What Is Virtual Host in Web Server?


Scott Campbell

A virtual host is a method used to host multiple domain names on a single web server. It allows you to run multiple websites or web applications using a single IP address. This is achieved by associating each domain name with a specific directory on the server.

Why use virtual hosts?

Virtual hosts are essential for managing and hosting multiple websites efficiently. They offer several advantages, including:

  • Resource optimization: Virtual hosts allow you to maximize the use of server resources by hosting multiple websites on a single machine.
  • Cost-effective: With virtual hosts, you don’t need to invest in separate servers for each website, saving both money and physical space.
  • Ease of management: Virtual hosts simplify website management by allowing you to configure and maintain each domain independently.
  • Improved security: By isolating each website within its own directory, virtual hosts enhance security by preventing one compromised website from affecting others.

Setting up virtual hosts

To set up a virtual host, follow these steps:

Step 1: Configure the web server

The first step is to configure your web server (e.g., Apache or Nginx) to recognize and handle virtual hosts. This typically involves modifying the server configuration file.

Step 2: Define the virtual host

In the server configuration file, define each virtual host using the following structure:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName www.example.com
    DocumentRoot /var/www/example

The above example configures a virtual host for “www.com” with the corresponding website files located in “/var/www/example”.

Step 3: Restart the web server

After defining the virtual hosts, restart your web server to apply the changes. This can usually be done using a command like:

sudo service apache2 restart

Common virtual host configurations

Virtual hosts can be configured in different ways to meet specific requirements. Here are a few common configurations:

Name-based virtual hosts

Name-based virtual hosts allow you to host multiple websites on a single IP address by using different domain names. The web server distinguishes between the domains based on the “Host” header sent by the client.

IP-based virtual hosts

In an IP-based virtual host configuration, each website has its own unique IP address. This method is useful when you want to assign a dedicated IP to a particular website.

Port-based virtual hosts

Port-based virtual hosts allow you to host multiple websites on the same IP address by using different port numbers. Each website is associated with a specific port, and the web server routes incoming traffic accordingly.


Virtual hosts are an essential tool for managing and hosting multiple websites efficiently. By allowing you to run multiple domains on a single web server, they offer resource optimization, cost-effectiveness, ease of management, and improved security.

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