Using the ConnectionStrings element in ASP.NET web.config

If you are building a series of web applications that may rely on duplicate data (such as connection strings for pages that query databases), or you want to separate certain constants from your other code, you need a centralized method for storing and referencing that data. In this case, the ConnectionStrings element in the web.config file of either your application’s root directory, parent directory, or the web server root directory–depending on your application’s inheritance–can prove incredibly useful.

Keys can be created within the element and given values. These values can then be recalled by any web applications which inherit the settings from the particular web.config file. This can be a particularly advantageous tool for recycling database connection strings in web application suites and web service frameworks.

ASP.NET 2.0 (.NET Framework 3.5) web.config:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<configuration>
    <connectionStrings>
        <add name="databaseReader" connectionString="server=sqlserver.myhost.com;database=myDatabase;uid=username;pwd=password;" />
    </connectionStrings>
    <system.web>
        <!-- insert web-specific contents, et al -->
    </system.web>
</configuration>

The example given above is a stripped-down implementation of web.config, and particular to database-driven web applications.

Now that you’ve got your data tucked away in the web.config file, it’s time to use it in your web application. We will make use of the ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings method in order to accomplish this:

VB.NET 3.5 code:

' Grab the connection string from web.config's ConnectionStrings element
Dim connStr as String = ConfigurationManager.ConnectionStrings("databaseReader").ConnectionString
' Connect to the database using the retrieved connection string
Dim conn as SqlConnection = new SqlConnection(connStr)

' Output the database server's connection status
Try
    conn.Open()
    Response.Write("Database connection was successful.<br />")
Catch ex as Exception
    Response.Write("Could not connect to the database.<br />")
End Try

Use this method in conjunction with the before-mentioned prepared statements, and you’ve got yourself a nifty little RDBMS connection that is (somewhat) secure… and, more importantly, replicated even in the event of a change to the ConnectionStrings key’s value.