Storing sensitive information outside of your codebase

From time to time, your website needs access to sensitive credentials, passwords, or other private information to function properly, but do not store the information in your version control repository for privacy reasons.

For example, the following modules or third-party integrations may require a secret or access key:

  • Drupal modules (Shield)

  • Amazon S3 configuration variables (s3fs_awssdk2_access_key, s3fs_awssdk2_secret_key, s3fs_bucket)

  • Google Cloud Messaging integration variables (push_notifications_gcm_api_key)

  • Google CAPTCHA variables (recaptcha_secret_key, recaptcha_site_key)

To make the information available uniquely to your website, while keeping sensitive information out of your codebase, use one of the following methods:


Acquia recommends that Cloud Next users create a nobackup directory to store their senstitive information.

secrets.settings.php file

Storing sensitive credentials in a secrets file and not in your website’s database means your private data won’t exist in your database backups. With this, you can distribute database backups to team members who might need a database snapshot, but do not need full access to external systems.

To create and use a secrets file with your website:

  1. Connect to your server using SSH.

  2. Navigate to your home directory.

  3. If the secrets.settings.php file doesn’t exist, create it.


    In Cloud Classic, do not create the file in the /mnt/gfs/[sitename].[env]/files/ directory, as files in this are publicly accessible.

  4. To make the secrets file available to your application, add the lines in the following example to the appropriate location based on your installed product:

    • Cloud Platform: To your website’s settings.php file

    • Site Factory: To a post-settings-php hook named secrets.php


      Add the secrets file to all Site Factory environments. During the Site Factory staging process, the secrets.settings.php file will not copy down to lower environments.

      $secrets_file = $_ENV['HOME'] . '/secrets.settings.php';
      if (file_exists($secrets_file)) {
         require $secrets_file;

    Since the code uses $_ENV['HOME'] to build the link to the secrets.settings.php file, you can provide unique files for your production and non-production environments.


  • Keep your own backups of your secrets.settings.php file. Backups are stored outside your website’s files area. The Site Factory full-website backups do not back up the secrets.settings.php file.

  • While upgrading from Cloud Classic to Cloud Next, ensure that you migrate the $HOME/APP_NAME folder.

Using the nobackup directory

You can also create a special nobackup directory where you can place files containing sensitive credentials. For information about using the method, see Storing private information in the file system.