Connect to a server by using SSH on Linux or Mac OS X

This article provides steps for connecting to a cloud server from a computer running Linux or Mac OS X by using SSH. It also discusses generating an SSH key and adding a public key to the server.


Secure Shell (SSH) is a protocol through which you can access your cloud server and run shell commands. You can use SSH keys to identify trusted computers without the need for passwords, and to interact with your servers.

SSH is encrypted with SSL, which makes it difficult for these communications to be intercepted and read.

Note: Many of the commands in this article must be run on your local computer. The default commands listed are for the Linux command line or Mac OS X Terminal. To make SSH connections from Windows, you can use a free program called PuTTY. To generate keys, you can use a related program, PuTTYGen.

Log in

Using the IP address and password for your cloud server, log in by running the ssh command with username@ipaddress as the argument.

ssh root@ 

You are prompted to enter the password for the account to which you’re connecting.

Remote host identification

If you rebuilt your cloud server, you might get the following message:


One of the security features of SSH is that when you log in to a cloud server, the remote host has its own key that identifies it. When you try to connect, your SSH client checks the server’s key against any keys that it has saved from previous connections to that IP address. When you rebuild a cloud server, that remote host key changes, so your computer warns you of possibly suspicious activity.

To ensure the security of your server, you can use the web console in the Cloud Control Panel to verify your server’s new key. If you’re confident that you aren’t being spoofed, you can skip that step and delete the record of the old SSH host key as follows:

On your local computer, edit the SSH known_hosts file and remove any lines that start with your cloud server’s IP address.

nano ~/.ssh/known_hosts 

If you are not using Linux or Mac OS X on your local computer, the location of the known_hosts file might differ. Refer to your OS for information about the file location. PuTTY on Windows gives you the option of replacing the saved host key.

Generate a new SSH key pair

You can secure SSH access to your cloud server against brute force password attacks by using a public-private key pair. A public key is placed on the server and a matching private key is placed on your local computer. If you configure SSH on your server to accept only connections using keys, then no one else can log in by using just a password. Connecting clients are required to use a private key that has a public key registered on the server.

  • Run the following command using your email address as a label. Substitute your email address for in the command.

    ssh-keygen -t rsa -C "" 

    A message indicates that your public-private RSA key pair is being generated.

    You are prompted to enter a file in which to save the key. Press Enter to use the default location.

  • If you want the additional security of a password for the key pair, enter a passphrase. If you don’t want to use a password with the key pair, press Enter to continue without setting one.

    Your key pair is generated, and the output looks as follows:

    Your identification has been saved in /LocalFileLocation/id_rsa. Your public key has been saved in /LocalFileLocation/ The key fingerprint is: 01:0f:f4:3b:ca:85:d6:17:a1:7d:f0:68:9d:f0:a2:db 
  • Optionally, add your new key to the local ssh-agent file to enable SSH to find your key without the need to specify its location every time that you connect:

    ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa 

    You can use an SSH configuration shortcut instead of the ssh-agent file by following the instructions in the “Shortcut configuration” section later in this article.

Add the public key to your cloud account

To make it easy to add your key to the new cloud servers you create, upload the public key to your cloud account by following these steps:

  • Log in to the Cloud Control Panel.
  • From the Servers menu, select SSH Keys.
  • Click Add Public Key.
  • Enter a key name to remind you which computer this key is for; for example, Work Laptop.
  • Select the region for which you want to store the public key. To store your key in multiple regions, repeat these steps for each region. The key must reside in the same region as the server.
  • Paste the contents of the file that you created into the Public Key field. You can get the file contents by either opening the file in a text editor or by running the following command:

    cat ~/.ssh/ 
  • Click Add Public Key.

Create a new server by using a stored key

When you create a new cloud server, you can add a stored key to the new server.

  • On the Create Server page, expand the Advanced Options section.

  • From the SSH Key menu, select your key from the list.

  • If you don’t see a stored key in the list, you can perform one of the following actions:

    • Switch the region for the new server to the region where you have stored the SSH key.
    • Repeat the steps in the preceding section, “Add the public key to your cloud account,” to add the key to the region in which you want to create the new server.

Add the key to an existing server

You can’t use the Cloud Control Panel to add a public key to an existing server. Follow these steps to add the key manually:

  • On your cloud server, create a directory named .ssh in the home folder of the account to which you will connect via SSH.

    mkdir -p ~/.ssh 
  • Create or edit the authorized_keys file and add your public key to the list of authorized keys.

    nano ~/.ssh/authorized_keys 

    A key is all on one line, so ensure that the key isn’t broken by line breaks. You can have multiple keys in the authorized_keys file, with one key per line.

  • Set the correct permissions on the key.

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

After you have added the public key to the authorized_keys, you can make an SSH connection by using your key pair instead of the account password.

Shortcut configuration

You can set up a connection shortcut by creating a ~/.ssh/config file on your local computer and adding your server and key details to it.

  • Using a text editor, add the following text to the ~/.ssh/config file, changing the values to match your server information:

    Host shortcutName 
    HostName serverAddressOrIPAddress 
    User remoteUsername 
    IdentityFile /path/to/appropriate/ssh/rsa/private/key 

    Each entry describes a feature of the server:

    • Host: A shortcut name that you will use to tell SSH to use this connection
    • HostName: The address of the server to which you will connect
    • User: The name of the user account to connect to on the server
    • IdentityFile: The location of the private key file (id_rsa)
  • After you set up the config file, connect to the server by using your shortcut name with SSH, as follows:

    ssh shortcutName 


If you have trouble making a new connection after you restart the server, use the following steps to help you resolve the issue:

  • If you get a connection timeout error, check the IP address that you used to ensure that it’s correct. You might also check the server’s iptables to ensure that it isn’t blocking the port used by SSH.
  • If you get a connection refused error, you might be trying to use SSH with the wrong port. If you changed your server to listen to a port other than 22, use the -p option with SSH to specify the port.
  • If your login is rejected, then you might have an issue with your key. Change the sshd configuration to allow password connections by setting PasswordAuthentication to yes. Restart the server and try again. If you connect after these changes, then the issue is with the key and you must verify that the key is in the right place on the server.
  • If all else fails, review your changes and restart the SSH daemon on the server by running the following command:

    sudo service ssh restart 

    If you get a message that the SSH service is unknown, run the command with sshd as the service name instead.


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