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SimpleSAMLphp Installation and Configuration

Table of Contents

1 SimpleSAMLphp news and documentation

This document is part of the SimpleSAMLphp documentation suite.

2 Development version

This document is about the latest stable version of SimpleSAMLphp. If you want to install the development version, look at the instructions for installing SimpleSAMLphp from the repository.

3 Prerequisites

What actual packages are required for the various extensions varies between different platforms and distributions.

4 Download and install SimpleSAMLphp

The most recent release of SimpleSAMLphp is found at https://simplesamlphp.org/download.

Go to the directory where you want to install SimpleSAMLphp, and extract the archive file you just downloaded:

cd /var
tar xzf simplesamlphp-1.x.y.tar.gz
mv simplesamlphp-1.x.y simplesamlphp

5 Upgrading from a previous version of SimpleSAMLphp

Extract the new version:

cd /var
tar xzf simplesamlphp-1.x.y.tar.gz

Copy the configuration files from the previous version (in case the configuration directory is inside SimpleSAMLphp, keep reading for other alternatives):

cd /var/simplesamlphp-1.x.y
rm -rf config metadata
cp -rv ../simplesamlphp/config config
cp -rv ../simplesamlphp/metadata metadata

Replace the old version with the new version:

cd /var
mv simplesamlphp simplesamlphp.old
mv simplesamlphp-1.x.y simplesamlphp

If the format of the config files or metadata has changed from your previous version of SimpleSAMLphp (check the revision log), you may have to update your configuration and metadata after updating the SimpleSAMLphp code:

5.1 Upgrading configuration files

A good approach is to run a diff between your previous config.php file and the new config.php file located in config-templates/config.php, and apply relevant modifications to the new template. This will ensure that all new entries in the latest version of config.php are included, as well as preserve your local modifications.

5.2 Upgrading metadata files

Most likely the metadata format is backwards compatible. If not, you should receive a very clear error message at startup indicating how and what you need to update. You should look through the metadata in the metadata-templates directory after the upgrade to see whether recommended defaults have been changed.

5.3 Alternative location for configuration files

By default, SimpleSAMLphp looks for its configuration in the config directory in the root of its own directory. This has some drawbacks, like making it harder to use SimpleSAMLphp as a composer dependency, or to package it for different operating systems.

However, it is now possible to specify an alternate location for the configuration directory by setting an environment variable with this location. This way, the configuration directory doesn't need to be inside the library's directory, making it easier to manage and to update. The simplest way to set this environment variable is to set it in your web server's configuration. See the next section for more information.

6 Configuring Apache

Examples below assume that SimpleSAMLphp is installed in the default location, /var/simplesamlphp. You may choose another location, but this requires a path update in a few files. See Appendix for details ‹Installing SimpleSAMLphp in alternative locations›.

The only subdirectory of SimpleSAMLphp that needs to be accessible from the web is www. There are several ways of exposing SimpleSAMLphp depending on the way web sites are structured on your Apache web server. The following is just one possible configuration.

Find the Apache configuration file for the virtual hosts where you want to run SimpleSAMLphp. The configuration may look like this:

<VirtualHost *>
        ServerName service.example.com
        DocumentRoot /var/www/service.example.com

        SetEnv SIMPLESAMLPHP_CONFIG_DIR /var/simplesamlphp/config

        Alias /simplesaml /var/simplesamlphp/www

        <Directory /var/simplesamlphp/www>
            <IfModule !mod_authz_core.c>
            # For Apache 2.2:
            Order allow,deny
            Allow from all
            <IfModule mod_authz_core.c>
            # For Apache 2.4:
            Require all granted

Note the Alias directive, which gives control to SimpleSAMLphp for all urls matching http(s)://service.example.com/simplesaml/*. SimpleSAMLphp makes several SAML interfaces available on the web; all of them are included in the www subdirectory of your SimpleSAMLphp installation. You can name the alias whatever you want, but the name must be specified in the config.php file of SimpleSAMLphp as described in the section called “SimpleSAMLphp configuration: config.php”. Here is an example of how this configuration may look like in config.php:

$config = array (
        'baseurlpath'                   => 'simplesaml/',

Note also the SetEnv directive. It sets the SIMPLESAMLPHP_CONFIG_DIR environment variable, in this case, to the default location for the configuration directory. You can omit this environment variable, and SimpleSAMLphp will then look for the config directory inside its own directory. If you need to move your configuration to a different location, you can use this environment variable to tell SimpleSAMLphp where to look for configuration files. This works only for the config directory. If you need your metadata to be in a different directory too, use the metadatadir configuration option to specify the location.

