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Hosting a Website

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Now that you've installed Linux and secured your Linode, it's time to start doing stuff with it. In this guide, you'll learn how to host a website. Start by installing a web server, database, and PHP - a popular combination which is commonly referred to a LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). Then create or import a database, upload files, and add DNS records. By the time you reach the end of this guide, your Linode will be hosting one or more websites!

Note

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is the Linux distribution we're using as the starting point for the packages and configurations mentioned in this guide.

This guide is designed for small and medium-size websites running on WordPress, Drupal, or another PHP content management system. If your website doesn't belong in that category, you'll need to assess your requirements and install custom packages tailored for your particular requirements.

Contents

Web Server

Hosting a website starts with installing a web server, an application on your Linode that delivers content through the Internet. This section will help you get started with Apache, the world's most popular web server. For more information about Apache and other web servers, see our web server reference manuals.

Installing Apache

Install Apache on your Linode by entering the following command:

sudo apt-get install apache2

Your Linode will download, install, and start the Apache web server.

Optimizing Apache for a Linode 1GB

Installing Apache is easy, but if you leave it running with the default settings, your server could run out of memory. That's why it's important to optimize Apache before you start hosting a website on your Linode. Here's how to optimize the Apache web server for a Linode 1GB:

Note

These guidelines are designed to optimize Apache for a Linode 1GB, but you can use this information for any size Linode. The values are based on the amount of memory available, so if you have a Linode 2GB, multiply all of the values by 2 and use those numbers for your settings.

  1. Just to be safe, make a copy of Apache's configuration file by entering the following command. You can restore the duplicate (apache2.backup.conf) if anything happens to the configuration file.

    sudo cp /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /etc/apache2/apache2.backup.conf
    
  2. Open Apache's configuration file for editing by entering the following command:

    sudo nano /etc/apache2/apache2.conf
    
  3. Make sure that the following values are set:

KeepAlive Off

...

<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
StartServers 2
MinSpareServers 6
MaxSpareServers 12
MaxClients 80
MaxRequestsPerChild 3000
</IfModule>
  1. Save the changes to Apache's configuration file by pressing Control + x and then pressing y.

  2. Restart Apache to incorporate the new settings. Enter the following command:

    sudo service apache2 restart
    

Good work! You've successfully optimized Apache for your Linode, increasing performance and implementing safeguards to prevent excessive resource consumption. You're almost ready to host websites with Apache.

Configuring Name-based Virtual Hosts

Now that Apache is optimized for performance, it's time to starting hosting one or more websites. There are several possible methods of doing this. In this section, you'll use name-based virtual hosts to host websites in your home directory. Here's how:

Note

You should not be logged in as root while executing these commands. To learn how to create a new user account and log in as that user, see Adding a New User.

  1. Disable the default Apache virtual host by entering the following command:

    sudo a2dissite default
    
  2. Navigate to your home directory by entering the following command:

    cd ~
    
  3. Create a folder to hold your website by entering the following command:

    mkdir public
    
  4. Create a set of folders inside public to store your website's files, logs, and backups. Enter the following command, replacing example.com with your domain name:

    mkdir -p public/example.com/{public,log,backup}
    
  5. Set your home directory to be readable and accessible to all users on the system by entering the following command:

    sudo chmod a+rx ~
    
  6. Set the public directory (and all of the files in it) to be readable and accessible to all users on the system by entering the following command:

    sudo chmod -R a+rx ~/public
    
  7. Create the virtual host file for your website by entering the following command. Replace example.com.conf with your domain name:

    sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com.conf
    

    Warning

    The file name must end with .conf in Apache versions 2.4 and later. It won't hurt to use .conf in earlier versions.

  8. Now it's time to create a configuration for your virtual host. We've created some basic settings to get your started. Copy and paste the settings shown below in to the virtual host file you just created. Replace example_user with your username, and example.com with your domain name.

# domain: example.com
# public: /home/example_user/public/example.com/

<VirtualHost *:80>
  # Admin email, Server Name (domain name), and any aliases
  ServerAdmin webmaster@example.com
  ServerName  www.example.com
  ServerAlias example.com

  # Index file and Document Root (where the public files are located)
  DirectoryIndex index.html index.php
  DocumentRoot /home/example_user/public/example.com/public

  # Log file locations
  LogLevel warn
  ErrorLog  /home/example_user/public/example.com/log/error.log
  CustomLog /home/example_user/public/example.com/log/access.log combined
</VirtualHost>
  1. Save the changes to the virtual host configuration file by pressing Control + x and then pressing y. Press Enter to confirm.

