Chapter 3. Website Configuration

Table of Contents

3.1. Getting started
3.2. CGI scripts
3.3. Statistics
3.4. Testing new websites
3.5. Displaying the same content under two domains
3.6. Redirecting to the preferred website domain
3.7. Custom Apache configuration
3.8. Logging
3.9. Web configuration layout

This is a detailed break down of all the configuration options and files available when configuring website hosting for a domain.

Throughout this chapter, as with the rest of this documentation, the domain is used as an example.

All configuration for the domain will be performed inside the /srv/ directory.

The Bytemark Symbiosis project uses the popular Apache HTTPD software for serving your websites, and this comes complete with PHP7 along with many of the most popular PHP extensions.

3.1. Getting started

All the files required for a website for the domain are kept in /srv/

  • If this directory does not exist, a 404 Not Found error will be returned.
  • If this directory exists, but is empty, then a default page is shown.
  • The index file can be written in HTML or PHP, and should be called index.html or index.php respectively.
  • Once this directory is present, both and will show the same content, i.e. there is no need to name the site with a www prefix.
  • If different content is required for then that should be put in /srv/

3.2. CGI scripts

If you wish to use CGI scripts for your domain, then simply copy them to a directory named cgi-bin/ beneath the public/ directory. They must all be marked as executable. This means setting the permissions to 755. In FileZilla, right click the file and select File Permissions… from the menu. The file should have Execute set for the owner, group, and public permissions.

For example, for the scripts would live in /srv/

Any executable files in that directory will now be treated as CGI scripts for your domain. For example if you created the file /srv/ This would be referred to as:

3.3. Statistics

Each hosted website can have visitor statistics automatically generated and accessible at These statistics will be updated once per day, and the raw access logs will be made available as /srv/

As of the Stretch release of Symbiosis, these daily statistics are disabled by default. If you wish to continue using them, you’ll need to enable them explicitly with the creation of a stats file in the website’s configuration directory. For example, for, the stats file should exist at /srv/

If you had previously disabled stats with the creation of a file config/no-stats, this should be removed automatically following a dist-upgrade.

It is also possible to customise the statistics generated by editing the file config/webalizer.conf. This file is documented at the Webalizer project website.

If there are many sites on the same machine, then it is possible to customise all the sites' Webalizer configurations by editing the template that is available at /etc/symbiosis/apache.d/webalizer.conf.erb. Configuration files will be updated when the statistics are next generated, but only for sites whose configurations either do not exist, or have not been edited by hand.

3.4. Testing new websites

You can view new websites before any DNS changes are made.

For example, if the virtual machine is hosting, i.e. the directory /srv/ has been created, then the website can immediately be viewed at

There are some important things to note though: - There is no www part added to the domain name — it is just the directory name prepended to - This testing alias isn’t guaranteed to work in all cases, for complex site setups it might not work entirely as expected. - The testing alias only allows the testing of websites. Therefore FTP logins, email delivery, or checking is explicitly unsupported.

3.5. Displaying the same content under two domains

In this scenario, you have registered two domains for example and, but you want the same content to be served at both addresses. There is no need to create two separate directory structures, you can just set up one directory structure and then create a soft link (aka symbolic link or symlink) to the second.

  1. Once the directory structure has been completed, log on to your machine as admin over SSH.

  2. Run the command ln -s /srv/ /srv/

This creats a symbolic link of pointing at Now browsing to will show the same content that appears at

3.6. Redirecting to the preferred website domain

If a document tree were created in /srv/ then that site would be available under two hostnames:

There are people who prefer to use only a single name, and to automatically redirect visitors using the wrong name to using the preferred name. This can easily be achieved by using Apache’s mod_rewrite facility.

If you prefer all visitors see the www-based site you could create the file /srv/ with the following contents:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

This examines each incoming request, and if the hostname doesn’t begin with "www." then it is prepended to the request and a redirect is issued.

3.7. Custom Apache configuration

It is perfectly possible to alter the way Symbiosis configures Apache, either for an individual domain, or for all domains hosted on the server.

Symbiosis hosts sites on a server in one of two ways, based on the IP address that site has configured. If it uses one of the server’s primary IP addresses, then it is assumed that the site is hosted using the "mass-hosting" configuration. If the site has a secondary IP assigned then Symbiosis generates an individual snippet for that site, and Apache is configured to use that snippet when dealing with HTTP requests for that domain. Both configuration techniques are configured using a template, which allows the server’s administrator to fiddle with, and tweak the configuration.

In /etc/symbiosis/apache.d/ there are a number of templates that are used to generate configuration snippets for both the mass-hosting, as well as individual sites.

3.8. Logging

By default, access requests for each site on a machine will go to public/logs/access.log. If the site has SSL enabled, the request logs will go to public/logs/ssl_access.log. These logs get rotated once a day, and compressed after two days.

The error logs for a site will go to one of two places, depending on how the site is configured. If the site has its own SSL certificate, or otherwise has its own IP address, then the error logs will go to public/logs/error.log, or public/logs/ssl_error.log. Otherwise the error logs will go to /var/log/apache2/zz-mass-hosting.error.log.

Finally, if a request is received for a domain that is not present on the box, then it is logged to zz-mass-hosting.access.log if it received on the primary IP of the machine. If the request comes on any other IP then it is logged to other_vhosts_access.log. Both of these last two files are located in /var/log/apache2 .

3.9. Web configuration layout

Here is an example configuration layout for the domain, all of which is contained under /srv/

If this file exists, statistics will be generated for this domain.
If this file exists, traffic will be redirected to the SSL version of the website. This will also configure your site to use Strict Transport Security (HSTS). Ensure your website functions as expected over HTTPS before adding this file. Once HSTS is enabled, browsers are issued a forced redirect to HTTPS until HSTS expires (default age of 6 months) — even if the ssl-only file is removed!
This is the Webalizer configuration file for this domain.
This is the directory which may be used to hold CGI scripts for your domain.
This is the directory from which content is served for the URLs and If this directory does not exist visitors will be shown an error page.
This directory will be automatically created, if it isn’t already present, and updated with statistics referring to the number of visitors to your website.
This file contains the Apache webserver access log for the domain. It will be archived daily, and removed after 30 days.
This file contains the Apache webserver access log for the domain when accessed over SSL.
This file contains the Apache webserver error log for the domain, if the domain has been configured to run under its own IP address. It will be archived daily, and removed after 30 days. If the site does not have its own IP address, then errors are logged to /var/log/apache2/zz-mass-hosting.error.log.
This file contains the Apache webserver error log for the domain when accessed over SSL, if the domain has been configured with its own IP address.