Hosting a Website

Updated by Phil Zona

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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 as the 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!

Debian 8 and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS are the Linux distributions we’re using as the starting point for the packages and configurations mentioned in this guide. If you’d like to use Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, refer to the distribution-specific guide on how to set up a LAMP Stack, and then return here to continue from the upload files section.

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.

This guide is written for a non-root user. Commands that require elevated privileges are prefixed with sudo. If you’re not familiar with the sudo command, you can check our Users and Groups guide.

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.

Install Apache

Install Apache on your Linode:

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sudo apt-get install apache2

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

Optimize 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.

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. You can restore the duplicate (apache2.backup.conf) if anything happens to the configuration file.

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    sudo cp /etc/apache2/apache2.conf /etc/apache2/apache2.backup.conf
    
  2. Open Apache’s configuration file for editing:

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

    In Ubuntu 14.04, you will need to append the module section noted below to the end of your apache2.conf file:

    /etc/apache2/apache2.conf
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    KeepAlive Off
    
    ...
    
    <IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
    StartServers 2
    MinSpareServers 6
    MaxSpareServers 12
    MaxClients 30
    MaxRequestsPerChild 3000
    </IfModule>
    
  4. Save the changes to Apache’s configuration file by pressing CTRL+X and then pressing Y. Press ENTER to confirm.

  5. Restart Apache to incorporate the new settings:

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    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.

Configure 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.

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:

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    sudo a2dissite *default
    
  2. Navigate to your /var/www/html directory:

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    cd /var/www/html
    
  3. Create a folder to hold your website, replacing ‘example.com’ with your domain name:

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    sudo mkdir example.com
    
  4. Create a set of folders inside the folder you’ve just created to store your website’s files, logs, and backups. Enter the following commands, replacing example.com with your domain name:

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    sudo mkdir -p example.com/public_html
    sudo mkdir -p example.com/log
    sudo mkdir -p example.com/backups
    
  5. Create the virtual host file for your website. Replace the example.com in example.com.conf with your domain name:

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

    The file name must end with .conf in Apache versions 2.4 and later, which Ubuntu 14.04 uses. The .conf extension is backwards-compatible with earlier versions.

  6. 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.com with your domain name.

    /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com.conf
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    # domain: example.com
    # public: /var/www/html/example.com/public_html/
    
    <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 /var/www/html/example.com/public_html
      # Log file locations
      LogLevel warn
      ErrorLog  /var/www/html/example.com/log/error.log
      CustomLog /var/www/html/example.com/log/access.log combined
    </VirtualHost>
    
  7. Save the changes to the virtual host configuration file by pressing CTRL+X and then pressing Y. Press ENTER to confirm.

  8. Enable your new website, replacing example.com with your domain name:

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     sudo a2ensite example.com.conf
    

    This creates a symbolic link to your example.com.conf file in the appropriate directory for active virtual hosts.

  9. The previous command will alert you that you need to restart Apache to save the changes. Restart to apply your new configuration:

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     sudo service apache2 restart
    
  10. Repeat steps 1-9 for any other websites 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 Linode. 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.

Install MySQL

  1. Install MySQL. Your Linode will download, install, and start the MySQL database server.

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    sudo apt-get install mysql-server
    
  2. You will be prompted to enter a password for the MySQL root user. This is not related to the root user for your Linode, so be sure to choose a different password for security purposes.
  3. Secure MySQL using the mysql_secure_installation utility:

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    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.

Optimize 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.

These guidelines are designed to optimize MySQL 5.5 and up 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:

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    sudo nano /etc/mysql/my.cnf
    
  2. Comment out all lines beginning with key_buffer. This is a deprecated setting and we’ll use the correct option instead.

  3. Edit following values:

    /etc/mysql/my.cnf
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    max_allowed_packet = 1M
    thread_stack = 128K
    ...
    max_connections = 75
    

    In MySQL 5.6, you may need to add these lines as one block with [mysql] at the top. In earlier MySQL versions, there may be multiple entries for a single option so be sure to edit both lines.

  4. Add the following lines to the end of my.cnf:

    /etc/mysql/my.cnf
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    table_open_cache = 32M
    key_buffer_size = 32M
    
  5. Save the changes to MySQL’s configuration file by pressing CTRL+X and then pressing Y and hitting ENTER to save.

  6. Restart MySQL to save the changes:

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    sudo service mysql restart
    

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

Create 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 the section Import a Database.)

  1. Log in using the MySQL root password:

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    mysql -u root -p
    
  2. Create a database, replacing exampleDB with your own database name:

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    CREATE DATABASE exampleDB;
    
  3. Create a new user in MySQL and then grant that user permission to access the new database, replacing example_user with your username, and password with your password:

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    GRANT ALL ON exampleDB.* TO 'example_user' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
    

    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.

  4. Tell MySQL to reload the grant tables:

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    FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
    
  5. Now that you’ve created the database and granted a user permissions to the database, you can exit MySQL:

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    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.

Import 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.

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

  2. Import the database, replacing username with your MySQL username and database_name with the database name you want to import to. You will be prompted for your MySQL password:

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    mysql -u username -p 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.

Install PHP

  1. Install the base PHP package:

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    sudo apt-get install php5 php-pear
    
  2. Add the MySQL support extension for PHP:

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    sudo apt-get install php5-mysql
    

Optimize 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.

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:

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    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.

    /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
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    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
    

    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.

  3. Save the changes by pressing Control-x and then pressing y. Hit Enter to confirm the changes.
  4. Create the /var/log/php/ directory for the PHP error log:

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

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    sudo chown www-data /var/log/php
    
  6. Restart Apache to load the PHP module:

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    sudo service apache2 restart
    

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

Upload 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.

  1. If you haven’t done so already, download and install an SFTP capable client on your computer. We recommend using the FileZilla SFTP client.
  2. Follow the instructions in the guides listed above to connect to your Linode.
  3. Upload your website’s files to the /var/www/example.com/public_html directory. Replace example.com with your domain name.

    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.

Test your Website

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.

  1. Enter your Linode’s IP address in a web browser (e.g., type http://192.0.2.0 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 you can test the virtual hosts by editing the hosts file on your desktop computer. Check out the Previewing Websites Without DNS guide for more information.

  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.

    Remember to remove the entries for the name-based virtual hosts from your hosts file when you’re ready to test the DNS records.

Add 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.

  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.

  4. In the Domain field, enter your website’s domain name in the Domain field.
  5. In the SOA Email field, enter the administrative contact email address for your domain.
  6. Select the Yes, insert a few records to get me started button.
  7. Click Add a Master Zone. Several DNS records will be created for your domain, as shown below.

    The DNS records created for the domain.

  8. Through your domain registrar (where you bought the domain), 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
  9. 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.

  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.

  6. Enter the domain in the Hostname field, as shown below.

    Enter domain in Hostname field.

  7. Click Look up. A message appears indicating that a match has been found.
  8. Click Yes.

You have set up reverse DNS for your domain name.

This guide is published under a CC BY-ND 3.0 license.