setting up vpn server

Setting up a VPN server on a Linux system has become a popular choice for businesses and individuals who value privacy and security. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, enables a secure and encrypted connection between your device and the internet, ensuring that your data is protected from unwanted access. Additionally, Linux has long been known for its stability and flexibility, making it an ideal platform for deploying a VPN server.

There are several VPN server software options available for Linux, with OpenVPN being one of the most popular and widely-used solutions. In order to set up a VPN server, you’ll need to consider system requirements and follow detailed installation and configuration steps. Proper security measures must be taken into account, including managing certificates and setting up a DNS server. Once the server has been set up, clients can be configured to connect securely and tests can be performed to ensure the VPN is functioning correctly.

Key Takeaways

  • Setting up a Linux-based VPN server is essential for secure and private online connectivity.
  • OpenVPN is a popular choice for VPN server software due to its reliability and security.
  • Proper configuration and security measures are crucial for a successful VPN server setup.

Understanding VPN and Linux

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that allows users to create a secure and encrypted connection over the internet. This secure connection creates a private tunnel between the user’s device and the VPN server, allowing data to be exchanged securely and anonymously. VPNs are essential for maintaining privacy and security, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks or accessing sensitive information.

Linux is an open-source operating system that offers numerous advantages in terms of security, flexibility, and customization. Due to its robust security features and the ability for users to configure the system exactly to their needs, Linux has become an increasingly popular choice for running VPN servers.

Setting up a VPN server on Linux requires some technical knowledge, but the process can be straightforward with the right guidance. There are various VPN protocols available, such as OpenVPN and IPsec, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Users can choose the protocol that best meets their security and performance requirements.

For example, OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol known for its flexibility and strong encryption capabilities. To set up an OpenVPN server on Linux, one needs to install the necessary software, configure the server settings, and generate cryptographic keys for secure communication. Once the server is set up, clients on various devices, including Windows, macOS, and other Linux machines, can connect to it using an OpenVPN client.

Another popular protocol for setting up a VPN server on Linux is IPsec. IPsec provides a robust security framework by encrypting data at the IP packet level. Configuring an IPsec VPN server on Linux requires installing the necessary packages, configuring the server and client settings, and managing user accounts to control VPN access.

In conclusion, setting up a VPN server on Linux can provide enhanced security and privacy for internet communications. By choosing an appropriate VPN protocol, users can create a custom solution tailored to their specific needs. Whether opting for the flexibility of OpenVPN or the strong encryption capabilities of IPsec, running a VPN server on Linux offers a reliable and secure option for maintaining privacy online.

Choosing VPN Server Software

When setting up a VPN server on Linux, selecting the right VPN server software is crucial for ensuring optimal performance, security, and privacy. One of the widely used and highly recommended VPN server software is OpenVPN. It is a versatile, open-source solution that has been designed to work seamlessly with various Linux distributions.

OpenVPN is an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced users, as it offers a balance between security, privacy, and ease of use. It supports SSL/TLS for key exchange, making it highly secure and reliable. Additionally, the software provides flexibility in terms of authentication methods, including certificate-based and username/password-based authentication.

Setting up an OpenVPN server requires some initial configuration, such as creating a Certificate Authority (CA) and generating certificates and keys for the server and clients. Fortunately, there are detailed guides available online that can help you through the entire process.

Apart from OpenVPN, there are other VPN server software options available, such as StrongSwan and SoftEther, which offer different features and capabilities. However, OpenVPN is often regarded as the gold standard due to its robust security, extensive documentation, and active community support.

When choosing a VPN server software, consider the software’s compatibility with your Linux distribution, security features, ease of use, and the level of support available from the developer and community. Ultimately, the choice of software will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Remember, setting up a VPN server on Linux allows you to create a private network that encrypts your data, protects your privacy, and provides a secure tunnel to access the internet. By using a reliable VPN server software like OpenVPN, you can enjoy the benefits of a strong and secure connection.

System Requirements and Setup

Before you begin setting up a VPN server on Linux, it’s crucial to understand the system requirements and necessary steps involved. This guide focuses on setting up a VPN server on Ubuntu, Debian, and CentOS environments.

