Linux Server Set Up - To Do List

You just got SSH access to your linux server. Now what?

Linux Server Set Up - To Do List

Just quickly jotting down everything I do to secure my server and make it awesome. I primarily use NodeJS and nginx on my servers, so expect a bias. I like to automagically push changes to my server using git, so that stuff is included too.

This tutorial assumes you have root access (via SSH) to your server. A Digital Ocean droplet for example.

A New User

I always do these 5 things immediately. Don't skip 4, or you might get locked out!

  1. Create a new user
  2. Give the user sudo access
  3. Add SSH keys for easy log in
  4. Test login (using both SSH and password)
  5. Disable root access (using password) to the server

Create a new user by typing this (as long as you're signed in as root):

adduser myUserName

You'll be asked a bunch of questions and guided through the process (including passwords etc.)

Once we've done that, we need to give the user sudo access. Use the below command to do that.


Search for a line which looks like root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL. Append a new line below it with the user you just created.

root        ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL
myUserName  ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Save changes, and myUserName now has sudo access rights! For more details, visit this tutorial

Next up, we need to add ssh keys to this user, so that we can log on password free. This is quite straightforward. If you don't have SSH keys generated, checkout this tutorial. Otherwise, all you need to do is copy your public key and paste it into the /home/myUserName/.ssh/authorized_keys. We can acheive this using these commands.

First create a .ssh folder in the remote server

cd /home/myUserName
mkdir .ssh

Then run this on your local machine to copy the public key and paste it on the server. On a mac, the path is ~/.ssh/

cat /path/to/local/public/key | ssh "cat >> /home/myUserName/.ssh/authorized_keys"

Now test if it all worked ssh You should be able to login password free. Once you do, make sure these permissions are correct too.

chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

The last step is disabling root access using passwords on the server. To do this, we simply modify the SSH configuration file to permit root login only via SSH.

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Change this line from PermitRootLogin yes to PermitRootLogin without-password. Then run reload ssh.

Install stuff

First, we make sure everything is up to date.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Next we install git

sudo apt-get install git

Next we install node. You can test the install by checking node version and npm version.

sudo apt-get install nodejs nodejs-legacy npm

Next we install coffeescript and forever using npm.

sudo npm install coffee-script forever -g

Finally we install nginx

sudo apt-get install nginx

Now we can map a domain to a service (node server on forever) using nginx

sudo nano /etc/nginx/conf.d/

And paste in this code (remember to modify PORT to the port for your Node JS app)

server {
    listen 80;


    location / {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:{YOUR_PORT};
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

Finally uncomment server_names_hash_bucket_size 64; in the http section of the nginx config file found here - /etc/nginx/nginx.conf