File Uploads

Posted on August 11, 2016 by John Duhamel

I recently encountered a scenario where I needed to accept a file upload through an API I was working on. I tried a couple different approaches.

Multipart Form

My first approach was to accept the file using a multipart form. This is the traditional method of transfering files over HTTP.

I was nervous about doing this because it would significantly increase the amount of data the server would consume. I knew this approach would work, but I felt it was worthwhile to research alternatives.


import Router from 'koa-router';
import multer from 'koa-multer';

const router = new Router();

const upload = multer({
  storage: multer.memoryStorage()
});'/upload', upload.single('document'), async ctx => {
  const { file } = ctx.req;

  // Do stuff with the file here

  ctx.status = 200;

Direct Upload

The ideal scenario would be to allow the client to upload the file directly. However, configuring S3 to accept file uploads directly would be a pretty major security hazard.

It turns out that Amazon provides a method to accept direct uploads securely. Using the AWS SDK, it’s possible to create a signature which the client can use to upload a file to S3 directly. The server signs the URL using the bucket, filename, and permissions that the client must set when uploading the file. Futhermore, the server sets a finite TTL on the signature, so it must be used reasonably quickly after it is created.

You can then use Lambda you can monitor the S3 bucket and trigger whatever action you need whenever a new file is uploaded. I’ll try to cover that in a later post.


import Router from 'koa-router';
import bodyParser from 'koa-bodyparser';
import AWS from 'aws-sdk';
import mime from 'mime-types';
import util from 'util';

const S3_BUCKET=<bucket>;

const router = new Router();
router.use(bodyParser());'/upload', async ctx => {
  const { fileType } = ctx.request.body;
  const s3 = new AWS.S3();
  const fileName = util.format(
    , new Date().getTime()
    , mime.extension(fileType)

  const signedUrl = s3.getSignedUrl('putObject', {
      Bucket: S3_BUCKET
    , Key: fileName
    , Expires: 60
    , ContentType: fileType
    , ACL: 'private'

  ctx.body = {
    signedUrl, fileName


$ curl -XPOST -d '{"fileType": "image/jpeg"}' http://localhost/upload
  "signedUrl": "<s3 url>",
  "fileName": "upload-<timestamp>.jpeg"
$ curl -t "<file path>" "<s3 url>"