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How To Set Up Apache Virtual Hosts on CentOS 7


The Apache web server is the most popular way of serving web content on the Internet. It serves more than half of all of the Internet's active websites, and is extremely powerful and flexible.

In this guide, we will walk through how to set up Apache virtual hosts on a CentOS 7 VPS. During this process, you'll learn how to serve different content to different visitors depending on which domains they are requesting.

In this case, my office requires me to use apache.


Before you begin with this guide, there are a few steps that need to be completed first.

You will need access to a CentOS 7 server with a non-root user that has sudo privileges. If you haven't configured this yet, you can run through the CentOS 7 initial server setup guide to create this account.

You will also need to have Apache installed in order to configure virtual hosts for it. If you haven't already done so, you can use yum to install Apache through CentOS's default software repositories:

sudo yum -y install httpd

Next, enable Apache as a CentOS service so that it will automatically start after a reboot:

sudo systemctl enable httpd.service

After these steps are complete, log in as your non-root user account through SSH and continue with the tutorial.

Note: The example configuration in this guide will make one virtual host for example.com and another for example2.com. These will be referenced throughout the guide, but you should substitute your own domains or values while following along. To learn how to set up your domain names with DigitalOcean, follow this link.

If you do not have any real domains to play with, we will show you how to test your virtual host configuration with dummy values near the end of the tutorial.

Step One — Create the Directory Structure

First, we need to make a directory structure that will hold the site data to serve to visitors.

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

Within each of these directories, we will create a public_html directory that will hold our actual files. This gives us some flexibility in our hosting.

We can make these directories using the mkdir command (with a -p flag that allows us to create a folder with a nested folder inside of it):

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/example.com/public_html
sudo mkdir -p /var/www/example2.com/public_html


sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/example
sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/example2

Remember that the portions in red represent the domain names that we want to serve from our VPS.

Step Two — Grant Permissions

We now 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 directories, we can change the ownership with chown:

sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /var/www/example.com/public_html
sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /var/www/example2.com/public_html


sudo chown -R root:root /var/www/example.com/public_html
sudo chown -R root:root /var/www/example2.com/public_html


sudo chown -R root:root /var/www/html/example
sudo chown -R root:root /var/www/html/example2

The $USER variable will take the value of the user you are currently logged in as when you submit the command. By doing this, our regular user now owns the public_html subdirectories 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 inside, so that pages can be served correctly:

sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www

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

Step Three — Create Demo Pages for Each Virtual Host

Now that we have our directory structure in place, let's create some content to serve.

Because this is just for demonstration and testing, our pages will be very simple. We are just going to make an index.html page for each site that identifies that specific domain.

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

nano /var/www/example.com/public_html/index.html

In this file, create a simple HTML document that indicates the site that the page is connected to. For this guide, the file for our first domain will look like this:

    <title>Welcome to Example.com!</title>
    <h1>Success! The example.com virtual host is working!</h1>

Save and close the file when you are finished.

We can copy this file to use as the template for our second site's index.html by typing:

cp /var/www/example.com/public_html/index.html /var/www/example2.com/public_html/index.html
Now let's open that file and modify the relevant pieces of information:

nano /var/www/example2.com/public_html/index.html

    <title>Welcome to Example2.com!</title>
    <h1>Success! The example2.com virtual host is working!</h1>

Save and close this file as well. You now have the pages necessary to test the virtual host configuration.

Step Four — Create New Virtual Host Files

Virtual host files are what specify the configuration of our separate sites and dictate how the Apache web server will respond to various domain requests.

To begin, we will need to set up the directory that our virtual hosts will be stored in, as well as the directory that tells Apache that a virtual host is ready to serve to visitors. The sites-available directory will keep all of our virtual host files, while the sites-enabled directory will hold symbolic links to virtual hosts that we want to publish. We can make both directories by typing:

sudo mkdir /etc/httpd/sites-available
sudo mkdir /etc/httpd/sites-enabled

Note: This directory layout was introduced by Debian contributors, but we are including it here for added flexibility with managing our virtual hosts (as it's easier to temporarily enable and disable virtual hosts this way).

Next, we should tell Apache to look for virtual hosts in the sites-enabled directory. To accomplish this, we will edit Apache's main configuration file and add a line declaring an optional directory for additional configuration files:

sudo nano /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

Add this line to the end of the file:

IncludeOptional sites-enabled/*.conf

Save and close the file when you are done adding that line. We are now ready to create our first virtual host file.

Create the First Virtual Host File

Start by opening the new file in your editor with root privileges:

sudo nano /etc/httpd/sites-available/example.com.conf

Note: Due to the configurations that we have outlined, all virtual host files must end in .conf.

First, start by making a pair of tags designating the content as a virtual host that is listening on port 80 (the default HTTP port):

<VirtualHost *:80>


Next we'll declare the main server name, www.example.com. We'll also make a server alias to point to example.com, so that requests for www.example.com and example.com deliver the same content:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName www.example.com
    ServerAlias example.com

Note: In order for the www version of the domain to work correctly, the domain's DNS configuration will need an A record or CNAME that points www requests to the server's IP. A wildcard (*) record will also work. To learn more about DNS records, check out our host name setup guide.

Finally, we'll finish up by pointing to the root directory of our publicly accessible web documents. We will also tell Apache where to store error and request logs for this particular site:

<VirtualHost *:80>

    ServerName www.example.com
    ServerAlias example.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/example.com/public_html
    ErrorLog /var/www/example.com/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/example.com/requests.log combined


if you are going to redirect non-www to www

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName example.com
    Redirect permanent / http://www.example.com/

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName www.example.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/example.com/public_html
    ErrorLog /var/www/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/requests.log combined


When you are finished writing out these items, you can save and close the file.

Copy First Virtual Host and Customize for Additional Domains

Now that we have our first virtual host file established, we can create our second one by copying that file and adjusting it as needed.

Start by copying it with cp:

sudo cp /etc/httpd/sites-available/example.com.conf /etc/httpd/sites-available/example2.com.conf

Open the new file with root privileges in your text editor:

sudo nano /etc/httpd/sites-available/example2.com.conf

You now need to modify all of the pieces of information to reference your second domain. When you are finished, your second virtual host file may look something like this:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName www.example2.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/example2.com/public_html
    ServerAlias example2.com
    ErrorLog /var/www/example2.com/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/example2.com/requests.log combined

When you are finished making these changes, you can save and close the file.

Step Five — Enable the New Virtual Host Files

Now that we have created our virtual host files, we need to enable them so that Apache knows to serve them to visitors. To do this, we can create a symbolic link for each virtual host in the sites-enabled directory:

sudo ln -s /etc/httpd/sites-available/example.com.conf /etc/httpd/sites-enabled/example.com.conf
sudo ln -s /etc/httpd/sites-available/example2.com.conf /etc/httpd/sites-enabled/example2.com.conf

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

sudo apachectl restart


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