How to host a NodeJS app on an EC2 Ubuntu Server

This post takes you through the process of setting up your first server on an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Ubuntu Server.

Sign up for Amazon Web Services Free Tier

  • Tip: Sign up with a new email if your account is older than a year.

Create a New Key Pair or Upload an SSH Public Key

  • Visit AWS ssh key pairs
  • I have found that it’s easier to upload a public key that you’ve created on your own machine. Visit Github Help if you need help creating your own public/private key pair.

Find and launch an AMI

  • Google AWS Marketplace
  • Search for Ubuntu
  • I chose this 64 bit image. For this tutorial, you should too.
  • Click the big, yellow continue button
  • Accept default options, except:
    • Make sure that t1-micro is selected in EC2 Instance Type
  • Launch with 1-Click

Connect to your EC2 Machine Instance

  • Visit your EC2 Dashboard
  • Instance state will be “running” eventually
  • Find Public IP column and note address
  • ssh ubuntu@PUBLIC-IP-ADDRES
    • make an A record on your domain in Route 53 for convenience

Install Prerequisites and Common Package

The -y option is helpful because apt won’t for wait for you to press ‘y’; it will just install the packages. This is very helpful when you’re trying to script this entire process.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install -y build-essential g++ tmux

Install Node, Build from Source

curl -O
tar -xvzf node-v0.10.29.tar.gz
cd node-v0.10.29
./configure --prefix=/opt/node
sudo mkdir -p /opt/node
sudo chown -R ubuntu.ubuntu /opt/node
make install

Add Node to your path in ~/.bashrc:

 echo "export PATH=/opt/node/bin:$PATH" >> ~/.bashrc

Then reload .bashrc.

source ~/.bashrc

Double check to see that Node is in your path:

which node => should be /opt/node/bin/node

Now, we need to add Node to root’s path too. To do this, we will need to use the visudo command to edit the secure path.

sudo visudo

Edit your Defaults secure_path= line, around the third line to look like:

 Defaults secure_path="/usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin:/opt/node/bin"`

The key here is to put the path to Node at the end of the secure path.

Go ahead and save the file.

Install the Latest MongoDB

Follow these directions on Mongodb.

To summarize:

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv 7F0CEB10
echo 'deb dist 10gen' | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mongodb.list
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mongodb-org

Install the Latest Redis

Luckily, Chris Lea keeps an up-to-date Ubuntu PPA available.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chris-lea/redis-server
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install redis-server -y

Install the Latest Git

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:git-core/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git -y

Test MongoDB is running

show dbs
  • ctrl-d to exit

Test Redis is running

  • redis-cli ping --> should see PONG

A Neat Trick to Find the External IP

You can always find the External IP address of your server in the EC2 Dashboard, but I frequently use this shortcut from the command line:



I mean, install Bower and any other global npm packages that you use frequently.

npm -g install bower grunt-cli

Clone Your App and Install npm and Bower Packages

I’ll use one of our example apps.

Make sure that you’re in the Ubuntu home directory: /home/ubuntu

git clone notes
cd notes
npm install && bower install

Launch the server on Port 80

To launch your app and bind on any port under 1000, you need to use sudo to escalate to root privilege.

sudo -i
PORT=80 node server.js

Visit the site http://YOUR-IP-HERE

This will do in a pinch, but it’s not a professional setup. What happens if your server reboots? You want something to re-start the server automatically.

Install the Forever NPM Package

npm -g install forever Forever is a simple CLI tool for ensuring that a given script runs continuously.

Create /etc/init/notes.conf

You can always use nano if you are afraid of Vim.


start on startup
stop on shutdown

expect fork

  exec forever start /home/ubuntu/notes/server.js
end script

pre-stop script
  exec forever stop /home/ubuntu/notes/server.js
end script

Then sudo start notes to start the app.

You can use use sudo status notes to see the status of the service.

There you go! You’ve successfully set up your first server on an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) Ubuntu Server.

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