  2. Create a symbolic link to your new public directory by entering the following command. Replace example.com with your domain name:

    sudo a2ensite example.com.conf
    
  3. Restart Apache to save the changes. Enter the following command:

    sudo service apache2 restart
    
  4. Repeat steps 1-11 for every other website you want to host on your Linode.

Congratulations! You've configured Apache to host one or more websites on your Linode. After you upload files and add DNS records later in this guide, your websites will be accessible to the outside world.

Database

Databases store data in a structured and easily accessible manner, serving as the foundation for hundreds of web and server applications. A variety of open source database platforms exist to meet the needs of applications running on your Linux VPS. This section will help you get started with MySQL, one of the most popular database platforms. For more information about MySQL and other databases, see our database reference manuals.

Installing MySQL

Here's how to install and configure MySQL:

  1. Install MySQL by entering the following command. Your Linode will download, install, and start the MySQL database server.

    sudo apt-get install mysql-server
    
  2. You will be prompted to enter a password for the MySQL root user. Enter a password.

  3. Secure MySQL by entering the following command to open mysql_secure_installation utility:

    sudo mysql_secure_installation
    
  4. The mysql_secure_installation utility appears. Follow the instructions to remove anonymous user accounts, disable remote root login, and remove the test database.

That's it! MySQL is now installed and running on your Linode.

Optimizing MySQL for a Linode 1GB

MySQL consumes a lot of memory when using the default configuration. To set resource constraints, you'll need to edit the MySQL configuration file. Here's how to optimize MySQL for a Linode 1GB:

Note

These guidelines are designed to optimize MySQL for a Linode 1GB, but you can use this information for any size Linode. If you have a larger Linode, start with these values and modify them while carefully watching for memory and performance issues.

  1. Open the MySQL configuration file for editing by entering the following command:

    sudo nano /etc/mysql/my.cnf
    
  2. Make sure that the following values are set:

max_connections = 75
key_buffer = 32M
max_allowed_packet = 1M
thread_stack = 128K
table_cache = 32
  1. Save the changes to MySQL's configuration file by pressing Control + x and then pressing y.

  2. Restart MySQL to save the changes. Enter the following command:

    sudo service mysql restart
    

Now that you've edited the MySQL configuration file, you're ready to start creating and importing databases.

Creating a Database

The first thing you'll need to do in MySQL is create a database. (If you already have a database that you'd like to import, skip to Importing a Database.) Here's how to create a database in MySQL:

  1. Log in to MySQL by entering the following command and then entering the MySQL root password:

    mysql -u root -p
    
  2. Create a database and grant a user permission to it by entering the following command. Replace exampleDB with your own database name:

    create database exampleDB;
    
  3. Create a new user in MySQL and then grant that user permission to access the new database by issuing the following command. Replace example_user with your username, and 5t1ck with your password:

    grant all on exampleDB.* to 'example_user' identified by '5t1ck';
    

Note

MySQL usernames and passwords are only used by scripts connecting to the database. They do not need to represent actual user accounts on the system.

  1. Tell MySQL to reload the grant tables by issuing the following command:

    flush privileges;
    
  2. Now that you've created the database and granted a user permissions to the database, you can exit MySQL by entering the following command:

    quit
    

Now you have a new database that you can use for your website. If you don't need to import a database, go ahead and skip to PHP.

Importing a Database

If you have an existing website, you may want to import an existing database in to MySQL. It's easy, and it allows you to have an established website up and running on your Linode in a matter of minutes. Here's how to import a database in to MySQL:

  1. Upload the database file to your Linode. See the instructions in Uploading Files.

  2. Import the database by entering the following command. Replace username with your MySQL username, password with your MySQL password, and database_name with your own:

    mysql -u username -ppassword database_name < FILE.sql
    

Your database will be imported in to MySQL.

PHP

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language that allows you to produce dynamic and interactive webpages. Many popular web applications and content management systems, like WordPress and Drupal, are written in PHP. To develop or host websites using PHP, you must first install the base package and a couple of modules.

Installing PHP

Here's how to install PHP with MySQL support and the Suhosin security module:

  1. Install the base PHP package by entering the following command:

    sudo apt-get install php5 php-pear
    
  2. Add MySQL support by entering the following command:

    sudo apt-get install php5-mysql
    
  3. Secure PHP with Suhosin by entering the following command:

    sudo apt-get install php5-suhosin
    

Optimizing PHP for a Linode 1GB

After you install PHP, you'll need to enable logging and tune PHP for better performance. The setting you'll want to pay the most attention to is memory_limit, which controls how much memory is allocated to PHP. Here's how to enable logging and optimize PHP for performance:

Note

These guidelines are designed to optimize PHP for a Linode 1GB, but you can use this information as a starting point for any size Linode. If you have a larger Linode, you could increase the memory limit to a larger value, like 256M.

