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How To Set Up Nginx Server Blocks on CentOS 7

Nginx Server Blocks allows you to run more than one website on a single machine. This is extremely useful, because for each site you can specify the site document root (the directory which contains the website files), create a separate security policy, use different SSL certificates and much more.

In this tutorial, we’ll explain how to set up Nginx server blocks on CentOS 7.

Prerequisites

Ensure that you have met the following prerequisites before continuing with this tutorial:

In some documentation, you’ll see Server Blocks being referred as Virtual host. A virtual host is an Apache term.

Create the Directory Structure

Document root is the directory where the website files for a domain name are stored and served in response to requests. We can set the document root to any location we want but in this guide we will use the following directory structure:

/var/www/
├── example.com
│   └── public_html
├── example2.com
│   └── public_html
├── example3.com
│   └── public_html

Basically we are creating a separate directory for each domain we want to host on our server inside the /var/www directory. Within this directory, we’ll create a public_html directory that wil be the domain document root directory and will store the domain website files.

Let’s start by creating the root directory for our domain example.com:

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/example.com/public_html

For testing purposes we will create an index.html file inside the domain’s document root directory.

Open your text editor and create the demo index.html file:

sudo nano /var/www/example.com/public_html/index.html

Copy and paste the following code into the file:

/var/www/example.com/public_html/index.html
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en" dir="ltr">
  <head>
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>Welcome to example.com</title>
  </head>
  <body>
    <h1>Success! example.com home page!</h1>
  </body>
</html>

In this guide, we are running the commands as sudo user and the newly created files and directories are owned by the root user.

To avoid any permission issues we can change the ownership of the domain document root directory to the Nginx user (www-data):

sudo chown -R www-data: /var/www/example.com

Create a Server Block

Nginx server block configuration files must end with .conf and are stored in /etc/nginx/conf.d directory.

Open your editor of choice and create a server block configuration file for example.com.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/example.com.conf 

You can name the configuration file as you like but usually it is best to use the domain name.

Copy and paste the following code into the file:

/etc/nginx/sites-available/example.com.conf
server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

    root /var/www/example.com/public_html;

    index index.html;

    server_name example.com www.example.com;

     access_log /var/log/nginx/example.com.access.log;
     error_log /var/log/nginx/example.com.error.log;

    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
    }
}

Save the file and test the Nginx configuration for correct syntax:

sudo nginx -t

If there are no errors the output will look like this:

nginx: the configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf syntax is ok
nginx: configuration file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf test is successful

Restart the Nginx service for the changes to take effect:

sudo systemctl restart nginx

Finally to verify the server block is working as expected open http://example.com in your browser of choice, and you will see something like this:

Conclusion

You have learned how to create an Nginx server block configuration to host multiple domains on a single CentOS server. You can repeat the steps we outlined above and create additional server blocks for all your domains.

If you want to secure your website with a free LetsEncrypt SSL certificate, you can check the following guide:

Secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt on CentOS 7

If you are facing any problem, feel free to leave a comment.

This post is a part of the install-lemp-stack-on-centos-7 series.
Other posts in this series:

How To Set Up Nginx Server Blocks on CentOS 7