How to set up your own cloud-based code editor

How to set up your own cloud-based code editor

I like my website to be lightweight and static, which is one of the reasons I stuck with Jekyll! One of the pros is being able to write articles in Markdown which I find quicker, easier and less distracting than Google Docs, Word or even LaTeX.

I also like to have full control over my website and my server, which is why I set up Jekyll in a dedicated server through a cheap hosting service and my own domain from Google Domains.

When self-hosting your website however, adding new posts or even making small changes to your website can be rather time consuming. This is especially true when working from different machines.

I eventually came across Coder and the free cloud-editing service behind it code-server.

Getting your dedicated server up and running

Self hosting

After some research I ended up going with Vultr as a hosting provider. Being mine a static, lightweight website, I do not really need a powerful server with lots of space.

Geekbench ScoreStorageCPUMemoryBandwidthMonthly Price *Hourly Price *
N/A10 GB SSD1 CPU0.5 GB0.50 TBIPv6$2.50$0.00
N/A10 GB SSD1 CPU0.5 GB0.50 TB$3.50$0.01
241325 GB SSD1 CPU1 GB1 TB$5.00$0.01

I opted for the last option with 25gb SSD and 1GB of RAM which is fairly cheap at AU$ 5 per month.


In order to make your website secure and trusted you need to set up SSL and HTTPS, and this can only be done with a domain and not with pure IP addresses.

I chose Google Domains in this case as it is fairly cheap and managing DNS records is easy.

Once you set up your domain you can also set up your subdomain for whatever services you might need. This is what my DNS records table look like:

Host nameTypeTTLData
gmarini.comA1 hour45.76.124.120
*.code.gmarini.comA1 hour45.76.124.120
code.gmarini.comA1 hour45.76.124.120
www.gmarini.comCNAME1 hour@.
www.code.gmarini.comA1 hour45.76.124.120

DNSSEC is disabled and I am using Google Domains servers.

Setting up your server

Now it’s time to set up your server and environment. The first thing you want to do is to set up SSH.

Setting up SSH access

HEADS UP: NEVER share your SSH public and/or private keys on the internet! The keys down here have been generated for the purpose of this tutorial and promptly discarded!

This will differ depending on your provider. On Vultr you can go to, click on the “+” button and then “Add SSH Key”. Give it a name to remind you what is the key for, something like vultr-server-blog.

Now you need to create your SSH key, I found this guide fairly simple and straight to the point Create an SSH Key with OpenSSH.

In short:

  • Open PowerShell
  • Type in ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
  • Confirm the file location
  • Enter a passphrase for your key
  • Enter the same passphrase again
PS C:\Users\Giaga> ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (C:\Users\Giaga/.ssh/id_rsa):
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in C:\Users\Giaga/.ssh/id_rsa
Your public key has been saved in C:\Users\Giaga/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 4096]----+
|     .o . .+*B.  |
|     . = o.+X..  |
|      *  Eo+o+ ..|
|     + o. .*o  ..|
|    . o S.B.+ .  |
|       +o= B .   |
|      ..o.B      |
|       o.o       |
|        ..       |

Now it’s usually a good idea to make a backup of the private key as they cannot be recovered if lost! Copy the file somewhere safe, possibly NOT on the cloud!

You can now get your public key from the PowerShell by typing:

(base) PS C:\Users\Giaga> type $env:USERPROFILE\.ssh\
ssh-rsa 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

Copy everything from ssh-rsa to your email included and paste it onto the textbox from the previous point.

That’s it! You can now test your SSH on your PowerShell with

(base) PS C:\Users\Giaga> ssh -i C:\Users\Giaga/.ssh/id_rsa username@123.45.678.910
username@123.45.678.910's password:

If you had already set up your domain and DNS you can also start an SSH session using your domain:

(base) PS C:\Users\Giaga> ssh -i C:\Users\Giaga/.ssh/id_rsa
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
This host key is known by the following other names/addresses:
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ED25519) to the list of known hosts.

Setting up NGINX and code-server

The two most popular choices for web servers are apache and nginx. I have tried them both but personally I find nginx easier to deal with and more intuitive.

