LimeSurvey with load balancers, fixing the user sessions.

For a client we’ve been working with recently it came to our attention that they needed more frontend servers to keep up with the traffic for their surveys. They use LimeSurvey which is powerful open source survey platform. We set the client up in the cloud to scale as necessary with a load balancer in front. This is when we noticed the problem that LimeSurvey doesn’t work well when a user is bouncing between different frontend servers. LimeSurvey keeps all the user’s session attributes on the local server and not in the database. After googling around for a while, we found other people also had this problem before, and no one had really solved it. We figured we would.

We didn’t feel like doing a ton of extra work to reinvent the wheel in terms of storing the session in the database. We snagged most of the code straight from the Symfony “storage” module which handles it’s session management if you want to store the user sessions in a database. After a quick few modifications, we got it up:

This requires you create a table in your MySQL database called session. Here is a dump of the create statement for the table:

  `id` int(11) NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `sess_id` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `sess_data` text NOT NULL,
  `sess_time` datetime NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)

Basically this uses PHP’s session_set_handler function to manipulate how the PHP retrieves, updates, and stores the user’s session. The final touches were to include this class where the user sessions are started in LimeSurvey. We found them in the index.php and sessioncontrol.php files. Include our file from above just before the session_start(); in the code in those two files. In admin/scripts/fckeditor.265/editor/filemanager/connectors/php/upload.php include the file before the first include. Lastly we need to update a couple locations where it does session_regenerate_id and replace it with $sfSessionHandler->regenerate(). You can find these edits in the following three files: admin/usercontrol.php on line 128, admin/login_check.php line 65, and index.php at lines 207 and 215. You should be up and running now, let us know if you have any problems.