Website Hosting with Custom Domain Name
We were asked to host a site for a student group, and it happens they had a domain they wanted to use. Forwarding wasn't enough: they wanted the site to not appear as if originating from cs.earlham.edu. This is the guide.
Note: This guide will be updated when we resolve some issues with SSL.
We assume you're running this on CS, which uses Apache as the web server. The instructions will be different in places running nginx. This also assumes familiarity with the terminal, bind/DNS, and basic networking.
Also, have the following information at the ready:
- the IP address of your web host - as an example, we'll use 192.0.2.1, as per the rules
- the domain name - we'll use example.com
Domain: Replace the DNS records.
You'll need to replace the DNS records - which indicate which IP address your domain should point to - with your own.
First delete the old hosts. (If you need to backtrack, it's usually not hard to reset to the default hosts later.)
Add two A records:
- hostname @, 192.0.2.1
- hostname www, 192.0.2.1
I used Hover's default 15 minute TTL, but (as we millennials say) you do you.
No need to worry about the name servers.
Add to /etc/hosts
Add a line to /etc/hosts on the web server (e.g. web.cs.earlham.edu) reading as follows:
Or append example.com to the existing line for your IP address.
Add to Bind
In /etc/bind/yourdomain.zone, add the CNAME:
example IN CNAME web.cs.earlham.edu.
Run service bind9 restart or your OS-specific service manager to update the bind configs.
Create a VirtualHost on Apache
In your available sites path, in our case /etc/apache2/sites-available, copy the default (000-default.conf) file to a new file for your site:
cp 000-default.conf example.com.conf
Edit as follows:
ServerName example.com ServerAlias www.example.com DocumentRoot "/path/to/your/content/or/cms"
The DocumentRoot portion is where you might point to, say, a WordPress directory or a group of publicly-accessible user files. The nice thing about this is that it's somewhat modular: these steps apply to CMS systems in general, not just WordPress as in our use case.
If you want, you can also do specific configuration edits here - for example, I put the error log in a separate directory when testing this.
Run a2ensite example.com to activate a site with the configuration you've provided.
Run service apache2 reload or your OS-specific service manager to refresh the Apache settings.
a2ensite example.com service apache2 reload
Verify or Fix
If it didn't work, retrace your steps carefully. Check for typos, skipped steps, etc.
A note about iterative development and DNS
To grossly oversimplify, a lot of programming involves fast iterations: make some change, check if it worked, if so great, else repeat with a new change. DNS frustrates that workflow because you have to wait for DNS changes to propagate. If you're getting inexplicable results at some point, propagation is probably the reason. Give it time. If a long wait is bugging you, check the URL on a different computer than your usual workstation.