When you have a load balancer on AWS, there is a tab called “Health Check”. By default it is set to ping each ec2 instance on port 80 every few seconds. The problem with this is that it doesn’t work well when the site is up but misbehaving. For example, if your ec2 instance starts throwing 500 errors on all its requests, the loadbalancer thinks that it is still healthy because the pings are going through.

To fix this, you need to set up to request an actual page and verify the response status is 200. You do this by

  • Clicking the Edit Health Button.
  • Choosing the Ping Protocol to HTTP
  • Enter the URI path to check (say /health_check).

On your server, you can write a code to handle the /health_check request. For example, in Django, you do something like this:

# mysite/urls.py
    url(r'^health_check/?$', views.HealthCheckView.as_view()),

# myapp/views.py
from django.db import connection
from django.http import HttpResponse

class HealthCheckView(View):
    Checks to see if the site is healthy.
    def get(self, request, *args, **kwargs):
        with connection.cursor() as cursor:
            cursor.execute("select 1")
            one = cursor.fetchone()[0]
            if one != 1:
                raise Exception('The site did not pass the health check')
        return HttpResponse("ok")

If you have a very simple setup, this is all you need to do.

Let’s make this more complicated. Let’s say your nginx server has a rewrite rule to redirect http requests to https and your loadbalancer. This will fail the Health Check because it expects a 200 response, not a 301 redirect response. In this case, you need to modify the rule to look like this:

server {
    listen 80
    if ($http_x_forwarded_proto != "https") {
        set $redirect_to_https 1;
    if ($request_uri = '/health_check') {
        set $redirect_to_https 0;
    if ($redirect_to_https = 1) {
        rewrite ^(.*)$ https://$http_host$REQUEST_URI permanent;

You can test it on the command line:

$ curl -I
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2018 21:11:13 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: 2
Connection: keep-alive
X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN
Vary: Cookie

Make sure it says 200 OK.

Now this should work…. but with your django app, it probably won’t. So far you’ve updated the Health Check to HTTP. You added the code in your django app to handle /health_check. You updated the nginx config file. But it’s still failing. Let’s see what’s going on.

Using nc (nc is netcat, which is like cat but for sockets). We’re going to set up a dummy server and listen some port, let’s say 8080. We run this:

$ nc -l 8080

It’ll wait there listening on the port until it gets something.

We go to AWS’s Health Check tab again and enter 8080 for the port and /health_check for the ping path. When we go back to the bash prompt, we see

$ nc -l 8080
GET /health_check HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: ELB-HealthChecker/1.0
Accept: */*
Connection: keep-alive

(You can ctrl-c out of that). You can see the actual request that is being sent from the load balancer. We notice something interesting with the host. It is using the private IP of the ec2 instance running our django app. Normally when somone enters a url into the browser (ie. http://mysite.com), it would be host: mysite.com, but the load balancer doesn’t know that and just uses the private IP of the instance.

How does this help us? Well, if you look at your mysite/settings.py, you should see a ALLOWED_HOSTS being set to a list of domain names and IP addresses:

# mysite/settings.py


We need to add our private IP into this list. The problem with hard-coding it into this file is that the private IP may change (when this instance get reboot for example) and imagine maintaining a list of IP address if you have a bunch of machines. The solution is to dynamically find out the private IP of this ec2 instance:

# mysite/settings.py

import requests


    EC2_IP = requests.get('').text
except requests.exceptions.RequestException:

The hard-coded URL comes from the AWS EC2 User Guide.

Now everything is set up. You’re good to go! And the Health Check should be passing.