Introduction

How do you get a Ubuntu server configured on a Vultr server?

In this article, we will walk through the steps to get a new server on Vultr configured with a new root user, SSH authentication, and a basic firewall. When you have finished this article, you'll have a server that's ready to deploy whatever application you plan on building.

Let's get started!

Table of Contents

Signup or Login Into Vultr Account

To start, you need to create an account on Vultr or login to your existing account.

For a FREE $100 CREDIT, use this link: https://www.vultr.com/?ref=8608287-6G.

Vultr Signup Page

They will ask you for a credit card, but you can cancel anytime before you exceed the $100 credit balance.

Make sure you have the "I just want to link my credit card -$0.00 deposit" checkbox checked. This will ensure your credit card doesn't get charged.

Vultr Billing Page

You should now have an account created (or logged into a pre-existing one) with a free $50 credit to play around with. We can now move to the next step.

Deploy New Instance on Vultr

To create your Ubuntu server, go to the "Products" section and then to the "Deploy New Instance" (link) Page.

There are a ton of options on this page.

Server Type

The first option is the type of server you want to use. Choose the "Cloud Compute" option.

Vultr Deploy Server Select Type

Server Location

Next, they let you choose where your server will be physically located. Choose the location closest to where your users live.

Vultr Deploy Server Select Location

Server Operating System

Then you get to choose the operating system of your server. Select the Ubuntu operating system and the version you want to use.

Vultr Deploy Server Select Operating System

Server Size

And then choose the size of your server. For this tutorial, it doesn't matter which one you choose.

Vultr Deploy Server Select Size

Server Additional Options

After choosing the server size, there are three sections that you can leave blank: "Additional Features", "Startup Script", and "SSH Keys."

Vultr Deploy Server Options

Server Name & Deploy Server

In the last section, pick a name for your server (only visible to you) and click the Deploy Now button to create your server.

Vultr Deploy Server Name & Submit

Nice, your server is now deployed!

Obtain Server IP Address & Root Password

To set up our server, you'll need both the IP address of the server and the private key (password) for the root user's account.

To obtain this information, go to the Products page and click on your new server. This will take you to the Server Information page for your server.

At the bottom of the page, you'll find the IP Address, Username, and Password for your server (red box in the image below).

Vultr Deploy Server Options

Login to Server as Root

With the IP Address and root password, we can now login to our server as root.

To log into your server, open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T for Linux) on your local machine. Once you have a terminal open, use the following command to SSH in as the root user:

    
      ssh root@server_ip_address
    
  

Accept the warning about host authenticity, if it appears, and provide your root password. If it's your first time logging into the server with a password, you will also be asked to change the root password.

The root user in a Linux environment has very broad privileges and, for that reason, you are discouraged from using it regularly. This is because very destructive changes (even by accident) can be made while using it.

In the next step, we're going to create an alternative account with limited scope that will be used for daily work.

Create a New User

Logged in as root, we can create a new user account that will be used to log in from this point forward. You can create a new user with the following command (substitute the highlighted word with your username):

    
      adduser bob
    
  

You'll be asked some questions starting with the password. Choose a strong password and fill in any of the optional information after that. You can just hit ENTER repeatedly to skip the rest of the questions after that.

Give Your New User Root Privileges

You now have a new user account with regular account privileges. But you might occasionally need to do administrative tasks that require root privileges. So, instead of logging out of your normal user and logging back in as the root account, we can give the normal account the ability to run root privileged commands when you need to by adding sudo before each command.

To do this, add your new user to the sudo group. As root, run the following command to add your user to the sudo group:

    
      usermod -aG sudo bob
    
  

Now your user can run commands with root privileges!

The next server setup steps help increase the security of your server. They are optional but highly recommended.

Add Public Key Authentication

By setting up public-key authentication for the new user, it will increase our server's security by requiring a private SSH key to login in.

Generate a Key Pair

If you don't already have an SSH key pair, which consists of a public and private key, you need to generate one. If you already have a key that you want to use, skip to the Copy the Public Key step.

To generate a new key pair, enter the following command at the terminal of your LOCAL MACHINE:

    
      ssh-keygen
    
  

You'll receive an output similar to the following:

    
      Generating public/private rsa key pair.
      Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/yourusername/.ssh/id_rsa):
    
  

Press ENTER to accept the file name and path.

Next, you'll be prompted to enter a password to secure the newly created key with. You can either create a password or leave it blank. This generates a private key, id_rsa, and a public key, id_rsa.pub, in the .ssh directory of your home directory.

