Django web development typically involves running the development server on localhost to preview your site. However, there may be times when you need to access your local development site from another device on the same network. Fortunately, with a few configuration tweaks, you can externally access your Django site hosted locally.
Enabling Access with the development server
The Django development web server is intended for local use only as a convenience when developing sites. As such, Django does not optimize it for security or performance since debugging and rapid iteration take priority. However, you can configure the built-in server to allow external access for testing purposes.
Specifically, you can pass the –insecure option when starting the server via the runserver command. This will enable serving the site over any public interface on the host machine. Furthermore, by explicitly providing the server’s public IP address or 0.0.0.0 as the host, you instruct the server to respond to requests coming from network interfaces.
python manage.py runserver 0.0.0.0:8000 --insecure
Now, as long as TCP port 8000 is open in the firewall, other devices on the same network can access the development server through the host machine’s IP address.
Transitioning to Using a Production Server
However, while convenient for testing, running Django with the built-in server is ultimately not viable for production services. Primarily, the development server is single-threaded and stores no static files, limiting capacity and performance.
Therefore, when moving to production, using a dedicated web server like NGINX, Apache, or IIS to proxy requests to a WSGI server running Django is standard practice. For instance, you could configure NGINX in front of Gunicorn or uWSGI to serve Django sites externally. These production-grade stacks provide critical functionality like static file handling, security hardening, process management, and scalability that facilitates real-world usage.
In Detail: Configuring Access in Django Settings
To elaborate further, accessing the development server from other devices involves updating the Django project’s settings. Specifically, the ALLOWED_HOSTS setting controls which HTTP Host header values are accepted.
By default, ALLOWED_HOSTS only contains localhost and 127.0.0.1. Attempting external access will result in a 400 Bad Request error due to a SuspiciousOperation and Invalid HTTP_HOST header.
Therefore, you need to add the server’s public IP address or subnets to ALLOWED_HOSTS to permit external requests. For example:
ALLOWED_HOSTS = ['192.168.1.101','10.0.0.0/24']
With the server address included, clients can now connect successfully. Moreover, setting ALLOWED_HOSTS to [‘*’] will essentially allow all hostnames, albeit reducing security.
Brief Recap – Key Steps to Enable External Django Access:
- Pass –insecure when running the development server
- Update ALLOWED_HOSTS with the server’s public IP address
- Configure port forwarding if behind a router for public access
Once externally accessible, you can preview how the Django site would look when deployed live for further testing and QA. However, take care not to expose confidential or unsecured data during this phase.
Transitioning Between Local and Remote Servers
Specifically, you can define a separate database, static files location, and ALLOWED_HOSTS for each site variant in settings. Then, the SITE_ID setting variable controls which configuration to apply when processing requests.
For example, accessing the site via localhost could set SITE_ID to 1, loading the local database and development configs. Meanwhile, external production access sets SITE_ID to 2, utilizing outputs tailored for the live infrastructure.
Configuring external access for local Django development servers aids convenience when wanting to test sites from other devices. However, care must be taken around security, and performance constraints recognized before transitioning to robust production deployments.