Demystifying Virtual Hosting in Nginx: A Comprehensive Guide

In the realm of web server configuration, Nginx has emerged as a formidable player, renowned for its efficiency and versatility. One of its standout features is virtual hosting, a technique that allows a single server to host multiple websites, each with its own domain and configuration. This guide aims to demystify virtual hosting in Nginx, taking you from the basics to advanced configurations.

Understanding Virtual Hosting

What is Virtual Hosting?

Virtual hosting is a method where a single physical server hosts multiple websites, as if they were running on separate servers. It’s an essential strategy for efficiently utilizing server resources and accommodating numerous websites on a limited infrastructure.

Types of Virtual Hosting

  1. Name-based Virtual Hosting: Name-based virtual hosting relies on the “Host” header in HTTP requests to determine which website to serve. This allows multiple domains to share the same IP address while being directed to their respective content.
  2. IP-based Virtual Hosting: In IP-based virtual hosting, different IP addresses are assigned to each website. The server uses the IP address to determine which site’s content to deliver. This approach is more suitable when specific IP addresses are available.
  3. Port-based Virtual Hosting: Port-based virtual hosting uses different port numbers to distinguish between websites. While less common, it can be useful when separate IP addresses aren’t feasible.

Setting Up Virtual Hosts


Before configuring virtual hosts, ensure that you have Nginx installed on your server. You can easily install it using package managers like apt or yum.

Creating Directory Structure

For each website you want to host, create a directory structure to store its files. Organize these directories under a common root directory. This enhances maintenance and keeps configurations organized.

Nginx Server Blocks (Virtual Hosts)

Nginx uses server blocks to define virtual hosts. These blocks encapsulate configuration directives specific to each website. By creating separate server blocks for each domain, you achieve isolation and easy management.

Configuring Name-based Virtual Hosting

Step 1: Create Server Blocks

In the Nginx configuration directory (usually /etc/nginx), navigate to the sites-available directory and create a new configuration file for each virtual host using the domain name as the filename.

Step 2: Configure Server Blocks

Within each configuration file, define the server block using the server directive. Specify the listen directive with the appropriate IP address and port (usually 80 for HTTP). Set the server_name to the domain you’re configuring.

Stay tuned for the next part of the guide, where we delve into advanced configurations, including SSL certificates, load balancing, and security considerations.


Virtual hosting in Nginx opens the door to efficient utilization of server resources and streamlined management of multiple websites. This guide has laid the foundation by explaining the basics of virtual hosting, the types, and the initial setup. In the upcoming sections, we’ll take this knowledge further to explore advanced configurations, ensuring you have a holistic understanding of Nginx virtual hosting.

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