SSH Basics, Part I: Accessing Your Server via SSH

Many of us use FTP to transfer and modify files server side. In most cases it’s just fine. However, there are situations where you need something more powerful. That’s where SSH (Secure Shell) comes in. SSH will allow you to bulk rename, find, move and copy files, and much more. All with a few simple commands.

Just a heads up: This is not an article on root access (complete control over everything on the server). If you are a ServInt customer and need root access to your VPS, you need to contact the MST so we can enable it. We deliver your server with root access disabled by default in order to keep your server secure. If you’d like to know more about root access, click here.

Accessing your server

Most of you are using cPanel. Fortunately for you, cPanel automatically sets up the user to be SSH ready when you create the account in WHM. Here are the directions to double check, which I suggest doing to familiarize yourself with the interface/tool:

cPanel users

I’m visual, and I hope you are too, so here is a picture:


The photo shows us using the search tool in the top left of WHM to find Manage Shell Access. This is the tool we need to use to check if the user actually has shell access or not. Just pop into Manage Shell Access and make sure Normal Shell is selected for the user.

No-panel users

So you decided to go with no control panel. If you did and you’re reading this article, you probably want to reconsider things. You should actually know how to SSH in already and even set up users. If you don’t know how, you can read all about cPanel here and submit a ticket in your customer Portal to have the MST switch you over.

Logging into your server via SSH

Once you are sure SSH access has been activated on your server, the next step is to log in.

To log into your VPS from an Intel-based (newer) Mac:

  1. Open the Terminal application (Utilities).
  2. On the command line, enter the ssh command followed by your server’s name and the user you will log in as:
My-MacBook:~ User$ ssh
  1. When prompted, enter your cPanel user’s password.

To log into your VPS from a Windows machine:

  1. You will need a program such as PuTTY. Download and install it.
  2. Open PuTTY.
  3. enter your server name in the Host Name box.
  4. Select the SSH button (this will automatically set the port to the default: port 22.)
  5. Click Open.
  6. A terminal window opens with a login prompt. Enter your cPanel User
  7. When prompted, enter your cpanel user’s password.

That’s it! You’re in!

You’re probably asking, “What now?” right? Stay tuned for my next article on common and useful commands in SSH.

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  1. Whoops, I just now noticed there is already a post about SSH keys Charley. Here you go!
  2. Hey Charley, that will be covered in my SSH Basics Part 3, which won't be released for a while. It's more of an advanced feature of SSH than the basics. Keep an eye out for the article!
  3. Thanks for the article, but could you please provide links regarding how we should configure cpanel if we prefer to use private keys for login?
  4. Get started today using #SSH to access your server on the command line. @ConnarPierce on the #TechBench.
  5. RT @servint: Learning command line server access via #SSH starts here, with ServInt's @ConnarPierce, in the #TechBench.…
  6. Learning command line server access via #SSH starts here, with ServInt's @ConnarPierce, in the #TechBench.
  7. ServInt's @ConnarPierce on how to log into your server on the command line via #SSH, in this week's #TechBench.
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