Oct 16, 2022
Hosting a website (like this one you are browsing!) is becoming much easier thanks to all the pre-configured packages. This is a very brief note on how I build this website from scratch.
To host a website, some server needs to provide service for the website constantly. A VPS is (grossly simplifying) a remote server that keeps running. Google and Amazon both provide free options, provided that you are willing to do a bit navigation to find exactly what is free (which is unfortunately very confusing). I personally use InterServer, which is also a cheap option that has a more direct interface. We can use whatever Linux distribution on the VPS, but I choose Ubuntu 22 because it is the one I am most familiar with.
Google Compute Engine: https://cloud.google.com/compute
Amazon EC2: https://aws.amazon.com/ec2/
People generally search for website through a domain name (like zhtluo.com) rather than a raw IP that our VPS provider will give us (like 126.96.36.199). This fact unfortunately means that we will need to buy our own domain name. I like Google Domain a lot more than traditional providers such as GoDaddy and Namecheap because Google Domain is very straightforward and easy to use (again, I hate navigating through ten pages with constant ads of their service before I can configure something that I am well aware of, which is unfortunately the case with traditional providers).
Google Domain: https://domains.google/
Now that we have a domain name and an IP of our VPS, we can link them together. This is generally done through the domain name provider.
The easiest way is to add a A-record to the DNS service that consists of our IP (how-to on Google Domain).
Generally the service provider will let us configure a way to use SSH to log into the server. Google and Amazon both ask us to set up a SSH key, but the VPS from InterServer I used is more primitive and allows us to log in to root with a pre-set password (which is not very secure):
Side note: Unsecured server is prone to getting hacked because there are tons of automatic scanners for SSH that looks through every ip. This guide is good as a starter to secure a server: https://sollove.com/2013/03/03/my-first-5-minutes-on-a-server-or-essential-security-for-linux-servers/.
We can start hosting a website in one step through installing Apache2:
Now when we visit the domain name in the browser, we can see a default page 'It works', which means that we have sucessfully hosted a website!
By default Apache2 hosts everything in
/etc/var/www/html, which means that we can just throw HTML pages into that folder and it works out of the box. Apache2 is very configurable and can host a lot of different websites by itself. Just as an example, we will change the hosting root folder from
/etc/var/www/zhtluo.com by giving it a new website configuration and disable the default one.
First we create a new website configuration
001-root.conf from the default one:
Then we edit
001-root.conf so that it uses the folder that we want by changing
DocumentRoot in the file:
Finally we disable the default site and enable the new site:
Now we create this folder on our server: