How To Set Up Apache Virtual Host on Ubuntu

Prerequisites

Before you begin this tutorial, you need to have Apache installed in order to work through these steps. If you haven’t already done so, you can get Apache installed on your server through apt-get:

After these steps are complete, we can get started.

For the purposes of this guide, my configuration will make a virtual host for example.com. This will be referenced throughout the guide, but you should substitute your own domains or values while following along.

I will show how to edit your local hosts file later on to test the configuration if you are using dummy values. This will allow you to test your configuration from your home computer, even though your content won’t be available through the domain name to other visitors.

Step One — Create the Directory Structure

The first step that we are going to take is to make a directory structure that will hold the site data that we will be serving to visitors.

Our document root (the top-level directory that Apache looks at to find content to serve) will be set to individual directories under the /var/www directory. We will create a directory here for the virtual host we plan on making.

Within this directory, we will create a public_html file that will hold our actual files. This gives us some flexibility in our hosting.

For instance, for our site, we’re going to make our directory like this:

Step Two — Grant Permissions

Now we have the directory structure for our files, but they are owned by our root user. If we want our regular user to be able to modify files in our web directory, we can change the ownership by doing this:

The $USER variable will take the value of the user you are currently logged in as when you press “ENTER”. By doing this, our regular user now owns the public_html subdirectory where we will be storing our content.
We should also modify our permissions a little bit to ensure that read access is permitted to the general web directory and all of the files and folders it contains so that pages can be served correctly:

Your web server should now have the permissions it needs to serve content, and your user should be able to create content within the necessary folders.

Step Three — Create Demo Pages for Each Virtual Host

We have our directory structure in place. Let’s create some content to serve.

We’re just going for a demonstration, so our page will be very simple. We’re just going to make anindex.php page for this site.

Let’s start with example.com. We can open up an index.php file in our editor by typing:

In this file, we will put a simple statement that indicates the site it is connected to. My file looks like this:

Save and close the file when you are finished. You now have the page necessary to test the virtual host.

Step Four — Create New Virtual Host Files

Virtual host files are the files that specify the actual configuration of our virtual hosts and dictate how the Apache web server will respond to various domain requests.

Apache comes with a default virtual host file called 000-default.conf that we can use as a jumping off point. We are going to copy it over to create a virtual host file for our domain.

The default Ubuntu configuration requires that each virtual host file end in .conf.

Create the First Virtual Host File

Start by copying the file for the domain:

Open the new file in your editor with root privileges:

The file will look something like this (I’ve removed the comments here to make the file more approachable):

As you can see, there’s not much here. We will customize the items here for our first domain and add some additional directives. This virtual host section matches any requests that are made on port 80, the default HTTP port.

First, we need to change the ServerAdmin directive to an email that the site administrator can receive emails through.

After this, we need to add two directives. The first, called ServerName, establishes the base domain that should match for this virtual host definition. This will most likely be your domain. The second, calledServerAlias, defines further names that should match as if they were the base name. This is useful for matching hosts you defined, like www:

The only other thing we need to change for a basic virtual host file is the location of the document root for this domain. We already created the directory we need, so we just need to alter the DocumentRootdirective to reflect the directory we created:

In total, our virtualhost file should look like this:

Save and close the file.

Step Five — Enable the New Virtual Host Files

Now that we have created our virtual host file, we must enable that. Apache includes some tools that allow us to do this.

We can use the a2ensite tool to enable our site like this:

When you are finished, you need to restart Apache to make these changes take effect:

You will most likely receive a message saying something similar to:

This is a harmless message that does not affect our site.

<h2 “>Step Six — Set Up Local Hosts File (Optional)

If you haven’t been using actual domain names that you own to test this procedure and have been using some example domains instead, you can at least test the functionality of this process by temporarily modifying the hosts file on your local computer.

This will intercept any requests for the domains that you configured and point them to your VPS server, just as the DNS system would do if you were using registered domains. This will only work from your computer though, and is simply useful for testing purposes.

Make sure you are operating on your local computer for these steps and not your VPS server. You will need to know the computer’s administrative password or otherwise be a member of the administrative group.

If you are on a Mac or Linux computer, edit your local file with administrative privileges by typing:

If you are on a Windows machine, you can find instructions on altering your hosts file here.

The details that you need to add are the public IP address of your VPS server followed by the domain you want to use to reach that VPS.

For the domains that I used in this guide, assuming that my VPS IP address is 111.111.111.111, I could add the following lines to the bottom of my hosts file:

This will direct any requests for example.com on our computer and send them to our server at 111.111.111.111. This is what we want if we are not actually the owners of these domains in order to test our virtual hosts.

Save and close the file.

Step Seven — Test your Results

Now that you have your virtual host configured, you can test your setup easily by going to the domains that you configured in your web browser:

You should see a page that looks like this:

example

 

If this site works well, you’ve successfully configured the virtual host on the same server.

If you adjusted your home computer’s hosts file, you may want to delete the lines you added now that you verified that your configuration works. This will prevent your hosts file from being filled with entries that are not actually necessary.

Conclusion

If you followed along, you should now have a single server handling two separate domain names. You can expand this process by following the steps we outlined above to make additional virtual hosts.

There is no software limit on the number of domain names Apache can handle, so feel free to make as many as your server is capable of handling.