Whats the easiest way to go about setting up a web server on Linux?
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No shortcuts. But there are pre-packaged softwares that contain AMP packages and you can install and run a web server. But it is not advised to use them on production machines. It would depend on your purpose of the server, what configuration you must have.
But it should not be that difficult to get a web server running on CentOS5 or debian. Install CentOS5 and while installing do select apache, mysql, and php so that you have required packages.Thats done.
That's nice, but you don't tell us whether the server will be exposed to the internet (probably will, but there are bad people out there, and if it is, you'd probably better be good at security...may not be quite as severe if you only intend it for internal usage) and whether you are thinking of a high traffic site, or something more moderate (...and therefore fewer servers, and less complexity in architecting the system) and how you intend getting information onto the system (if you intend to use a CMS, that will be a problem all of its own, but it will solve some of your problems for you) and whether you intend to use some kind of paid for hosting (shared or not?)
And were you including website design? Usability? Usability testing? SEO? Analytics?
and I was wondering if there may be any shortcuts available
Oh, yes, there are simple shortcuts, but if you don't know what you are doing you'll almost certainly commit some kind of security blunder (I know because some of the shortcuts bake security blunders into the installation). Is that still what you want?
...or a simple step process to get me where I need to be in regards to setting up the server.
Read a book on the LAMP stack; work out what you want to do in detail. Do some reading on security. Study recent exploits and work out whether you would be vulnerable. Express your workflow in a way that makes sense to the rest of the world, if you want those aspects taken into account.
It is hard to know what is meant by 'setting up a web server'. Just setting up a web server can be as simple as starting the httpd service on most distributions. As root:
service httpd start
If you don't get an error message, the web server is probably running.
You can test this by fetching the default Apache index page.
Even if you don't get a page, but instead get an error code like '403 Forbidden', it still tells you the server is running. Having accomplished the lofty goal of starting the server, it bears mentioning that you should do this behind closed doors; ie. on a local LAN unexposed to the wild. You will also want to delve into the server configuration file(s), and set up things like the server name, some security items, perhaps a CGI configuration &/or PHP, etc.
Now, if you really meant 'setting up a web site', then that is a much bigger question, and the answer will take a considerable effort for you to grasp. The complete answer is the subject of many books, and would be much beyond the scope of a forum such as this. There are many, many smaller questions that will come up as you build a web site, and those would be appropriate here.