Apache virtual hosts example


To setup virtual hosts on Apache the standard procedure is the following:

  1. First, create the directories of the document root for each site
  2. In the directory /etc/apache2/sites-available, create a configuration entry for each site you want to host. This entry initially could be a copy of default.conf or default-ssl.conf that are provided with apache. You can choose which file to copy based on whether you want to use SSL or not.
  3. Once the files have been edited, you can enable or disable the sites with the commands a2ensite and a2dissite. Normally you should only make changes to the sites-available directory and not to the sites-enabled directory.
  4. If a site is enabled but you make changes to its conf file, you can use reload to force apache to reread the files and apply changes.
  5. If you want to setup subdomains you need to configure DNS appropriately.

Useful commands

Check the syntax of conf files

sudo apachectl configtest

Check the status of apache process

sudo apachectl -S


Let’s say we want to host two sites: site1.local and site2.local that will not use SSL.

Step 1 – Create directories for each site

For each site, create a separate directory in /var/www. These are the directories where you are going to deploy the sites on:

sudo mkdir /var/www/site1.local
sudo mkdir /var/www/site2.local

Step 2 – Duplicate default conf

Copy from the directory /etc/apache2/sites-available either default.conf or default-ssl.conf as templates for the new sites:

cd /etc/apache2/sites-available
sudo cp 000-default.conf site1.local.conf
sudo cp 000-default.conf site2.local.conf

Step 3 – Edit conf files

Edit the files accordingly. It’s better to at least set the ServerName and DocumentRoot. For example:

For site1 (site1.local.conf):

<VirtualHost *:80>
	ServerName site1.local
	ServerAlias www.site1.local
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
	DocumentRoot /var/www/site1.local

	ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
	CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

For site2 (site2.local.conf):

<VirtualHost *:80>
	ServerName site2.local
	ServerAlias www.site2.local
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
	DocumentRoot /var/www/site2.local

	ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
	CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

Step 4 – Configure DNS

At this point you need to configure DNS.

For remote setup you need to add CNAME or A records to the zone.

For local setup you can simply edit your hosts file and append lines for the domains you want to use locally:	localhost	...	site1.local	site2.local

Step 5 – Enable the sites

Enable the sites with a2ensite command:

sudo a2ensite site1.local.conf
sudo a2ensite site2.local.conf

If you change your mind you can disable the sites with a2dissite command:

sudo a2dissite site1.local.conf
sudo a2dissite site2.local.conf

Step 6 – Reload configuration

sudo service apache2 reload

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