Copy the Public Key

Now that you have the SSH key pair on our local machine, we need to copy our public key to the server.

Option 1: SSH-Copy-Id

If your local machine has the ssh-copy-id script installed, you can use it to install your public key to any user that you have login credentials for. If not, use Option 2 to install the key manually.

Still on your local machine, type the following command:

    
      ssh-copy-id bob@server_ip_address
    
  

You will be asked for the user's password. Then, your public key will be added to the server user's .ssh/authorized_keys file. The corresponding private key can now be used to log into the server.

Option 2: Install the Key Manually

Assuming you generated an SSH key pair using the previous step, use the following command at the terminal of your local machine to print your public key (id_rsa.pub):

    
      cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
    
  

This should print your public SSH key, which should look something like the following:

    
      ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDBGTO0tsVejssuaYR5R3Y/i73SppJAhme1dH7W2c47d4gOqB4izP0+fRLfvbz/tnXFz4iOP/H6eCV05hqUhF+KYRxt9Y8tVMrpDZR2l75o6+xSbUOMu6xN+uVF0T9XzKcxmzTmnV7Na5up3QM3DoSRYX/EP3utr2+zAqpJIfKPLdA74w7g56oYWI9blpnpzxkEd3edVJOivUkpZ4JoenWManvIaSdMTJXMy3MtlQhva+j9CgguyVbUkdzK9KKEuah+pFZvaugtebsU+bllPTB0nlXGIJk98Ie9ZtxuY3nCKneB+KjKiXrAvXUPCI9mWkYS/1rggpFmu3HbXBnWSUdf localuser@machine.local
    
  

Select the public key, and copy it to your clipboard.

To enable the use of SSH key to authenticate as the new remote user, you must add the public key to a special file in the user's home directory.

On the server, as the root user, enter the following command to temporarily switch to the new user (substitute the highlighted word with your username):

    
      su - bob
    
  

Now you will be in your new user's home directory.

Create a new directory called .ssh and restrict its permissions with the following commands:

    
      mkdir ~/.ssh && chmod 700 ~/.ssh
    
  

Now open a file in .ssh called authorized_keys with a text editor. We will use nano to edit the file:

    
      nano ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
    
  

Now insert your public key (which should be in your clipboard) by pasting it into the editor.

Hit CTRL-X to exit the file, then Y to save the changes that you made and ENTER to confirm the file name.

Now restrict the permissions of the authorized_keys file with this command:

    
      chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
    
  

Type this command once to return to the root user:

    
      exit
    
  

Now your public key is installed, and you can use SSH keys to log in as your user.

Disable Password Authentication

This step will only allow you to log into your server using the SSH key you just created. Only people who possess the private key that pairs with the public key that was installed will get into the server. This increases your server's security by disabling password-only authentication.

Only follow this step if you installed a public key in the last step. Otherwise, you'll lock yourself out of the server.

To disable password authentication, follow these steps:

As the root user or new sudo user on your server, open the SSH daemon configuration file using the following command:

    
      sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
    
  

Find the line that says PasswordAuthentication and change its value to no. It should look like this after the change was made:

    
      PasswordAuthentication no
    
  

Save and close the file using the method: CTRL-X, then Y, then ENTER).

To reload the SSH daemon and put our changes live, type the following command:

    
      sudo systemctl reload sshd
    
  

Password authentication is now disabled. Now your server can only be accessed with SSH key authentication.

Test Login Using SSH Key

On your local machine, log in to your server using the new account that we created. Use the following command:

    
      ssh bob@server_ip_address
    
  

Once authentication is provided to the server, you will be logged in as your new user.

Basic Firewall Setup

Ubuntu servers can use the UFW firewall to ensure only connections to certain services are allowed. It's a simple process to set up a basic firewall and will improve your server's security.

You can see which applications are UFW currently allows by typing:

    
      sudo ufw app list
    
  

This should output the following:

    
      Available applications
       OpenSSH
    
  

We need to make sure the firewall allows SSH connections so that we can log back in next time. To allow these types of connections, type the following command:

    
      sudo ufw allow OpenSSH
    
  

And then enable the firewall:

    
      sudo ufw enable
    
  

Press y and then ENTER to proceed. You can see that SSH connections are still allowed by typing:

    
      sudo ufw status
    
  

Conclusion

Congratulations! You now have a cloud server configured with Vultr and is ready for you to deploy whatever application you plan on building!

Good luck in your future coding endeavors! And thanks for reading!