Server Setup 3: Install Webserver

If this is your first time looking at a post from this series, have a look at this summary: Server Setup 0: Contents

Install Apache

Now we’ll install the software that actually serves webpages to your browser.

Install apache

sudo apt install apache2

check it’s running:

sudo systemctl status apache2

The output should look something like this:

sandy@waldorf:/mnt$ sudo systemctl status apache2
● apache2.service - The Apache HTTP Server
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/apache2.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) since Tue 2020-05-19 13:41:38 BST; 21s ago
     Docs: https://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.4/
 Main PID: 1128 (apache2)
    Tasks: 55 (limit: 4523)
   Memory: 18.0M
   CGroup: /system.slice/apache2.service
           ├─1128 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
           ├─1129 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
           └─1130 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start

Press q if it won’t let you do anything else after showing this message.

Let’s test it!

On your client pc, open a web browser and type in http://hostname or http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx swapping the hostname or IP address of your server as approprite. You need to type the “http://” otherwise your browser will think you’re doing a search. You should see a page like this:

Apache2 Debian Test Page

Additional test configuration

This step is optional, but may help later. We’ll configure a test site that will give us lots of useful information about our websever, great for debugging if (when) something goes doesn’t work.

First, pick a domain name. If you already own one you want to use for this site, then use that otherwise you can make something up. I’ll use example.org for this tutorial. Our test site will be at a subdomain: test.example.org

first, create a directory to hold files we want to test:

sudo mkdir /var/www/test

make an index.html in this folder

sudoedit /var/www/test/index.html
"Hello, world wide web!"

Normally this file would contain html tags, but this’ll do for a quick test

Create test.conf in /etc/apache2/sites-available

sudoedit /etc/apache2/sites-available/test.conf
<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName test.example.org
    DocumentRoot /var/www/test

    <Location />
		Require ip     192.168.2.0/24
	</Location>

	<Location "/server-info">
		SetHandler server-info
	</Location>

	<Location "/server-status">
		SetHandler server-status
	</Location>
    
    ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/test_error.log
    CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/test_access.log combined

</VirtualHost>

You should modify the xxx.xxx.xxx to the first 3 blocks of the server’s IP address on your network.

This sets up a website that can show a lot of useful information, and the Require lines mean it’s only accessible from inside your network. Maybe I’ll break down the contents of this in a later blog post. Comment if you’d like to see that.

Enable mod_info which will allow you to see lots of useful debugging information

sudo a2enmod info

Finally, enable the site and restart apache

sudo a2ensite test
sudo systemctl restart apache2

Last step, configure the hosts file on your client

Windows
Open notepad as an Administrator
Add a line which has

xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx test.example.org

… swapping in your server ip address and the domain name you chose above.

Go to these addresses and see if it works

test.example.org

test.example.org/server-status


test.example.org/server-info

If that’s all working, we’re good to move onto the next step!

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