Preparing The Server

When you purchase a VPS or a server from a hosting company, they usually give you an IP address and root account access. Before you can deploy your application to server, you will need to secure the server and install necessary tools on server.

Steps mentioned in this document are performed on Ubuntu 14.04 server edition on a DigitalOcean VPS server.

Securing the server

Securing a server is a continuous process as new vulnerabilities are discovered everyday. But you will be relatively safe if you take some basic security measures like locking root access, not allowing password authentication, setting up a basic firewall and log watching mechanism and enabling automatic updates.

1. Login as root and update package list and upgrade tools.

apt-get update
apt-get upgrade

2. Change root password

Change root password to something long and complex and note it somewhere. We are not going to use root account.


3. Create deploy user

We will be using deploy user to peform all of our deploy activities.

adduser deploy

4. Give root privileges to deploy user

Open sudoers file using visudo command.

Add the following line to sudoers file.

deploy      ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

5. Test deploy account

Test deploy user by switching user account and issuing some commands that require superuser access.

su deploy
sudo apt-get updates

6. Enabling passwordless logins to deploy account

Add your ssh key to authorized_keys on server so that you can login without passwords.

Run the following command from your dev machine.

ssh-copy-id deploy@SERVER-IP

7. Secure SSH and Lockdown SSH

Standard port for SSH is 22 and most attackers attack on that port. Change it to some random port number to increase security.

Also, restrict root login and password authentication.

Open sshd_config

sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config

and make the following changes -

Port 23432
PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no

8. Setup firewall

Ubuntu comes with ufw - a nice utility to configure firewall.

Only allow the ports you are planning to use.

ufw allow 80
ufw allow 443
ufw allow 23432

9. Install fail2ban

fail2ban monitors your log files and ban hosts that cause multiple authentication errors.

sudo apt-get install fail2ban

Default configuration is enough.

10. Install and setup logwatch to monitor intrusion attempts

Logwatch is a log analysis system. You can configure it to mail log analysis reports.

Install logwatch

sudo apt-get install logwatch

Setup a cron task for logwatch to mail you its daily reports

sudo vim /etc/cron.daily/00logwatch 

add the following line:

/usr/sbin/logwatch --output mail --mailto --detail high

11. Enable automatic security updates

After heartbleed and shellshock bugs, it makes sense to have automatic security updates enabled.

Install unattended-upgrades

apt-get install unattended-upgrades

vim /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/10periodic

Edit the file to look like this -

APT::Periodic::Update-Package-Lists "1";
APT::Periodic::Download-Upgradeable-Packages "1";
APT::Periodic::AutocleanInterval "7";
APT::Periodic::Unattended-Upgrade "1";

Install and setup your git account

Install git -

sudo apt-get install git

Generate your ssh key and upload it to your git host (Github/Bitbucket). Make sure everything works.

Install ruby and other build tools

We will install ruby using rbenv. Checkout rbenv’s readme file for more details

1. Install rbenv -

# Checkout rbenv into ~/.rbenv

git clone ~/.rbenv

# Add ~/.rbenv/bin to your $PATH for access to the rbenv command-line

echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile

2. Install necessary build tools -

sudo apt-get install curl autoconf bison build-essential libssl-dev 
libyaml-dev libreadline6-dev zlib1g-dev libncurses5-dev

3. Install ruby-build -

git clone ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build

4. Install ruby (see available definitions) -

rbenv install 2.1.0

# set global ruby version

rbenv global 2.1.0

6. Install bundler to manage gems

gem install bundler

Install Apache and Passenger

1. Install Apache

sudo apt-get install apache

2. Install Passenger gem

gem install passenger

3. Install Passenger module for Apache


Follow the instructions. Leave the create a virtual host part. We will deal with it later.

Install and setup database

A. Instructions for MySQL

1. Install MySQL

sudo apt-get install mysql-server

2. Install dev libs for mysql2 gem

sudo apt-get install mysql-client libmysqlclient-dev

3. Secure MySQL installation


This utility secures MySQL installation by setting root password, removing anonymous accounts and removing other unnecessary privileges.

4. Create database and database user

Connect to database using MySQL client

mysql -u root -p

Create a new database for your Rails application

create database myapp_database;

Create a new user with local access

CREATE USER 'rails_application_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'PASS';

Grant database privileges to new user and flush privileges

GRANT ALL ON myapp_database.* TO 'rails_application_user'@'localhost';

Flush privileges


B. Instructions for PostgreSQL

1. Install PostgreSQL

sudo apt-get install postgresql-9.3 pgadmin3

2. Install dev lib for pg gem

sudo apt-get install libpq-dev

3. Configure and Secure PostgreSQL installation

Change the default postgres user password

# Issue the following command

sudo -u postgres psql postgres

# Change password in postgres console

\password postgres

Configure PostgreSQL to accept local connections using password authentication (md5 encrypted)

Open hba file -

sudo nano /etc/postgresql/9.3/main/pg_hba.conf

And change the following line -

host    all             all               trust


host    all             all               md5

Restart PostgreSQL service

sudo service postgresql restart

4. Create database and database user

Create user

CREATE USER myapp_database_user WITH PASSWORD 'pwd';

Create database with new user as its owner

CREATE DATABASE myapp_database OWNER myapp_database_user;

Directory structure

Create a directory for your rails application. Some people prefer to put it in /var/www directory while some prefer putting it in home directory.

I prefer deploying to home directory.

mkdir home/deploy/apps/myapp

Since we will be using capistrano to deploy our application, we will also create releases and shared directories inside our application folder.

cd ~/apps/myapp
mkdir releases shared

Now is probably the right time to put your database.yml file and other production config files in shared folder.

In next section, we will create a deploy script using capistrano and deploy code to server.