Debian Etch - Apache Virtual Hosts #2

The previous Debian Apache Virtual Hosts article introduced the basics of the setting up virtual hosts.

This enabled us to serve multiple websites from a single IP address and Slice. Let's look at some of the settings available to us in the Virtual Hosts files and introduce some new ones.




Sets the email address for the server administrator - this will be used if you have setup the server to contact you on errors. It is also shown in the ServerSignature (if set to 'On' - see below)

Domain Name

ServerName and ServerAlias


Sets the domain name for the virtual host. You can have as many aliases as you want.

Index Files


DirectoryIndex index.html

Defines the index file (the 'home' page that is shown on entering the domain address). Useful if you have want the user to be directed to an alternate page or to a non-standard home page.

Do note this is not a good way of redirecting users as they may go directly to a non specified page such as whilst the DirectoryIndex will only work for those entering



DocumentRoot /home/demo/public_html/

The location of the domain's public files. Use an absolute path name.

Log Files

ErrorLog and CustomLog

LogLevel warn
ErrorLog  /home/demo/public_html/
CustomLog /home/demo/public_html/ combined

Set the Log levels and the location for the Virtual Hosts log files. Very useful for easy analysis of the domain statistics.

Error Documents


ErrorDocument 404 /errors/404.html
ErrorDocument 403 /errors/403.html

Used for all the standard error messages.

In these examples I have an 'errors' folder in my public directory. I created each error document and place them in the 'errors' folder. The paths shown are relative to the DocumentRoot folder defined above.

If not defined, the Apache generated error pages will be shown.

Apache Footers


ServerSignature On

Sets whether the server details are displayed in any server generated error pages or index lists. Options are On, Off and Email.

Note that the signature details are configured via ServerTokens which cannot be set in the Virtual Hosts file - only in the main apache2.conf. See here for more details.

If set to Email, the ServerAdmin email will be displayed.



ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /home/demo/public_html/
<Location /cgi-bin>
  Options +ExecCGI

Enables the cgi-bin location as defined by the custom virtual hosts layout. You can, of course, leave the cgi-bin in the DocumentRoot location if you so wish.


<Directory /home/demo/public_html/>
  Options FollowSymLinks

Set the Options for the specified directory - the example shown allows the Option FollowSymLinks to be enable for the public directory of

Listed below are further Options that can be set:

Directory Browsing


Options -Indexes

To turn off directory browsing use '-Indexes' or 'None'. To turn them on, use '+Indexes'.



Options -Includes

This Option disables Server Side Inlcudes.



Options -FollowSymLinks

Enable or disable the option to follow symlinks. Be careful with this option as it can lead to security risks (inadvertently linking to configuration folders).



AllowOverride None

Setting AllowOverride to none disables .htaccess support. Set to All to allow them.

You can also specify which .htaccess features to enable such as:

AllowOverride AuthConfig Indexes

The Apache AllowOverride docs has more information on the different features.

Remember to specifically protect your .htaccess file. This can be done in two ways. Firstly rename it to something obscure and then denying access to the file from external sources:

AccessFileName .myobscurefilename
<Files ~ "^\.my">
    Order allow,deny
    Deny from all
    Satisfy All

No Options


Options None

This will turn off all the available options.


Remember that the Options directives can be set per directory like this:

<Directory />
  AllowOverride None
  Options None

<Directory /home/demo/public_html/>
  AllowOverride All

This will turn of all Options and disable .htaccess support for all directories.

However, the second Directory setting will override the first and allow .htaccess support for the directory.


The Virtual Hosts file is at once an easy tool to use and a very powerful one. My advice is to enter one setting and test it. Then enter the next setting and so on.

Once familiar you will see you have fine control over all of your web folders and files.


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