Published Jan 16, 2019 / 3 min read

How to talk to a remote server via secure shell?

Secure shell (ssh) is a network protocol that empowers you to communicate securely with a remote server. Once the configuration is done you simply hit ssh hostname into your command line to access your remote server. Optionally you may secure your bash execution with an additional password.

Create your public/private key pair

It is good practice to store your keys in an .ssh directory within your home route. This way you may store all keys at a central location.

// switch to home and create .ssh directory
cd 
mkdir .ssh

The keys are generated with ssh-keygen command. You have the following options with this command:

// switch to your .ssh directory 
cd .ssh
// determine type and bit of your key
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096

If you have not provided a specific path and name, you should find within your .ssh directory 2 files:

Configure your ssh connections

Create a config file within your .ssh directory to customize the ssh command for a specific server connection.

// create a config file with .ssh directory 
cd .ssh
touch config

Use a text editor of your choice (e.g. nano, vim) and open the config file (e.g. nano config) and enter the following information into the file:

Host: clientname
    Hostname: xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
    User: ssh user name
    IdentityFile: ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Copy public key to your server

The last step you need to do is to copy the public key to your server you want to connect with. Therefore we use the ssh-copy-id command and need to provide the path to your private key (if you execute the command from .ssh directory you only need to provide the name) and the specified host (see step 2).

To copy the public key to the server you will be asked to enter the password to connect to the server.

// switch to your.ssh directory
cd .ssh

// copy public key to server
ssh-copy-id -i id_rsa.pub host

After a successful copy of your public key you may connect to your server simply with the following command: ssh host

Further reading