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Copy Files To and From Services

There are a few cases where you would need to transfer files to and from your servers:

  • you want to upload manually a bundle of confidential data that you don’t want to put in your code repository;
  • you want to regularly update some data on your service, without having to do a complete push each time (e.g., some JSON files containing stuff that you want to update on a daily basis);
  • you want to transfer some user-uploaded data from your service to somewhere else (another service, or a 3rd party server);
  • something else.

Here are a few recipes to do that!


scp and rsync are available too. Hop down to the last sections of this guide.

Download a Single Text File

If you want to download a single text file (as opposed to “multiple files” or to “some binary file”), you can use the following command:

$ dotcloud run myapp.myservice cat remotefilename > localfilename

Upload a Single Text File

This will be slightly more complex than the download case, since we need to do a remote redirection. Quoting is of the essence here:

$ dotcloud run myapp.myservice "cat > remotefilename" < localfilename

Download Binary or Multiple Files

The SSH connection provided by dotcloud run is (unfortunately!) not binary-safe. Therefore, we will protect the transfer with base64 encoding:

$ dotcloud run myapp.myservice -- \
           "tar -chf- remotefileordirectory 2>/dev/null | base64 -w0" \
           | base64 --decode > localarchivename.tar

This will:

  • run tar inside your service,
  • create an archive containing remotefileordirectory,
  • dereference symlinks thanks to the -h flag (not always necessary, but since DotCloud uses some symlinks here and there, it’s probably a good idea!),
  • use base64 to make sure that the archive won’t get mangled by the unsafe SSH session,
  • use a single long line thanks to -w0, to avoid end-of-line encoding issues,
  • decode the base64 stream on your local machine,
  • store the decoded tar archive into localarchivename.tar.

Upload Binary or Multiple Files

This will be quite similar to the previous example.

To upload a single binary file from a Linux machine:

$ base64 -w0 localbinaryfile | dotcloud run myapp.myserver -- \
         "base64 --decode > remotebinaryfile"

To upload a local directory from a Linux machine:

$ tar -cf- localdirectory | base64 -w0 | dotcloud run myapp.myserver -- \
      "base64 --decode | tar -xf-"

If your machine is not a Linux machine, please adjust the parameters to the first base64 to avoid adding any line endings. On a Mac this is the default. On a Linux machine (like your dotCloud container) this requires -w0.

Note that this will create “localdirectory” in “/home/dotcloud” in the remote server. If you want it with another name or at another place, you can fix it manually with “dotcloud ssh”, or use tar options to specify the output directory.

Generic SSH (scp, rsync...)

If you are used to scp or rsync, you can also setup a SSH configuration file to use direct SSH connection to your service. Here is how.

  1. Retrieve the SSH parameters (user, host, and port) of your service, using dotcloud info myapp.myservice.

  2. Append the following section to your ~/.ssh/config file (create this file if it does not exist), replacing HOST, PORT and USER with the values shown by dotcloud info:

    Host myapp.myservice
      HostName HOST
      Port PORT
      User USER
      IdentityFile ~/.dotcloud/dotcloud.key
  3. You can now do things like:

    • ssh myapp.myservice
    • scp somefile myapp.myservice:
    • rsync -av somedirectory/ myapp.myservice:remotedirectory/


If you are using multiple DotCloud accounts, and switch between them with the DOTCLOUD_CONFIG_FILE environment variable, you have to change the IdentityFile statement accordingly.

Connecting From a Service to Another

The procedure is the same, but you have to copy the dotcloud.key file to the remote service first.