S3 Deployment with Travis

You can use Travis to quickly and easily deploy a static site to S3 and invalidate a corresponding CloudFront distribution. Here’s how.


I’m assuming you already have a static site set up on S3 and CloudFront. If you don’t and are interested in learning how, David Baumgold has a great tutorial for how to make a static site on S3 and CloudFront.

I’m also assuming the source for your site is hosted publicly on GitHub so you can use Travis, a free continuous integration platform for GitHub projects.

IAM User

Start by making AWS credentials for Travis. Do this by creating an IAM user. From the AWS Management Console, navigate to the “Security Credentials” page.

Navigating AWS menu to the security credentials page

You may be presented with a modal encouraging you to create IAM users. Dismiss it by clicking “Continue to Security Credentials.”

Security credentials modal encouraging you to create IAM users

In the sidebar, navigate to “Users.”

Link in the security credentials sidebar to IAM users section

Click “Create New Users.”

New user creation button

Enter a username for your Travis user and click “Create” in the lower right. I use the name “travis” so it’s clear what the user is for.

New user creation form

The next page will display security credentials for your new user, initially collapsed. These are important, and are only displayed once. If you lose them, you’ll need to generate new credentials. Keep them somewhere safe. We’ll return to them shortly.

Credentials shown once for a new user

Once you’ve saved a copy of your user’s credentials, close the page using the link in the bottom right.

Now you need to grant your newly-created IAM user permission to access S3 (so it can upload files) and permission to access CloudFront (so it can invalidate distributions). This approach follows the principle of least privilege. In other words, you only grant this user the smallest set permissions necessary for it to do its job.

Click on the row for your IAM user in the listing, highlighted in blue below.

Row for new user selected

Select the “Permissions” tab, then click “Attach Policy.”

User permissions tab

Use the filter in the form that follows to select the “AmazonS3FullAccess” and “CloudFrontFullAccess” policies, checking the boxes next to each. Then click “Attach Policy” in the bottom right. If you did it correctly, you should see the following:

User permissions tab, with policies attached

Your IAM user is now ready to go! Next, you’ll configure Travis.

Travis Repo Settings

Navigate to your Travis profile page at https://travis-ci.org/profile/{your GitHub username}. In the list of public repositories, make sure Travis is enabled for the repo containing the source for your site.

Travis enabled for repo

Click the gear icon next to the repo name to view settings for the repo. General settings should appear as follows:

Travis general settings

Now define the following environment variables which your builds will be able to access. When doing this, make sure that the “Display value in build log” toggle is off for each new variable. You don’t want to leak sensitive information into your build logs.

Travis environment variables

The names of the AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID, AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY, and AWS_DEFAULT_REGION variables are important. These are used to configure the AWS CLI, a Python package you’ll use to invalidate CloudFront distributions.

Set AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY using the security credentials for your IAM user. Set AWS_DEFAULT_REGION to us-east-1 for the US East (N. Virginia) region. This is required in order to submit requests to CloudFront programmatically. Finally, set CLOUDFRONT_DISTRIBUTION_ID to the ID of the CloudFront distribution whose origin is the S3 bucket hosting your site.

You’re halfway to configuring Travis for deployment. The last step is the addition or modification of a .travis.yml file.


Travis uses a .travis.yml file at the root of your repository to learn about how you want your builds run. Let’s break down the options you need to define for S3 deployment and CloudFront invalidation. For a working example, see my .travis.yml. Some of these options are also explained in Travis’ S3 deployment documentation.

language: python
  - "3.5"
cache: pip
  # Install any dependencies required for building your site here.
  # `awscli` is required for invalidation of CloudFront distributions.
  - pip install awscli
  # Build your site (e.g., HTML, CSS, JS) here.
  - make build
  # Control deployment by setting a value for `on`. Setting the `branch`
  # option to `master` means Travis will only attempt a deployment on
  # builds of your repo's master branch (e.g., after you merge a PR).
    branch: master
  provider: s3
  # You can refer to environment variables from Travis repo settings!
  access_key_id: $AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID
  secret_access_key: $AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY
  # Name of the S3 bucket to which your site should be uploaded.
  bucket: renzo.lucioni.xyz
  # Prevent Travis from deleting your built site so it can be uploaded.
  skip_cleanup: true
  # Path to a directory containing your built site.
  local_dir: build
  # Set the Cache-Control header.
  cache_control: "max-age=21600"
  # Allow `awscli` to make requests to CloudFront.
  - aws configure set preview.cloudfront true
  # Invalidate every object in the targeted distribution.
  - aws cloudfront create-invalidation --distribution-id $CLOUDFRONT_DISTRIBUTION_ID --paths "/*"

Once you define your own .travis.yml, commit it and push it to GitHub. Since a .travis.yml file is present, Travis will start a build for your commit. If it succeeds, your site will be uploaded to S3!

I’ll end with a few additional notes:

  1. Steer clear of the detect_encoding option. CloudFront won’t compress objects with a Content-Encoding header.

  2. Use of the AWS CLI’s create-invalidation command is documented here.

  3. The first 1,000 CloudFront invalidation paths you submit per month are free. According to CloudFront documentation, “a path that includes the * wildcard counts as one path even if it causes CloudFront to invalidate thousands of objects.” This includes /*, which invalidates every object in the distribution.

  4. Prevent Travis from deploying a commit by cancelling the build corresponding to it.

I hope this was useful! If you see something wrong, let me know by opening an issue on GitHub.