Bernard Joseph Jean Bruno/How to host multiple websites on domain and subdomain using nginx.

Created Thu, 21 Nov 2019 18:31:35 +0000 Modified Fri, 08 Jan 2021 16:18:38 +0000

How to host multiple websites on domain and subdomain using nginx.

How to host multiple websites on domain and subdomain using nginx.

Multiple website/subdomain using NGINX and let’s encrypt

This example has been tested with Docker and DigitalOcean VPS

This documentation is a how-to to make a VPS host multiple websites domain and subdomain using NGINX and docker.


You will learn

  • How to create a NGINX reverse proxy
  • Implement Let’s encrypt for SSL certificate
  • Using two distinct docker container to display on a domain and subdomain

DNS Management

Before starting to setup your VPS, you need to manage your domain, and subdomain

Create A records

On cloudflare, or DigitalOcean, create 2 two records of:

  • type A, having a hostname any particular name, which directs to your VPS IP



Authoritative Nameservers

Now you’ve set your records, we need to manually set your nameservers. It depends on your domain provider. DigitalOcean gives a documentation on the matter, here is the link.

Once you’ve added your nameservers, you can check if the DNS propagation has been completed here. This will tell you if your IP and DNS are in sync.

NGINX configuration (part 1)

Now that you’ve created your records, we can now start to manage our NGNIX stuffs.


  • Log into your Server via SSH as the root user.

    ssh [email protected]

  • Use apt-get to update your Server.

    [email protected]:~# apt-get update

  • Install nginx.

    [email protected]:~# apt-get install nginx

  • Nginx may not start automatically, so you can to use the following command. Other valid options are “stop” and “restart”.

    sudo /etc/init.d/nginx start

  • Check if all is okay by browsing at your domain name or IP address. You should see the default NGINX page.


We don’t need NGINX page as web server here, we just need NGINX as a reverse proxy.

rm /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

Next we will add files to our conf.d folder.

Docker servers

For this example, we will use 2 types of dockerized backend;

  • A static website server
  • A nodeJS server


First off, we need to install docker-compose to be able to run our docker-compose files.

apt install docker-compose

Static Website

Structure of server

├── Dockerfile
├── docker-compose.yml
└── index.html


cd ~
mkdir static-server
  1. Create static index.html file

    cat«EOF » index.html

  2. Create a Dockerfile file

    cat«EOF » Dockerfile FROM nginx:alpine COPY . /usr/share/nginx/html EOF

  3. Create a docker-compose.yml file

    this will create a docker, named static-web, exposed on port 8000cat«EOF » docker-compose.yml

    version: ‘2’

    services: static-web: build: . ports: - “8000:80” EOF

Run a docker container

If you’ve got the structure right. Now type docker-compose up -d and you can do a docker ps to see if the container is running.

To stop the container, do docker-compose stop

NodeJS Server with Docker Swarm

This didn’t come from my personal knowledge, but it can be found on this blog post. For this nodeJS webserver will use this github README I’ve found here.

Structure of server

├── Dockerfile
├── docker-compose.yml
└── index.js


The code is found above.

To stop the swarm you can do docker swarm leave, if it is the leader, (check command here.), you need to add --force flag.

This will force the leader the leave the swarm and terminate the service.

Side Note:

If one day, you need to do some docker clean up on your server, checkout this link.

Or if you need to erase everything, use docker system prune -a if somehow you want to start over.

NGINX configuration (part 2)

You’ve set up your containers ! We will now manage our NGINX to do a domain and subdomain for our server.


Now let’s write our configuration files:

# let's get inside conf.d foldercd /etc/ngnix/conf.d

Configuration for

# conf file for our domain.comcat<<EOF >> domain.conf
server {
  listen 80;
  listen [::]:80;

  location / {
    proxy_pass http://static_server_ip/;
    proxy_buffering off;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;}}

Configuration for

# conf file for our subdomain.domain.comcat<<EOF >> subdomain.domain.conf
server {
  listen 80;
  listen [::]:80;

  location / {
    proxy_pass http://nodejs_server_ip/;
    proxy_buffering off;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;}}

Side Note:

Don’t forget to replace the proxy proxy_pass with your servers specific IP.


Run nginx -t to check if everything is OK.

The result should be:

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

And now, you can reload with service nginx reload.

Now go on your browser, point on your and your and all should be fine.

Important Note:

Don’t forget to run the servers.

First get inside each folder respectively,

For static server is: docker-compose up -d

The static website container will run on port 8000

For nodeJS in swarm mode:

docker build -t testimony .
docker swarm init
  • It may happen that prompt you to choose an IP.
  • In this case, you can add --advertise-addr flag following with the IP of your choice, but preferably use the local IP of your server.
# Finally you run this:
docker stack deploy --compose-file=docker-compose.yml production

The nodeJS container will run on port 85

SSL on domain and subdomain

We will generate an SSL certificate for our domain and subdomain, for that we will use Let’s encrypt. It is a free SSL certificate provider. But the work is a bit complicated to set up, so we will use Certbot to leverage our work on this.


First off, we will find the version of our system, for my case, I’m using Ubuntu:

lsb_release -a


Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS
Release:        18.04
Codename:       bionic

Now navigate to Certbot website, and choose accordingly to the information you’ve got from finding your Operating System version, but don’t forget to specify you are using Nginx.

Follow along, until you reach step 4: “Either get and install your certificates…” part, where you issue a certificate.

At this step, you will see:

certbot --nginx

Just follow along, and just fill in, then when it asks to redirect or no, select option 2 where it says **Redirect – Make all requests redirect to secure HTTPS access. **.

Now you are done !

Important Note:

Go check your files in /etc/nginx/conf.d/xxx.conf

You will notice that certbot automatically, and respectively added a configured SSL certificates for our domain and subdomain.

Note: It must be regenerated every 3 months.