This is just the basic configuration to get things working. For a checklist further completing your documentation, please see Maintenance and configuration: Apache.

7 SimpleSAMLphp configuration: config.php

There is a few steps that you should edit in the main configuration file, config.php, right away:

8 Configuring PHP

8.1 Sending e-mails from PHP

Some parts of SimpleSAMLphp will allow you to send e-mails. In example sending error reports to technical admin, as well as sending in metadata to the federation administrators. If you want to make use of this functionality, you should make sure your PHP installation is configured to be able to send e-mails. It's a common problem that PHP is not configured to send e-mails properly. The configuration differs from system to system. On UNIX, PHP is using sendmail, on Windows SMTP.

9 Enable modules

If you want to enable some of the modules that are installed with SimpleSAMLphp, but are disabled by default, you should create an empty file in the module directory named enable.

# Enabling the consent module
cd modules
ls -l
cd consent
touch enable

If you later want to disable the module, rename the enable file to disable.

cd modules/consent
mv enable disable

10 The SimpleSAMLphp installation webpage

After installing SimpleSAMLphp, you can access the homepage of your installation, which contains some information and a few links to the test services. The URL of an installation can be e.g.:


The exact link depends on how you set it up with Apache, and of course on your hostname.

10.1 Warning

Don't click on any of the links yet, because they require you to either have setup SimpleSAMLphp as an Service Provider or as an Identity Provider.

Here is an example screenshot of what the SimpleSAMLphp page looks like:

Screenshot of the SimpleSAMLphp installation page.

10.2 Check your PHP environment

At the bottom of the installation page are some green lights. simpleSAML runs some tests to see whether required and recommended prerequisites are met. If any of the lights are red, you may have to add some extensions or modules to PHP, e.g. you need the PHP LDAP extension to use the LDAP authentication module.

11 Next steps

You have now successfully installed SimpleSAMLphp, and the next steps depends on whether you want to setup a service provider, to protect a website by authentication or if you want to setup an identity provider and connect it to a user catalog. Documentation on bridging between federation protocols is found in a separate document.

12 Support

If you need help to make this work, or want to discuss SimpleSAMLphp with other users of the software, you are fortunate: Around SimpleSAMLphp there is a great Open source community, and you are welcome to join! The forums are open for you to ask questions, contribute answers other further questions, request improvements or contribute with code or plugins of your own.

13 Installing SimpleSAMLphp in alternative locations

There may be several reasons why you want to install SimpleSAMLphp in an alternative way.

  1. You are installing SimpleSAMLphp in a hosted environment where you do not have root access, and cannot change Apache configuration. Still you can install SimpleSAMLphp - keep on reading.

  2. You have full permissions to the server, but cannot edit Apache configuration for some reason, politics, policy or whatever.

The SimpleSAMLphp code contains one folder named simplesamlphp. In this folder there are a lot of subfolders for library, metadata, configuration and much more. One of these folders is named www. This and only this folder should be exposed on the web. The recommended configuration is to put the whole simplesamlphp folder outside the webroot, and then link in the www folder by using the Alias directive, as described in the section called “Configuring Apache”. But this is not the only possible way.

As an example, let's see how you can install SimpleSAMLphp in your home directory on a shared hosting server.

Extract the SimpleSAMLphp archive in your home directory:

cd ~
tar xzf simplesamlphp-1.x.y.tar.gz
mv simplesamlphp-1.x.y simplesamlphp

Then you can try to make a symlink into the public\_html directory.

cd ~/public_html
ln -s ../simplesamlphp/www simplesaml

Next, you need to update the configuration of paths in simplesamlphp/config/config.php:

And, then we need to set the baseurlpath parameter to match the base path of the URLs to the content of your www folder:

'baseurlpath' => '/simplesaml/',

Now, you can go to the URL of your installation and check if things work:


13.1 Tip

Symlinking may fail, because some Apache configurations do not allow you to link in files from outside the public_html folder. If so, move the folder instead of symlinking:

cd ~/public_html
mv ../simplesamlphp/www simplesaml

Now you have the following directory structure.

Now, we need to make a few configuration changes. First, let's edit ~/public_html/simplesaml/_include.php:

Change the two lines from:

require_once(dirname(dirname(__FILE__)) . '/lib/_autoload.php');

to something like:


And then at the end of the file, you need to change another line from:

$configdir = dirname(dirname(__FILE__)) . '/config';


$configdir = '/var/www/simplesamlphp/config';

13.2 Note

In a future version of SimpleSAMLphp we'll make this a bit easier, and let you only change the path one place, instead of three as described above.