Installing nginx is relatively simple:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nginx

You can then adjust the Firewall rules with ufw. First list all available apps:

username@vultr-server:~$ sudo ufw app list
[sudo] password for username:
Available applications:
  Nginx Full
  Nginx HTTP
  Nginx HTTPS

Then allow the ones you need:

sudo ufw allow 'Nginx HTTP'
sudo ufw allow 'Nginx HTTPS'

You can always manage the status of nginx with:

sudo systemctl status nginx
sudo systemctl start nginx
sudo systemctl stop nginx
sudo systemctl restart nginx
sudo systemctl reload nginx
sudo systemctl enable nginx
sudo systemctl disable nginx

Configuring NGINX

Once NGINX is set up you can start serving your own static website by pointing at the folder with the file index.html.

The way NGINX works is by using configuration files contained in two main folders sites-available and sites-enabled.

The usual process is this:

  • Create a new configuration file for your wite in the sites-available folder
sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/
  • Edit your configuration to point to your website’s root folder. E.g.:
server {
        listen 80;
        listen [::]:80;

        root /var/www/;
        index index.html index.htm index.nginx-debian.html;


        location / {
                try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
  • Create a symlink to the file you just created into the sites-enabled folder
sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/ /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/
  • Test your file to make sure there are no errors:
sudo nginx -t
  • Restart nginx:
sudo systemctl restart nginx

Setting up code-server

Now that you know how to configure NGINX is time to set up Visual Studio Code! While Visual Studio Code is not officially made to be run in a browser, the fact that it’s developed on top of GitHub’s Electron means that it is pretty much a webapp itself. In fact VScode uses Chromium engine for rendering and node.js to handle local APIs, making it easily portable to the web!

As explained in the intro, a web port of VSCode called code-server can be found here.

So first things first, let’s install code-server by using the official install script:

curl -fsSL | sh

The documentation is quite detailed and well done! For reference, the next two steps are a quick summary of these two bits:

  1. Expose code-server
  2. HTTPS and self-signed certificates

Configuring code-server

Code-server uses password authentication by default. The password can be find in its config file located at ~/.config/code-server/config.yaml We can also set the binding address and port.

sudo nano `~/.config/code-server/config.yaml`

My config file looks something like this

auth: password
password: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
cert: false

Exposing code-server with nginx

Opening the server’s ports

Let’s also make sure that we our Vultr server allows connections through the port we just chose. Most providers will handle Firewall rules through security groups. You can create a new security group accepting TCP and UDP connections from the port you have chosen (8080 in this case) and from any ip/subent usually denoted as Sometimes you might have to create two different rules, one for TCP and one of UDP connections, with the same port and IP range.

Forwarding port to subdomain

Now that code-server is set up we can link it with the subdomain we created earlier

Let’s create a new nginx configuration file for code-server

sudo touch /etc/nginx/sites-available/code-server.conf

The server configuration should look something like this:

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

        location / {
                proxy_set_header Host $host;
                proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
                proxy_set_header Connection upgrade;
                proxy_set_header Accept-Encoding gzip;

Now let’s enable the new configuration

sudo ln -s ../sites-available/code-server /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/code-server.conf

And reload nginx

sudo nginx -t && sudo nginx -s reload

Get an SSL certificate with Let's Encrypt!

Now that the server is ready and the IP is linked to the domain, we need to set up an SSL certificate for the domain itself. We can self-validate our domain by using certbot.

First let’s install certbot

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot

Then let’s make sure the right ports are open

sudo ufw allow 80
sudo ufw allow 443

Finally, we can certify our domain by providing our email address:

Let’s encrypt

sudo certbot --non-interactive --redirect --agree-tos --nginx -d -m

Just follow the prompts and you should be ready to go! Certbot will automatically add the certificate to your nginx configuration file code-server.conf which should look like something like this in the end:

server {

        location / {
                proxy_set_header Host $host;
                proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
                proxy_set_header Connection upgrade;
                proxy_set_header Accept-Encoding gzip;

    listen [::]:443 ssl; # managed by Certbot
    listen 443 ssl; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/; # managed by Certbot
    include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-nginx.conf; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_dhparam /etc/letsencrypt/ssl-dhparams.pem; # managed by Certbot
server {
    if ($host = {
        return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
    } # managed by Certbot

    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    return 404; # managed by Certbot

Finally, we can restart code-server and test it out by navigating to our subdomain!

sudo systemctl restart code-server@$USER

Gabriele Marini © 2019. All rights reserved