  1. Open the PHP configuration files by entering the following command:

    sudo nano /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
    
  2. Verify that the following values are set. All of the lines listed below should be uncommented. Be sure to remove any semi-colons (;) at the beginning of the lines.

max_execution_time = 30
memory_limit = 128M
error_reporting = E_COMPILE_ERROR|E_RECOVERABLE_ERROR|E_ERROR|E_CORE_ERROR
display_errors = Off
log_errors = On
error_log = /var/log/php/error.log
register_globals = Off

Note

The 128M setting for memory_limit is a general guideline. While this value should be sufficient for most websites, larger websites and some web applications may require 256 megabytes or more.

  1. Save the changes by pressing Control + x and then pressing y.

  2. Create the /var/log/php/ directory for the PHP error log with the following command:

    sudo mkdir -p /var/log/php
    
  3. Change the owner of the /var/log/php/ directory to www-data, which the user PHP runs as:

    sudo chown www-data /var/log/php
    
  4. Restart Apache to load the PHP module by entering the following command:

    sudo service apache2 restart
    

Congratulations! PHP is now installed on your Linode and configured for optimal performance.

Uploading Files

You've successfully installed Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Now it's time to upload a website to your Linode. This is one of the last steps before you "flip the switch" and publish your website on the Internet. Here's how to upload files to your Linode:

  1. If you haven't done so already, download and install an FTP client on your desktop computer. We recommend using Filezilla on Linux systems, Cyberduck on Mac OS X, and WinSCP on Windows.
  2. Follow the instructions in the guides listed above to connect to your Linode.
  3. Upload your website's files to the ~/public/example.com/public directory. Replace example.com with your domain name.

Note

If you configured name-based virtual hosts, don't forget to upload the files for the other websites to their respective directories.

If you're using a content management system like WordPress or Drupal, you may need to configure the appropriate settings file to point the content management system at the MySQL database.

Testing

It's a good idea to test your website(s) before you add the DNS records. This is your last chance to check everything and make sure that it looks good before it goes live. Here's how to test your website:

  1. Enter your Linode's IP address in a web browser (e.g., type http://123.456.78.90 in the address bar, replacing the example IP address with your own.) Your website should load in the web browser.

  2. If you plan on hosting multiple websites and you're using Linux or Mac OS X, you can test the virtual hosts by editing the /etc/hosts file on your desktop computer. Add two new lines to the hosts file with your IP address and the domain names, as shown below:

    123.456.78.90   domain1.com
    123.456.78.90   domain2.com
    
  3. Test the name-based virtual hosts by entering the domain names in the address bar of the web browser on your desktop computer. Your websites should load in the web browser.

This is important: Remember to remove the entries for the name-based virtual hosts from your /etc/hosts file before you add the DNS records. When everything looks good, you're ready to add a DNS record to point your domain name at your website! For more information, check out Previewing Websites Without DNS

Adding DNS Records

Now you need to point your domain name(s) at your Linode. This process can take a while, so please allow up to 24 hours for DNS changes to be reflected throughout the Internet. Here's how to add DNS records:

  1. Log in to the Linode Manager.
  2. Click the DNS Manager tab.
  3. Select the Add a domain zone link. The form shown below appears.
Create a domain zone.
  1. In the Domain field, enter your website's domain name in the Domain field.
  2. In the SOA Email field, enter the administrative contact email address for your domain.
  3. Select the Yes, insert a few records to get me started button.
  4. Click Add a Master Zone. Several DNS records will be created for your domain, as shown below.
The DNS records created for the domain.
  1. Make sure that your domain name is set to use our DNS server. Use your domain name registrar's interface to set the name servers for your domain to the following:

    • ns1.linode.com
    • ns2.linode.com
    • ns3.linode.com
    • ns4.linode.com
    • ns5.linode.com
  2. Repeat steps 1-8 for every other name-based virtual host you created earlier.

You've added DNS records for your website(s). Remember, DNS changes can take up to 24 hours to propagate through the Internet. Be patient! Once the DNS changes are completed, you will be able to access your website by typing the domain name in to your browser's address bar.

Setting Reverse DNS

You're almost finished! The last step is setting reverse DNS for your domain name. Here's how:

  1. Log in to the Linode Manager.
  2. Click the Linodes tab.
  3. Select your Linode.
  4. Click the Remote Access tab.
  5. Select the Reverse DNS link, as shown below.
Select Reverse DNS link.
  1. Enter the domain in the Hostname field, as shown below.
Enter domain in Hostname field.
  1. Click Look up. A message appears indicating that a match has been found.
  2. Click Yes.

You have set up reverse DNS for your domain name.

Creative Commons License

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Last edited by Sharon Campbell on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 (r4192).