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Serving a static website with the Apache web server

Scope

These notes cover the very basics of:

  • how to set up the Apache web server
  • how to restrict access to localhost
  • how to install a site (for example from a static CD-ROM dump)
  • how to crawl the site so it can be ingested into a web archive
  • how to test the resulting WARC

These notes are based on Apache/2.4.18 on a Linux-based system. They only cover static HTML-based sites. Serving dynamic sites also requires an additional application server and a database (i.e. a full LAMP stack).

!!Important!! use these notes at your own risk! I'm not an expert on neither web server nor Apache, and these are primarily for my own reference!

Installation of Apache web server

First update the package index:

sudo apt-get update

Then install Apache:

sudo apt-get install apache2

Configuration directory is /etc/apache2. Note that the server starts running directly after installation.

Restrict access to localhost

Running a web server can expose your machine to a number of security threats, so it's a good idea to restrict access to localhost only (this means that only the machine on which the server is running can access it). To do this, locate the file ports.conf in the Apache configuration directory (/etc/apache2), open it in a text editor (as sudo), and then change this line:

Listen 80

into this:

Listen 127.0.0.1:80

Save the ports.conf file, and restart the web server using:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Check if the server is running

Type the following command:

sudo systemctl status apache2

Output should be something like this:

● apache2.service - LSB: Apache2 web server
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/init.d/apache2; bad; vendor preset: enabled)
  Drop-In: /lib/systemd/system/apache2.service.d
           └─apache2-systemd.conf
   Active: active (running) since Tue 2018-04-10 12:40:29 CEST; 3min 21s ago
     Docs: man:systemd-sysv-generator(8)
  Process: 7756 ExecStop=/etc/init.d/apache2 stop (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
  Process: 5731 ExecReload=/etc/init.d/apache2 reload (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
  Process: 7779 ExecStart=/etc/init.d/apache2 start (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
   CGroup: /system.slice/apache2.service
           ├─7796 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
           ├─7799 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start
           └─7800 /usr/sbin/apache2 -k start

Apr 10 12:40:28 johan-HP-ProBook-640-G1 systemd[1]: Starting LSB: Apache2 web server...
Apr 10 12:40:28 johan-HP-ProBook-640-G1 apache2[7779]:  * Starting Apache httpd web server apache2
Apr 10 12:40:28 johan-HP-ProBook-640-G1 apache2[7779]: AH00558: apache2: Could not reliably determine the server's fully qualified domain name, using 127.0.1.1. Set the 'ServerName' directive globally to suppress this message
Apr 10 12:40:29 johan-HP-ProBook-640-G1 apache2[7779]:  *
Apr 10 12:40:29 johan-HP-ProBook-640-G1 systemd[1]: Started LSB: Apache2 web server.

Finally open below URL in your web browser:

http://127.0.0.1/

If all goes well this should load the Apache default page:

Adding a site

Adding a site involves the following steps:

  1. Put the site contents somewhere on the file system (by default in a subdirectory of folder /var/www, although any directory can be used).
  2. Create a configuration file under /etc/apache2/sites-available
  3. Activate the configuration file
  4. Add original domain to hosts file
  5. Restart the server.

1. Put site contents on the file system

Create a root directory for your site under /var/www (you need sudo rights for this). For example, in below screenshot var/www contains 4 different sites:

Next copy the contents of your site into this directory. Make sure to check the file permissions for the top-level folders; for all users (Others), Folder Access must be set to Access Files. Apply these permissions to all underlying (enclosed) files as well. In the Caja file manager (Ubuntu / Linux Mint MATE desktop) this looks as follows:

You can also set the permissions from the terminal, using the following commands:

sudo find www.nl-menu.nl -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;
sudo find www.nl-menu.nl -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;

2. Create a configuration file

Next you need to create a configuration file for the site /etc/apache2/sites-available. The easiest way to do this is to copy an existing file (typically the default 000-default.conf), and save it under a new name (e.g. nl-menu.conf). Note that you need sudo priviliges for this. Then open the newly created file in a text editor (again as sudo), and edit the value of the DocumentRoot variable, which must point to the root directory of your site. For example, if our site is located at /var/www/www.nl-menu.nl use this:

DocumentRoot /var/www/www.nl-menu.nl

Then save the file.

3. Activate the configuration file

First disable the current configuration (in this case 8000-default.conf*):

sudo a2dissite 000-default.conf

Now enable the new one:

sudo a2ensite nl-menu.conf

4. Add original domain to hosts file

Open (with sudo priviliges) file /etc/hosts in a text editor, and add a line that associates the IP address at which the site is locally available to its original URL. For example:

127.0.0.1	www.nl-menu.nl

Then save the file.

5. Restart the server

Type this:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

All done! The newly installed site is now available at the original URL in your web browser:

http://www.nl-menu.nl (which should redirect to http://127.0.0.1/)

Additional resources