How to Configure Apache to host multiple websites

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Configuring Apache to host multiple websites involves creating Virtual Hosts, which are independent configurations for different websites on the same server. Here are the general steps to set up multiple websites on Apache:

RECOMMENDED READING: How to install Apache Server on Ubuntu Linux

Navigate to Apache Configuration Directory:

The Apache configuration directory contains the configuration files used by the Apache HTTP Server. The location of this directory can vary depending on the operating system and the Apache installation method. Here are common paths for the Apache configuration directory on different systems:


Main Configuration Directory: /etc/apache2/

cd /etc/apache2/

You will need to go to Site-Specific Configuration: /etc/apache2/sites-available/

cd /etc/apache2/sites-available


In CentOS/RHEL systems, the Apache main Configuration Directory is located under this path: /etc/httpd/

cd /etc/httpd

Site-Specific Configuration: /etc/httpd/conf.d



In Windows Operating systems, the Apache main configuration Directory is located under the following path:

C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache2\conf\

Inside the configuration directory, you’ll find various configuration files, including the main configuration file (httpd.conf) and additional files or directories for specific purposes (such as sites-available on Debian-based systems). The main configuration file typically includes directives for global settings, and additional files or directories may be used for virtual hosts, modules, or other specific configurations.

Upload the Sites to their respective root directories

Upload the files for each website to its respective directory. Usually in the Apache server, the following is the directory path where website files are upload

cd /var/www/

Inside the /var/www/ directory, you need to create separate directories for each website you want to host.

Assuming you plan to host two websites, the first website directory containing all the files will be website1, or you can give it the appropriate name for easy identification: This means that the DocumentRoot path will be as follows:

mkdir /var/www/website1

The command “mkdir /var/www/website1” creates a new directory named “website1” within the “/var/www/” directory on the file system. This command is commonly used in web server configurations to establish a dedicated directory for hosting the files of a specific website, and it ensures that the necessary directory structure is in place for Apache or another web server to serve the site’s content from the specified location.

Change website1 with your preferred name you want. Make sure you upload the website files in this directory:

For the second website, we will name the directory: website2

mkdir /var/www/website2

Use FTP to upload website files

Now that you’ve created the appropriate directories for your websites, you will need FTP to upload your files from your computer to these directories.

Here is the step-by-step guide on how to set up FTP on Ubuntu Linux

When uploading the files, you will need to navigate to the appropriate directory for each website.

For example, to navigate to the directory path for the first website:

cd /var/www/website1

Here is how to navigate to the second website directory path:

cd /var/www/website2

Do the same if you plan to run more than 2 websites on Apache

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/website2.conf

Just like you did in the file for the first website, we need to add the following configuration for the second website too:

Add Permissions to the Website directories

Setting proper permissions on website directories is crucial to ensure that the Apache web server can read and serve the website files.

  • Set Ownership

Change the ownership of the website directories to the Apache user and group.

   sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/website1
   sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/website2
  • Adjust Permissions

Grant read and execute permissions to the owner, and read permissions to the group and others:

sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/website1
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/website2

  • Verify Permissions (Optional)

Confirm that the permissions have been set correctly

ls -l /var/www/website1
ls -l /var/www/website2

Create Virtual Host Configuration Files

In the context of setting up multiple websites, you might be interested in the virtual host configurations, which are often stored in a directory like sites-available or conf.d. Each virtual host configuration file in these directories represents the settings for a specific website.

Create the Virtual Host for the first website

You can use a text editor (e.g., nano or vim) to create the Virtual Host configuration file. In this example, we’re calling the Virtual Host configuration for the first website: website1.conf

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/website1.conf

You need to add the following basic configuration in the file you’ve created above

   <VirtualHost *:80>
       ServerAdmin [email protected]
       DocumentRoot /var/www/website1
       ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
       CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

We’re calling the Virtual Host configuration for the second website: website2.conf:

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/website2.conf

Just like in the file for the first website, add the following configuration directives to the wesbitesite2.conf file:

   <VirtualHost *:80>
       ServerAdmin [email protected]
       DocumentRoot /var/www/website2
       ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
       CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

Adjust the configuration settings for each Virtual Host file

You will need to make sure the following directives in each Virtual Host file you’ve created are adjusted according to your setup:

  • ServerName

This directive specifies the primary domain name of the virtual host. It is used to uniquely identify the virtual host when multiple virtual hosts are configured on the same server. You will need to put the appropriate domains or subdomains using the ServerName directive.

For example, if the domain for the first website is, then the ServerName in the Virtual Host file will be set as follows:


Similarly, if the domain for the second website is, then the ServerName in the Virtual Host file will be as follows:

  • DocumentRoot

This directive sets the root directory for the website files served by the virtual host. It defines the base directory from which Apache serves documents. In this article, we’ve set /var/www/website1 as the DocumentRoot for website1 and /var/www/website2 as DocumentRoot for website2

Enable the Virtual Hosts

Enabling virtual hosts in Apache refers to the process of activating and making a specific virtual host configuration effective on the web server. In Apache, a virtual host allows the server to host multiple websites on the same machine, and each virtual host has its own configuration settings.

When you create a virtual host configuration file (e.g., website1.conf), it is initially in an inactive state. Enabling the virtual host involves creating a symbolic link to the configuration file from the sites-enabled directory. The a2ensite command (short for Apache2 Enable Site) is commonly used to enable virtual hosts on Debian-based systems. For example:

sudo a2ensite website1.conf
sudo a2ensite website2.conf

These commands create symbolic links to the virtual host configuration files in the sites-enabled directory, allowing Apache to recognize and apply the settings specified in these files. After enabling virtual host files, you typically need to restart Apache for the changes to take effect:

sudo service apache2 restart

Set Up Hosts File (Optional)

If you’re testing on your local machine, you might want to add entries to your hosts file for each domain.

sudo nano /etc/hosts

Add lines like:

Test the websites

Open your web browser and navigate to the specified domain names. You should see the corresponding websites.

Remember to replace and with your actual domain names, and /var/www/website1 and /var/www/website2 with the actual paths to your website files.

Additionally, keep in mind that these instructions are for a basic setup. Depending on your specific requirements, you may need to configure SSL, handle server aliases, or make other adjustments.


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