Configure WordPress with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Varnish Proxy on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

WordPress powered by Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Varnish on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is a recipe for speed.. Running this setup will definitely improve your website / blog performance..

When dealing with high traffic WordPress websites you may want to implement some kind of caching mechanism to speed up the sites… One of the popular proxy servers that’s also a caching server is Varnish… If you want to build a fast WordPress sites with lots of web traffic, setting up Varnish as a proxy caching server will go a long way.

This brief tutorial is going to show students and new users how to setup WordPress on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Varnish proxy server support to speed up WordPress… After setting this up, your WordPress site performance should improve a bit.

When you’re ready to get this working, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Install Nginx HTTP Server

To install Nginx, run the commands below

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nginx

Next, run the commands below to stop, start and enable Nginx service to always start up with the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop nginx.service
sudo systemctl start nginx.service
sudo systemctl enable nginx.service


Now that Nginx is installed, run the commands below to install Varnish

sudo apt-get install varnish

After installing Varnish, the commands below can be used to start, stop and enable Varnish to always start up when the server boots

sudo systemctl stop varnish.service
sudo systemctl start varnish.service
sudo systemctl enable varnish.service


Since we want Varnish to listen for all traffic coming to port 80 which is also Nginx’s default port, let’s configure Nginx to use another port number.

To quickly change the port run the commands below to open Nginx default port configuration file.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

Then make the highlighted change below.

server {
    listen 8080 default_server;
    listen [::]:8080 default_server;
    root /var/www/html/wordpress;

Save then file and exit.

After that, run the commands below to disable Nginx default site.

sudo rm /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

Then restart Nginx

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

Now Nginx default site is disabled…

Step 4: Install MariaDB Database Server

To install MariaDB run the commands below

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable MariaDB service to always start up when the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop mysql.service
sudo systemctl start mysql.service
sudo systemctl enable mysql.service

After that, run the commands below to secure MariaDB server by creating a root password and disallowing remote root access.

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted, answer the questions below by following the guide.

  • Enter current password for root (enter for none): Just press the Enter
  • Set root password? [Y/n]: Y
  • New password: Enter password
  • Re-enter new password: Repeat password
  • Remove anonymous users? [Y/n]: Y
  • Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n]: Y
  • Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n]:  Y
  • Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n]:  Y

Restart MariaDB server

sudo systemctl restart mysql.service

Step 5: Install PHP 7.1 FPM and Related Modules

WordPress also requires PHP. However, PHP 7.1 isn’t available on Ubuntu default repositories… in order to install it, you will have to get it from third-party repositories.

Run the commands below to add the below third party repository to upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt update

Run the commands below to install PHP 7.1 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.1-fpm php7.1-common php7.1-mbstring php7.1-xmlrpc php7.1-gd php7.1-xml php7.1-mysql php7.1-cli php7.1-mcrypt php7.1-zip php7.1-curl

After install PHP 7.1, run the commands below to open Nginx PHP default file.

sudo nano /etc/php/7.1/fpm/php.ini

Then make the changes on the following lines below in the file and save. The value below are great settings to apply in your environments.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0
date.timezone = America/Chicago

Step 6: Create WordPress Database

Now that you’ve install all the packages are installed, run the commands below to create a blank WordPress database.

Logon to MariaDB database server

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called wordpress


Create a database user called wordpressuser with new password

CREATE USER 'wordpressuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password_here';

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON wordpress.* TO 'wordpressuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'user_password_here' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.


Step 7: Download WordPress Latest Release

Next, visit WordPress site and download the latest version….

After downloading, run the commands below to extract the downloaded file and move it into a new WordPress root directory.

cd /tmp && wget
tar -zxvf latest.tar.gz
sudo mv wordpress /var/www/html/wordpress

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for WordPress to function.

