How to Setup a Virtual Web Server in 10 Minutes

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Virtual Hosting

Virtual hosting is a method for hosting multiple domain names on a computer using a single IP address. This allows one machine to share its resources, such as memory and processor cycles, to use its resources more efficiently.

Introduction

This article will walk the reader through a few simple steps on how to setup a virtual web server in 10 minutes.  The steps outlined here describe how to install Apache Web Server with the MySQL Database, PHP, & Perl.  This is a tutorial on how to setup a virtual web server on the Apple Macbook Pro, but the same steps apply for a Microsoft Windows computer with a few simple modifications.

The Apple Macbook Pro OS X already comes bundled with a web server.  This Mac OS X web server can be enabled by following the steps outlined in this article, “How to set up a Web Server in Mac OS X Leopard“.

This tutorial will show how to install and configure a virtual web server for web development that can be removed at will.  Web developers experimenting with cutting edge technologies and custom configurations usually need multiple environments.

Please use caution when installing new software on computer systems.  A Best Practice includes creating system backups before changes.

1. How to Install Open Source Software

The good people at Apache Friends have made this step extremely easy.  People can download an Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and Perl in the XAMPP package.  Download and install XAMPP by following the steps defined at http://www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp.html

2. Edit the Local Host File

The entries in this file start with something like this:

add the new server name to the bottom of the list here

Press control-o to save the file, then enter, and control-x to exit the editor.
Flush the DNS Cache to activate changes

3. Update the Virtual Host File

This file will look very similar to the text below. Delete everything in this file and add the virtual host information.

New Virtual Host File

4. Update the HTTPD Config File

Remove the comment from #Include /Applications/xampp/etc/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf
Original line

Updated line

Create a test file for the “Document Root” folder identified in the new virtual host and save it as “index.php”.

5. Viewing The Virtual Environment

Navigate to “/Applications/XAMPP” and run XAMPP Control

Start the database and web server from the XAMPP Control

Open a web browser and navigate to http://localhost and see the default XAMPP page.

Open a web browser and navigate to http://localhost/phpmyadmin/ and see the MYSQL database manager.

Open a web browser and navigate to http://virtualserver1.dev/index.php and see the test page from the new virtual web server.

Adding Additional Virtual Web Servers

Additional virtual web servers can be created by repeating steps 2 & 3.  The new virtual web servers will need unique names, for example: “virtualserver2″, “virtualserver3″, “virtualserver4″, or “mydevserver”.

Fixing MySQL error 13 on Mac OS X 10.6.x: This error usually occurs when the curly quotes are used in the configuration files, which happens when copying and pasting code from the web.  This error can be fixed by changing these “HTML quotes” to normal “quotes”.

Summary

Setting up virtual web servers in the development environment is a very simple task.  Local instances of web server software allows web developers to experiment with features of web applications like WordPress blog software.  The new features can be tested locally before implemented in a production environment.  Each of these virtual environments can be configured to meet custom needs.  Learn more about Apache Web Server Name-based Virtual Hosting here.

Note: The “Document Root” is outside of the web server software installation, which allows replacing the current web server software with something like “Zend Server” without disrupting current web site files.

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