I have another solution. Keeping images, maybe large ones,
in memory or in a database forces you to use mod_perl to
deliver them: you have a long print that can be instead
handled by apache itself. You are replicating content
generation and embedding security inside this phase of
apache's life cycle.
What you need instead is authentication, authorization
and access control. Following this route you need 'only' to
create directories with access rights embedded in their
names. A dedicated access control can give authorization
to display some content to the real apache, gaining in
speed and modularity.
If you need to share images between many servers I think
NFS fyle system is a better option. Some discussions about
this option can be found on mod_perl mailing list.
Hope this helps. Ciao, Valerio
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