First, you need a server running one of the aforementioned Linux operating systems. To ensure optimal performance, ensure your server has a sufficient amount of RAM and CPU resources. While it is possible to set up a VPN server on a laptop, it is advised to use a dedicated machine for better reliability and security. A private server is highly recommended to maintain control over your VPN server’s setup and maintain the privacy of your data.

For Ubuntu and Debian systems, an Ubuntu 20.04 or Debian 10 server is ideal. Similarly, CentOS 7 or 8 is recommended for CentOS environments. Ensure that your server has a sudo non-root user and a firewall enabled (see this guide for setting that up). It’s also important to have a stable internet connection and a valid domain name pointing to your server IP address.

Once you have met the system requirements, follow these steps to set up your VPN server on Linux:

  1. Update your system: Begin by ensuring your system is up-to-date. In the terminal, run the following commands:

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get upgrade

    For CentOS, replace apt-get with yum.

  2. Install OpenVPN: Next, you’ll need to install OpenVPN, which you can do using the instructions here.

  3. Configure the VPN Server: After installing OpenVPN, you’ll need to configure the server according to your network requirements. Check out this guide for an in-depth tutorial on configuring OpenVPN and establishing VPN connections from different devices.

By following these steps and ensuring your system meets the necessary requirements, you’ll have a VPN server up and running on your Linux system. Keep in mind that regular maintenance and updates are crucial to ensure the security and performance of your VPN server.

Installation of OpenVPN Server on Linux

Setting up an OpenVPN server on Linux requires a few basic steps, such as obtaining root access, using sudo privileges, and running an installation script. Having a VPN server allows you to securely access the internet from various devices, protecting your data on untrusted networks.

To begin the installation process, first ensure you have root access to your Linux server. Root access is necessary for installing and configuring the OpenVPN server, as it grants you administrative privileges. If you don’t have root access, you can use sudo privileges to perform the necessary tasks.

Once you have the appropriate privileges, download the OpenVPN installation script, which will automate the process of setting up the VPN server. An example of a popular installation script can be found on DigitalOcean. Download and run the script, following the on-screen instructions.

The installation script will guide you through selecting the desired VPN protocol. OpenVPN supports both TCP and UDP protocols, which cater to different user requirements. Usually, UDP is the recommended option because it’s faster, whereas TCP support is provided for cases where the network restricts UDP connections.

After the installation process is completed, the OpenVPN server will be up and running. You can then configure it further to suit your needs, such as adding user accounts, connecting devices, and setting up network tunneling. The OpenVPN documentation provides comprehensive guides on customizing various aspects of your VPN server.

In summary, installing an OpenVPN server on Linux requires root access or sudo privileges, running an installation script, and selecting the appropriate VPN protocol. Once set up, the VPN server allows for secure and private internet access on various devices, safeguarding your data on untrusted networks.

Understanding IP Configuration

When setting up a VPN server on Linux, it is essential to have a clear understanding of IP configuration. The IP address plays a crucial role in the configuration process, as it helps identify devices on a network and enables secure communication. IPv4 and IPv6 are the two versions of IP addresses that exist today. IPv4, the most common protocol, uses 32-bit addresses, while IPv6 employs 128-bit addresses to tackle the shortage of unique IP addresses.

IP forwarding is an essential aspect of VPN configuration, as it allows a Linux system to pass network traffic between multiple interfaces. To enable IP forwarding, you should adjust the system’s settings accordingly. This process is vital in ensuring that the VPN server can route traffic among different networks and clients.

An IP leak is a potential security risk that can occur when using a VPN. IP leaks expose a user’s real IP address, compromising their privacy and security. To protect against IP leaks, it is crucial to configure the VPN server correctly and test if the VPN is working as intended. This process ensures that the user’s real IP address remains hidden from any websites, services, or hackers who may be attempting to access it.

In summary, configuring a VPN server on Linux requires a solid understanding of IP addresses, IP forwarding, and avoiding IP leaks. By being knowledgeable about IPv4 and IPv6, ensuring IP forwarding is enabled, and taking precautions to protect against IP leaks, you can create a secure and efficient VPN server that safeguards user privacy and data-security.

Configuration of VPN Server

To configure an OpenVPN server on Linux, there are a few essential components you should be aware of: configuration file, location, firewall, command line, network manager, distros, and .ovpn file. This section will cover these elements to help you set up your VPN server efficiently.