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/wordpress/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/wordpress/

Step 8: Configure Nginx

Finally, configure Nginx site configuration file for WordPress. This file will control how users access WordPress content. Run the commands below to create a new configuration file called wordpress

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress

Then copy and paste the content below into the file and save it. Replace the highlighted line with your own domain name and directory root location.

server {
    listen 8080;
    listen [::]:8080;
    root /var/www/html/wordpress;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;

     client_max_body_size 100M;

    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;        

    location ~ \.php$ {
        include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.1-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        include fastcgi_params;

Save the file and exit.

Step 9: Enable the WordPress

After configuring the VirtualHost above, enable it by running the commands below… the commands also disable PHP7.0 and enable PHP 7.1 for Nginx.

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Step 10 : Restart Nginx

To load all the settings above, restart Nginx by running the commands below.

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service


Now that Nginx is configured, run the commands below to create WordPress wp-config.php file.

sudo mv /var/www/html/wordpress/wp-config-sample.php /var/www/html/wordpress/wp-config.php

Then run the commands below to open WordPress configuration file.

sudo nano /var/www/html/wordpress/wp-config.php

Enter the highlighted text below that you created for your database and save.

// ** MySQL settings - You can get this info from your web host ** //
/** The name of the database for WordPress */
define('DB_NAME', 'wordpress');

/** MySQL database username */
define('DB_USER', 'wordpressuser');

/** MySQL database password */
define('DB_PASSWORD', 'user_password_here');

/** MySQL hostname */
define('DB_HOST', 'localhost');

/** Database Charset to use in creating database tables. */
define('DB_CHARSET', 'utf8');

/** The Database Collate type. Don't change this if in doubt. */
define('DB_COLLATE', '');


Now that port 80 is free, let’s configure Varnish to use that post instead. To assign port 80 to Varnish, run the commands below.

Varnish default configure file is location at /etc/default/varnish

Open it by running the commands below:

sudo nano /etc/default/varnish

Then look for the config block under Alternative 2 and make the highlighted changes as shown below.

## Alternative 2, Configuration with VCL
# Listen on port 6081, administration on localhost:6082, and forward to
# one content server selected by the vcl file, based on the request.
DAEMON_OPTS="-a :80 \
-T localhost:6082 \
-f /etc/varnish/default.vcl \
-S /etc/varnish/secret \
-s malloc,256m"

Save the file when you’re done.

Next, run the commands below to open the default.vcl file

sudo nano /etc/varnish/default.vcl

Then add the highlighted lines shown below…

# Default backend definition. Set this to point to your content server.
backend default {
.host = "";
.port = "8080";

sub vcl_recv {
    if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
    unset req.http.cookie;

sub vcl_fetch {
   if (!(req.url ~ "wp-(login|admin)")) {
    unset beresp.http.set-cookie;

Save the file and close out.

When you’re done, restart Varnish and Nginx

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service
sudo systemctl restart varnish.service

Next, run the commands below to start Varnish if it won’t start.

sudo /usr/sbin/varnishd -a :80 -b localhost:8080

After that, open your browser and browse to your domain name to launch WordPress configuration wizard.

And you should see WordPress setup wizard

varnish wordpress ubuntu

Follow the wizard until you’ve successfully setup WordPress…

That’s it!

You may also like the post below:

Protect Web Directories with Apache2 HTTP Basic Authentication on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

5 Replies to “Configure WordPress with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Varnish Proxy on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

  1. Great stuff, thanks! However if I reboot my server, I have to re-run sudo /usr/sbin/varnishd -a :80 -b localhost:8080, how can I get varnish running automatically on boot?

  2. How can I get varnish to start automatically on boot instead of having to enter sudo /usr/sbin/varnishd -a :80 -b localhost:8080 every time?

  3. Chris,
    I had the same issue with Varnish starting, and found out I had to remove the suggested edits to the sub’s in the /etc/varnish/default.vcl.
    I removed the “if” from the vcl_recv sub, and completely removed the vcl_fetch sub, since the VCL-Compiler doesn’t seem to like them (at least in my 18.04LTS, with varnish v5.2). Once I removed them varnishd started correctly upon reboot without any issues.

    To see where the errors are, run the following command: varnishd -f /etc/varnish/default.vcl

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