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How to Set Up a VPN Server?

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I. Introduction

A VPN or Virtual Private Network allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet. A VPN can give you online privacy and anonymity by hiding your original IP address and encryption of your data traffic.

A VPN server is the remote server that handles client connections to the VPN. By setting up your own VPN server, you have full control over your privacy and security rather than relying on a commercial VPN provider. You can also share access for friends and family to use the VPN.

This guide will cover how to easily setup a secure VPN server in the cloud leveraging Outline Manager software. We’ll outline considerations around choosing a hosting provider, installation steps, configuring administration access and other management essentials when operating your private VPN endpoint. Let’s get started!

II. Choosing a Cloud Provider

Outline Manager now integrates directly with major cloud platforms to simplify deploying your VPN architecture. You can compare offerings or use existing infrastructure.

Outline Manager Overview

Created by internet transparency non-profit Jigsaw, Outline Manager allows you to deploy and manage servers on multiple IaaS providers to run VPN access points secured via strengthened configurations and software-defined perimeters for safety.

The handy Outline Manager desktop app centralizes all aspects of overseeing infrastructure powering user VPN connections from billing to geographic positioning – optimizing potential server locations for best network tunnel performance to customers.

Cloud Hosting Options

Outline Manager streamlines launching required virtual machine instances on trusted large-scale public cloud networks like:

  • DigitalOcean – Simple cloud hosting platform focused on developer tools with data centers globally, SSH key access and IPv6 support. Offers $100 in free credits for new accounts to cover free tier monthly Droplet micro-instances sufficient for small VPNs.
  • AWS – Industry leading Infrastructure-as-a-Service from Amazon features advanced networking capabilities spanning regions worldwide and extensive instance types balancing capabilities with costs.
  • Vultr – Bare metal high performance cloud compute and storage designed for efficiency, scaling fast to meet resource demands with 17 data center regions currently across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
  • Google Cloud Platform – Google’s cloud division allowing leveraging their decades of networking infrastructure expertise applied for general purposes with extensive platform integrations, security protections and transparency.
  • Microsoft Azure – Enterprise-grade hybrid and hyper-scale cloud featuring 190+ global region pairs with high availability, developer services plus portal UI delivering simplified centralized control on services.
  • Linode – Specialist player providing high grade Linux VPS instances transparently priced matched with top tier customer support service track record and SLA uptimes.

Costs vary by provider, but low monthly charges around $5 USD regularly found making Outline VPN hosting affordable long term.

#III. Setting Up The VPN Server

With a hosting company chosen via Outline Manager for running infrastructure, we next tackle installing and configuring the Outline VPN capabilities.

Download Outline Manager

Head to https://getoutline.org/en/manager to grab install files for Windows, Mac and Linux systems. Launch the Outline Manager app once setup completes. This is where you’ll orchestrate your entire VPN.

Initiate Cloud Deployment

Click “Create New Outline Server” prompting embedded provider signup flows for DigitalOcean, AWS, GCP or other platforms. Follow simple prompts authorizing service account connections plus selecting hosting plan, region and server sizing options if applicable.

Many providers offer free tiers for testing before paid upgrades. Outline Manager handles software configurations automatically in the background.

Alternative: Manual Install

If going fully manual, order a VPS server from providers like Vultr, Contabo or Hetzner instead without integrated Outline signup pipelines. Ubuntu or Debian Linux OS recommended.

Install Docker

Once obtaining VPS credentials to access your new server instance directly via SSH or web terminal console, install Docker software container environment used for isolating Outline:

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# Update system packages first

sudo apt update

sudo apt upgrade -y

 

# Add GPG key for Docker repository 

curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo gpg –dearmor -o /etc/apt/keyrings/docker.gpg

 

# Add Docker repository entry

echo “deb [arch=$(dpkg –print-architecture) signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/docker.gpg] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu $(lsb_release -cs) stable” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null

 

# Install Docker

sudo apt update 

sudo apt install docker-ce

Deploy Outline Manager Containers

With Docker setup, pull Outline images and launch the maintained Docker Compose orchestration for production-ready environment:

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mkdir Outline 

cd Outline

sudo docker pull getoutline/manager:latest

sudo docker pull getoutline/shadowsocks-server:latest

sudo docker run –pull=always docker/compose:1.28.6

docker compose up -d

This handles all the VPN server optimizations. Monitor initialization until Outline admin dashboard appears on domain name configured during provisioning.

#IV. Managing VPN Access

Now that your private Outline VPN server stands configured granting you encrypted traffic tunneling access from Outline Apps – we want to provide access keys for friends/family to utilize the protection:

Generating User Access Keys

  1. Browse to your Outline server domain and login
  2. Click “User Access Keys” in the left navigation panel
  3. Hit the “+ Add Key” button
  4. Name the key for future reference
  5. Click save and copy shown keychain for distribution

This grants users ability to connect through your VPN’s IP address once configuring the access details inside their local Outline App instance.

Controlling Access

The “User Access Keys” panel includes further options around managing users:

– Set Data Thresholds – By editing keys, you can enable data usage limits that if hit by excessive activity, will disconnect user from the VPN server temporarily until reset by admin to restrict overburdening resource consumption.

– Key Revocation – Accidentally shared a key publicly or want to revoke access? Deleting assigned keys through the interface instantly applies updated permissions. No more connections from that key.

Overall, Outline Manager furnishes centralized console control covering geographic infrastructure selections to completing securing remote VPN server configurations and controlling end user access details all streamlined for simplified self-managed network privacy tunneling minus the typical hassles or command line changes imperative when wrangling server infrastructure.

V. Conclusion

In closing, when weighing solutions around constructing your own private VPN server against relying on centralized commercial providers – Outline Manager delivers an outstanding balance of power user features integrated alongside automated simplification ideal for moderate technical skill owners.

The ability to tap infrastructure services from top cloud networks worldwide furnishes reliable foundations for building out scale VPN access aligned with costs. No lengthy installations demands mucking about configuring Linux environments manually for average folks just wanting encrypted tunnel functionality immediately with their own equipment simply managed.

And the entire package connects capable self-hosting for common privacy conscious prosumers providing keys to friends/family interested while still safeguarding user data, since everything remains under complete control unlike big VPN players beholden worrying partnerships.

So if willing invest a little compared with freebie limitations but avoid getting lost down complex server administration rabbit holes – deploying Outline Manager lets nearly anyone craft high grade private VPN gateway access delivering that invaluable personal connection privacy so missing today. Give self-infrastructure a shot!