The configuration file in an OpenVPN server defines the settings of your server, such as the tunnel type, encryption methods, and network details. This file is typically located at /etc/openvpn/server.conf. It’s essential to edit this file to match your desired server settings and security measures.

After configuring the server file, you’ll need to work with your firewall to ensure that your VPN traffic can flow without any hindrances. To do this, you can use ufw or iptables, which are both command line tools for managing firewalls in Linux. Make sure to open the appropriate ports for your VPN server, typically TCP 443 and UDP 1194.

Linux distributions, or distros, come with various in-built tools for managing network settings. Network Manager is one such tool that helps in configuring and managing VPN connections. You’ll find it pre-installed on popular Linux distros like Ubuntu, Fedora, and Debian. You can use Network Manager’s graphical interface or command-line utility, nmcli, to manage VPN settings.

Once you have your VPN server up and running, you’ll need to create .ovpn files for clients to connect to your server. These files contain the client’s configuration settings, including details about the server’s IP address, port, and security certificates. To generate an .ovpn file, use the easyrsa or openvpn-ectl command line utilities.

In summary, configuring a VPN server in Linux involves editing the configuration file, managing the firewall, using tools like Network Manager, and creating .ovpn files for clients. Ensure that you maintain a confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear tone of voice throughout the process.

Security Measures for VPN Server

Setting up a secure VPN server on Linux requires careful configuration and implementation of security measures. These measures include proper handling of certificate authorities (CA), maintaining encrypted connections, and configuring firewalls, among others.

The foundation of a secure VPN server lies in its Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). To set up the PKI, you need to use a certificate authority to create and manage certificates for the server and its clients. OpenSSL is a popular tool for this purpose. The server and client certificates ensure mutual authentication and enable encrypted communication over the VPN tunnel.

Another important aspect of VPN security is the encryption protocols used. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) provide strong encryption for the VPN traffic. By selecting a proper cipher suite and key exchange method, you can ensure that your VPN connection remains encrypted and protected from eavesdropping.

DNS leaks can pose a risk to the privacy of your VPN connections, so it’s essential to configure your VPN server and clients to use secure DNS settings. By using a private DNS server or implementing DNS over HTTPS, you can prevent any information leakage in your VPN connections.

Firewalls play a crucial role in securing your VPN server. By configuring a robust firewall on both the server and client side, you can restrict incoming and outgoing traffic, ensuring only authorized connections are allowed. This is particularly important to protect against unauthorized access to your private network.

When configuring the server, it’s important to grant sudo privileges only to the required users or processes. This limits the potential for privilege escalation attacks and helps maintain the integrity of the server.

Client-side security measures include setting strong and unique passwords for each user and implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) when necessary. This helps prevent unauthorized access to the VPN server through a compromised client account.

Additionally, you should perform regular leak tests to check for any issues or vulnerabilities in your VPN configuration. This helps identify potential security risks and lets you address them in a timely manner.

In summary, to set up and maintain a secure VPN server on Linux, it’s essential to employ robust certificate management, encrypted connections, proper DNS configurations, strong firewalls, and strict access control. By diligently implementing these security measures, you can create a stable and secure VPN environment for your private network.

Setting up DNS Server

Before setting up your VPN server on Linux, it’s important to configure your DNS server properly. DNS, or Domain Name System, translates domain names into IP addresses, allowing you to access websites and services without knowing their numerical addresses.

One common approach to setting up a DNS server on a Linux machine is using the resolv.conf file. This file contains configuration information that is read by the resolver routines the first time they are invoked by a process. Each process requesting DNS will read the /etc/resolv.conf file over the library 1.

To configure your DNS server manually on Linux, open the resolv.conf file with a text editor such as nano or vim:

sudo nano /etc/resolv.conf

Replace any existing nameserver entries with the ones you want to use. For example, you could use OpenDNS’s nameservers:


Save the file and exit the editor. You may need to restart your network service for the changes to take effect.

Alternatively, you can use nmcli, a command-line tool for controlling NetworkManager, to configure DNS in IPv4 or IPv6. For example, to set the DNS server addresses for the “Wired connection 1” profile, you can use the following commands 2:

sudo nmcli connection modify "Wired connection 1" ipv4.dns ""
sudo nmcli connection modify "Wired connection 1" ipv6.dns "2606:4700:4700::1111"

Once your DNS server is configured, you can proceed with setting up your VPN server on Linux. By ensuring that your DNS settings are correct, you will help prevent potential issues with name resolution when connecting to your VPN network.

