Enabling Multiple Domain Names and Sites on Apache2 Server

Today I set up a new server and I am documenting exactly how to set up multiple domain names, sub domains and websites on a new Apache2 Server. I am using Ubuntu, but I believe these directions are similar for any Linux Apache2 web server.

Pointing your domain or sub-domain

It is a good practice to point your domain name or sub-domain first, before you set it up on your server which I'll cover afterwards below, so let's go ahead and point our domain. Whether you are using a new domain name or a sub-domain on one of your existing domain names, the process is similar for pointing the domain name or sub domain name to your server IP address. You will need to go to your domain management console and create a Type "A" record. This will normally be done in your DNS provider's advanced DNS settings or zone file settings. Use the following settings to create two new records:

  • Name: if there is a name field, enter the domain name or sub-domain name(most require you to follow the domain with a "." so for my sub domain I entered "subdom.jafty.com.".
  • Type: "A" for both records.
  • Hostname field: enter "www" in the first record and "@" in the second.
  • Destination IPv4 address(sometimes just called Address): Use your server's IP address for both records.
  • TTL: use "14400" for both records.

That should be enough information for you to figure out how to create your two host records on just about any platform, but if your platform differs, ask your provider for assistance or google the providers name followed by DNS instructions or "How to point a name with Provider Name". You are creating two similar records, one for WWW and one for @. That way visitors of your site can access with either www.example.com or just example.com. The Hostname of @ makes the record for the domain without "www" in front of it. If your provider's DNS settings do not include the Host or Hostname field where we put either www or @, then you probably need to create two records with different names instead. For example, name one record "example.com." and name the other "www.example.com.". If you're using a sub domain then name one "sub.example.com." and the other "www.sub.example.com." You don't really need a www record for sub domains usually, but you can use one if you want, it won't hurt anything and might help some users find your site.

Steps to adding  a second domain name to your server

Here I am going to explain how I set up a sub domain as as second domain name pointing to a second website on my Linux/Apache2 web server:

Note: My first site was already set up in var/www/html. Most people prefer to set up multiple websites under the var/www directory, but to keep things simple, I'm going to use the var/www/html folder and not var/www. It really makes no difference. It's just a preference.

  1. Create your directory structure for your new website that will reside on your new domain or sub-domain. I'm creating a sub domain like subdir.jafty.com, but these directions are the same as if I were using just jafty.com instead. First, create the directory /var/www/html/subdir.jafty.com. Then create /var/www/html/subdir.jafty.com/logs and /var/www/html/subdir.jafty.com/public_html. If you are logged into FileZilla as root, you can create these from there, otherwise log in with putty and create them using the sudo command.
  2. Create your log files. Simple make two empty files named access.log and error.log and upload them to the logs folder you created in step one above.
  3. Create a VHOSTS file named after the domain or sub-domain followed by .conf, so in my case, I'd name my file subdir.jafty.com.conf. THen copy and paste the  content below under the heading "VHOSTS Example File Contents" into it then change all instances of my sub-domain name with your own domain or sub domain and upload that file to /etc/apache2/sites-available.
  4. Next, use the a2ensite tool from the Linux command line to finalize the new site with the following command(replace example.com with your domain or sub-domain):  sudo a2ensite example.com.conf
  5. Reset apache2 with: sudo service apache2 restart

VHOSTS Example File Contents

<Directory /var/www/html/planner.jafty.com/public_html>
    Require all granted
<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName planner.jafty.com
    ServerAlias www.planner.jafty.com

    ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
    DocumentRoot /var/www/html/planner.jafty.com/public_html

    ErrorLog /var/www/html/planner.jafty.com/logs/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/html/planner.jafty.com/logs/access.log combined

Automating the process of setting up domain names and sub domains

If you have to do this often or alter DNS records often and create lots of virtual hosts, you should probably look into automating the process. I provide such a service and have done so for several of my clients. What I do is create a simple user interface in a secure admin web page on your own server where you can simply enter the domain name or sub domain name into a form field and press GO and it does all the above work for you! A real time saver if you have to do this more than once in a great while! IF you are interested in this service, contact me, Ian L. of Jafty.com for a fast, free quote by email or Skype. My email is linian11@yahoo.com and my Skype name is ianlin11. Or use the contact link on this site.


That is how you do it!

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