OK so you’ve got your VPS or Dedicated Server all setup and you’re ready to go. You’re welcome email lists your WHM login, your Cpanel login, and wait… what the hell is SSH? SSH stands for Secure Shell. It’s a way for you to login to your server and use the command line.
Now I know what you may be thinking… in the age of touch screens, command lines may seem goofy at first glance. But don’t be fooled. They’re super powerful and often the fastest way to do stuff on your server. This series of posts will cover how you can use SSH to do various tasks on your web server.
Before we begin, I want to be clear: I’m going to ignore all the junk you probably don’t care about and give you just the nuts and bolts so you can actually DO stuff. Or, at the very least, open your eyes to what’s possible when you HIRE someone else to DO stuff.
In this first installment, we’re going to cover the very basics. That means: getting an SSH client, logging in, and using your first command.
Getting an SSH client
In this case, a client is computer-ease for a program you run on your computer. To use SSH efficiently, we need some client software. For Windows, I recommend PuTTY, or it’s cooler cousin PuTTY tray. Both are free. There are other options, but I use PuTTY Tray myself. If you’ve got a Mac, this guy talks about using Terminal.
So go grab and install a client and let’s meet back here in 5. (I’m not going to show you how to download and install software. If you need that much help, you need to phone a friend.)
OK so once you have PuTTY up and running, you’re going to see a screen like this:
Enter your Host Name, Port, and then click Open. You’re probably going to get a message about your server host key. It’s OK to click “Yes” to trust this connection. When you see the login prompt, type in the login info you got from your hosting company. You should arrive at screen with a prompt like this:
A note about PuTTY’s copy & pasting behavior…
Putty does not allow you to use Ctrl-V to paste. So if you just tried to paste your password and it didn’t work, that’s why. To paste, you need right-click your mouse and the text on your clipboard will be pasted into the terminal window wherever the cursor is.
Your first command
Rub your hands together three times and then type:
(that means type the letter ‘l’, then ‘s’ and then hit the Enter key).
What’s going on here
Since it’s not completely obvious, let’s take a minute to discuss what’s going on here… Using an SSH Client (PuTTY) you’ve connected via SSH to your web server. You typed in the command ‘ls’ and then hit Enter. Your server responded back with directory listing.
So basically, the SSH client lets you control your server remotely, just as if you were sitting in front of it with a keyboard attached. (BTW, your web server almost certainly does NOT have a keyboard attached 😉 … unless your server is at Beyond Hosting where all servers include a free joystick as well. )
Nice job. You’ve logged in and typed your first command. Are you winded?
That’s enough for today. In the next post, we’ll learn how to navigate around and find out where stuff like your web pages are stored. Stay tuned!