Remember to always keep your DNS server configuration up-to-date to maintain the best performance and security while browsing the internet or using your VPN connection.

Understanding and Managing Certificates

When setting up a VPN server on Linux, it is important to understand and manage the certificates involved in securing the communication between the server and clients. Certificates are digital documents used to prove the identity of the entities involved, and they play a crucial role in ensuring the security and privacy of the VPN connection.

The Certificate Authority (CA) is the central entity in a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that issues and manages digital certificates. The CA is responsible for creating, signing, and distributing the server and client certificates, which are used to establish trust between the VPN server and the client devices. The CA’s private key, or CA key, must be kept secret, as it is used to sign the certificates issued by the CA.

When setting up a VPN server on Linux, such as OpenVPN or StrongSwan, you will need to generate server and client certificates using a tool like EasyRSA. The process involves creating a unique private key for each entity – the server and each client.

The server certificate, signed by the CA, is used to prove the server’s identity to the clients. The server’s private key must be kept safe, as it is used to decrypt the data sent to it by the clients. On the other hand, the client certificate, also signed by the CA, is used to prove the client’s identity to the server. Each client must have a unique certificate and private key. To further enhance security, you can also use unique usernames and passwords for each client, or even employ a pre-shared static key, such as the ta.key used in OpenVPN.

To ensure secure key exchange, VPN servers use cryptographic algorithms like Diffie-Hellman to generate shared secret keys between the clients and the server. It is essential to generate Diffie-Hellman parameters for your VPN server to enable this secure communication.

When using a firewall like UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) on a Linux system, make sure to configure it appropriately to allow VPN traffic between the server and clients. By carefully managing your certificates and associated keys, you can create a secure VPN connection that keeps your data safe from potential threats.

Client Setup and Connection

Before we set up the client, make sure to have the necessary prerequisites: a client computer with an OpenVPN client installed, and the server’s .ovpn file. This file contains the configuration details needed to connect to the VPN server.

To begin, create a folder on the client computer to store all necessary files. You can call this folder “client” or any name of your choice. Inside the client folder, place the .ovpn file that you got from the server. This file will be used to import the VPN server settings into the OpenVPN client.

Open the OpenVPN client on your computer. The process might differ depending on the operating system; however, the main idea remains the same. Import the .ovpn file into the client by either clicking on the “Import” button or dragging and dropping the file into the application.

After importing the file, you should see the VPN server’s details appearing in the client’s main window (such as server address and connection type). To establish a secure connection with the server, click “Connect” or a similar button available in the client.

You will be prompted to enter the username and password. The username is the one you’ve set during the server configuration process, while the password should be strong and unique. Enter the credentials and click on “Connect” or “Login.” Wait a few moments as the connection is established.

Once connected, your client computer is now part of the VPN network. All internet traffic will be routed through the VPN server, ensuring a private and encrypted connection. If you wish to disconnect from the VPN, simply click “Disconnect” or a similar button within the OpenVPN client.

Remember to reconnect to the VPN every time you need a secure and private internet connection. The OpenVPN client makes this easy by saving your imported server and credentials, enabling you to connect with just a few clicks.

Testing the VPN Server

Once you have set up your Linux VPN server, it is essential to test its functionality and ensure it is working as expected. In this section, we will walk through the process of testing the VPN server.

First, connect to the VPN server using a client machine. This can be done using various tools or services available for different operating systems, such as NetworkManager for Linux. Make sure to configure the client with the appropriate settings, including the correct VPN server address and authentication credentials.

Upon establishing a successful connection, your client machine should now be part of the VPN tunnel. To verify this, you can check your client’s IP address using a tool like curl. Run the following command to check your public IP:


If the IP address displayed matches the VPN server’s IP address, it indicates that the VPN tunnel is active and working correctly.

Next, test the handling of both UDP and TCP traffic through the VPN tunnel. Since VPNs can operate over either UDP or TCP protocols, it is crucial to ensure that both types of traffic are correctly routed and transmitted. To test UDP traffic, you can use tools like iperf or netcat to send and receive data between the client machine and a test server. Similarly, for testing TCP traffic, use a tool like curl to access a website or download a file over the VPN connection.

