Hosting a Website
So you’ve got a provisioned VPS and you’re ready to start hosting a website! We’re not going to use a 3rd party control panel for this guide - we’re going to do it all through configuration files and commands. This is the best way to learn how to really host a website properly and give you a more in-depth knowledge of Linux. We’re going to install what’s known as a LAMP stack, meaning Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP on an Ubuntu/Debian OS. These two operating systems are very similar to each other as Ubuntu is built upon Debian. This tutorial will work on another OS, but the configurations may.
Installing the Operating System
Launch a VPS and select Ubuntu as the OS.
Adding a sudoer user
For safety and security, it is a good practice to set up a user aside from the root account and give it “sudoer” access - meaning the account is not root, however it can execute commands as root.
Log into your VPS over SSH. Then let's install the sudo and nano package.
$ apt-get install sudo nano
Next, we create a user for ourselves. The user can be named anything.
$ adduser exuser
Now we’ll add the new user to the sudoer group.
$ adduser exuser sudo
Let's start running commands as exuser!
$ su exuser
Installing the Web Server
We need to install software that will interact with the user’s browser, which is called an “httpd”, or “HTTP daemon”. The httpd will send and receive requests for content on your VPS.
Step 1: Installing apache
apt-get is a program that manages all of Debian’s repositories for you. Its primary function is to install and uninstall packages from your system.
First, install the apache2 package:
$ sudo apt-get install apache2 -y
It’s a good idea to update apt-get’s repositories to prevent missing packages or from grabbing older packages.
Step 2 - Change default configuration
By default, apache2 can be very resource intensive. We’re going to make some changes to the default configuration to prevent this from happening, so lets back up the stock configuration and start working on an independent copy.
$ sudo cp /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /etc/apache2/apache2.conf.bak
$ sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf
Verify that these values are set:
Save this new configuration by pressing CTRL + x and pressing y and enter to confirm.
Restart Apache2 for these changes to take effect.
$ sudo service apache2 restart
Step 3: Configure VirtualHosts (vhosts)
Apache2 is now configured to perform efficiently. Now we can use VirtualHosts to set up one or more websites.
$ sudo a2dissite ‘*default’
$ cd /var/www
For this to work, you need an A (or AAAA) DNS record pointing the domain to your VPS’s IP. By default, most domain registrars offer a DNS service. These records can only be changed with your DNS provider. If you are unsure about how to do this, contact your registrar for help. Please keep in mind that setting this may take 24-48 hours to take effect.
In this step, we create the directory structure for our site. Replace ‘example.com’ with the hostname of your website. perform these steps for each of the websites you wish to host.
$ sudo mkdir example.com
$ sudo mkdir example.com/public_html
$ sudo mkdir example.com/log
$ sudo mkdir example.com/backups
$ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/example.com/*
If you’re hosting multiple websites, you’ll need to create a new virtual host (the file we create in the next step) for each one.
$ sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com.conf
Paste this information into the new file, changing ‘example.com’ to the name of the domain you are hosting.
# domain: example.com
# public: /var/www/example.com/public_html
DirectoryIndex index.html index.php
CustomLog /var/www/example.com/log/access.log combined
Press CTRL + x, y, and ENTER to save. Now, lets enable that virtualhost.
$ sudo a2ensite example.com.conf
Installing the Database (MySQL)
Many dynamic websites rely on databases such as MySQL to quickly store and retrieve data. This part of the tutorial will cover the basic installation of MySQL on your VPS.
Step 1: Installing MySQL
Use the following command to install the MySQL package:
$ sudo apt-get install mysql-server
When prompted, enter a secure password (make sure to keep the password handy!) for the root user of your MySQL database.
Secure the installation running the built-in secure installation utility.
$ sudo mysql_secure_installation
Step 2: Tightening the MySQL configuration
By default, MySQL doesn’t really run at optimum efficiency. This matters especially if you have a VPS with a lower amount of RAM (less than 1GB) where every MB counts. This section will optimize your MySQL installation to be more lightweight.
Open up the MySQL configuration file.
$ sudo nano /etc/mysql/my.cnf
Change the following lines:
max_connections = 50
key_buffer = 25M
max_allowed_packet = 1M
thread_stack = 128K
table_cache = 25
Press CTRL + x, y, and ENTER to save. Now, restart MySQL for these changes to take effect.
$ sudo service mysql restart
Great! The MySQL configuration has some basic optimizations now. Lets create an initial database. You could do this using PhpMyAdmin, but for the sake of less overhead we’ll do it from the command line.
Login to MySQL using the root password we set upon installing MySQL earlier:
$ mysql -u root -p
Here we create a database. You can change initialDB to any name you like - we’re using that name just for the sake of this tutorial:
create database initialDB;
Change new_user and new_user_password to the new user’s username and password.
grant all on initialDB.* to ‘new_user’ identified by ‘new_user_password’;
Tell MySQL to take the new settings into effect:
We’re done here!
PHP is a dynamic scripting language that is widely used for web applications. Wordpress, phpBB, Drupal, laravel, and other software rely on PHP to serve content. This section will install PHP on your system.
$ sudo apt-get install php5 php-pear
(Optional) Install the PHP-mysql package if you need database support:
$ sudo apt-get install php5-mysql
Tightening the PHP Configuration
Like Apache and MySQL, PHP doesn’t come configured perfectly out of the box. PHP is notorious for using lots of RAM, so we’re going to focus on that issue primarily.
Open up the configuration file:
$ sudo nano /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
Change values as necessary here (If you have a larger VPS, feel free to bump up the memory limit as needed - but make sure MySQL and Apache have enough RAM too):
max_execution_time = 30
memory_limit = 256M
display_errors = Off
log_errors = On
error_log = /var/log/php/error.log
Press CTRL + x, y, and ENTER to save.
Create the log directory for PHP and fix its permissions so it’s writable for PHP.
$ sudo mkdir -p /var/log/php
$ sudo chown www-data:www-data /var/log/php
Restart apache for PHP and the changes we made to take effect.
$ sudo service apache2 restart
Hello, world! (Testing)
Now that we have all necessary software installed, lets make sure that it actually works!
$ sudo nano /var/www/example.com/public_html/index.php
Insert the following code into the file:
Press CTRL + x, y, and ENTER to save.
Visit example.com/index.php in your web browser. If you see the PHP information page, you did everything right! Rock on!