Apache Virtual Host Setup

Learn how to set up a virtual host in an Apache-like server and in GNU/Linux.

Setting up a web server like Apache gives us only one domain, which is http://localhost. This domain is associated with the IP address.

One host per server —localhost

As we stated above, we are only allowed to have on the website by a web server. To get around this limitation, we’ll create different directories, each for one website on the localhost:


We have two directories in http://localhost. We can add as many as we want.

Although this solution is helpful it has its own issues as well:

  • It does not reflect the reality of the production server, where each site has its own domain (http://time-tracker.com).
  • We may encounter issues with relative paths.

To avoid issues in a production server, it would be better if we have a local environment that is almost the same as the production environment.

Multiple hosts per server —virtual host

To allow more than one website to work on one system or web server, each with their own domain name, we’ll need to activate the virtual host feature on that server. For instance, both www.amezon.cd and www.facebook.cd can be hosted on the same web server.

There are many types of virtual host methods, but the most widely used one is the name-based virtual host method. The name-based virtual host method allows one IP address (for example, to host more than one website (host name). This approach allows for an unlimited number of servers, ease of configuration and use, and requires no additional hardware or software.

Three steps to create a virtual host

Step 1: Create a new virtual host

We’ll need to create a virtual host for each domain that we want.

The configuration file responsible for this is httpd-vhosts.conf. In my installation, it is located at /opt/lampp/etc/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

Now, let’s open it with the gedit editor or whichever editor we want:

sudo gedit /opt/lampp/etc/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

We’ll enter our password and begin editing as follows:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerAdmin sarah@masika.com
    DocumentRoot "/opt/lampp/htdocs/time-tracker"
    ServerName local.tracker.com
    ServerAlias www.local.tracker.com
    ErrorLog "logs/tracker.com-error_log"
    CustomLog "logs/tracker.com-access_log" common

In the DocumentRoot directive, we’ll specify where our project is located. ServerName and ServerAlias are the domain names we want the server to respond to. So, in our case, the server will respond to http://local.tracker.com or www.local.tracker.com.

Step 2: Register the new virtual hostname

This must be done in the hosts file. In Debian GNU/Linux, it is located at /etc/hosts:

sudo nano /etc/hosts

We’ll enter our password if asked the following:   local.tracker.com

We’ll save the file (Ctrl + X and Y):

Step 3: Enable virtual host configuration

By default, the virtual host is disabled in httpd.conf. We’ll open it to allow virtual hosts:

sudo nano /opt/lampp/etc/httpd.conf

We’ll do a search to quickly find the virtual hosts line (ctrl + W and write Include etc). We’ll uncomment (delete the # sign before the line) this line:

Include etc/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

We can now restart our server:

sudo /opt/lampp/lampp restart 

We can now access our site at local.tracker.com.

Wrap up

Virtual hosting is a technique used to allow one web server to host more than one domain. The name-based virtual hosting type is the most popular.

We can create a virtual host on Debian GNU/Linux following these three steps:

  • Create a new virtual host in the httpd-vhosts.conf file.
  • Register it in hosts.
  • Enable the virtual host in httpd.conf.

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