When it comes to troubleshooting issues, be mindful of the differences between UDP and TCP. UDP traffic is connectionless and may not provide feedback in case of transmission errors, whereas TCP traffic operates over a reliable connection and will notify you of any issues during transmission.

Finally, monitor the VPN server’s logs to identify any issues or errors that may have occurred during the testing process. Logs can provide valuable insights into the server’s performance and may help pinpoint the root cause of any connection issues.

By thoroughly testing the VPN server and addressing any potential issues, you can ensure that the VPN is functioning properly, providing you with a secure and stable connection to traverse untrusted networks confidently and securely.

Case Studies and Use-Cases

Setting up a VPN server on Linux enables users to maintain their internet privacy and securely access resources on untrusted networks like public WiFi in coffee shops or hotels. Utilizing OpenVPN and Easy-RSA, it’s possible to create a secure VPN server on Ubuntu 20.04. This solution allows the addition of a VPN server to protect unencrypted HTTP traffic and ensures safe wireless logins.

Encrypting online transactions on a VPN server adds an extra layer of security, preventing third parties from intercepting sensitive information. By doing so, users can bypass geographical restrictions for accessing content, maintain a strong defense against ISP throttling, and evade potential censorship concerns.

Moreover, setting up a Linux VPN server using free VPN solutions such as OpenVPN Access Server or StrongSwan offers a cost-effective solution for businesses that seek to establish a secure network connection and protect their sensitive data.

For users who desire additional VPN protection on their smartphones, OpenVPN Client is available for Windows and macOS. With this, users can securely connect their laptops and mobile devices to the VPN server while accessing public WiFi networks.

In summary, implementing a VPN server on Linux provides an array of benefits from ensuring privacy on untrusted networks to circumvent geographical restrictions and censorship. By leveraging solutions such as OpenVPN Access Server, Easy-RSA, or StrongSwan on Linux systems like Ubuntu 20.04, users can take advantage of a secure, private, and cost-effective VPN solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I set up an OpenVPN server on Ubuntu?

To set up an OpenVPN server on Ubuntu, you’ll need to install OpenVPN and Easy-RSA. Easy-RSA is a public key infrastructure (PKI) management tool used to generate a certificate request. You can follow this tutorial for a detailed step-by-step guide.

What are the best VPN server software options for Linux?

Several VPN server software options are available for Linux, including:

  1. OpenVPN: A popular, open-source, and well-documented solution.
  2. WireGuard: A fast, lightweight, and modern VPN.
  3. SoftEther VPN: A multi-platform, multi-protocol VPN solution.

Choose the one that best suits your needs and technical expertise.

Are there any free VPN server solutions for Linux?

Yes, there are free VPN server solutions for Linux. OpenVPN and WireGuard are popular open-source options. You can set them up on a Linux server and gain secure access to your network without incurring additional costs.

How do I create a VPN between two computers using Linux?

To create a VPN between two Linux computers, you can use OpenVPN or any other VPN server software. Install the VPN server software on one computer and configure it as a server. Install the VPN client software on the other computer and configure it to connect to the server. Establish a connection between the two computers by configuring the appropriate authentication and encryption settings.

What steps are involved in setting up a VPN server on Linux?

Setting up a VPN server on Linux involves several steps:

  1. Choose a VPN server software (such as OpenVPN or WireGuard).
  2. Install the VPN server software on your Linux server.
  3. Configure the VPN server settings, including authentication, encryption, and network settings.
  4. Generate and install security certificates and keys for the server and clients.
  5. Configure the firewall to allow VPN traffic.
  6. Start the VPN server daemon and, if necessary, enable it to start automatically on boot.
  7. Install and configure VPN client software on the devices that need to connect to the VPN.

How do I configure a VPN server using Docker on Linux?

To configure a VPN server using Docker on Linux:

  1. Install Docker on your Linux server.
  2. Choose a VPN server software with available Docker images, such as OpenVPN.
  3. Follow the provided instructions to configure and deploy your VPN server as a Docker container.

Using Docker can simplify the process of setting up and managing a VPN server on Linux by isolating the application and its dependencies, making it easier to deploy, update, and maintain.




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