Node.js Webserver Guide - Install and run Node.js and MongoDB on Ubuntu
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Node.js Web Server Guide


The main purpose of this guide is to summarize all the steps one has to take to get Node.js and MongoDB up and running on a Ubuntu web server. It is not 100% complete but it covers hopefully the most things you need to know to run different Node.js applications behind nginx, using MongoDB as a database.

If you find anything you can't agree with, please let me know. Send me an email or just a pull request and I will see if I am able to fix this ;-).

This guide contains some details regarding security that won't necessarily matter if you only want to run a single website on your server. In that case take a look at "Setting up Ubuntu Server for running a single Website with Node.js and MongoDB".

Initial server installation

Make Tools

The make tools are essential to build some npm packages and other stuff. So it’s generally a good idea to install them early.

sudo apt-get install gcc make build-essential

(If the installation of build-essential fails, see Misc/Missing packages section).


sudo apt-get install nginx

Once the setup of nginx is complete, you should be able to call http://{server_ip} and see the default page with the “Welcome to nginx!” headline.

Also make sure the server starts automatically after booting the system (Should be enabled by default):

sudo update-rc.d nginx defaults


wget -qO- | bash

# Refresh Path
source ~/.profile

# Use latest Node.JS version
nvm install v0.11.13

# Make it default
nvm use default v0.11.13


sudo npm install bower -g


PM2 manages the different node applications running on this server.

sudo npm install pm2 -g


Glances can be used to monitor the overall state of the server.

sudo apt-get install python-pip build-essential python-dev
sudo pip install Glances
sudo apt-get install lm-sensors
sudo pip install PySensors


sudo apt-get install git


sudo apt-get install zip


For a detailed explanation see

Install the database service

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 -y mongodb-org

Pin the current version

echo "mongodb-org hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-server hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-shell hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-mongos hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections
echo "mongodb-org-tools hold" | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Set up security

Set up mongod.conf
sudo vi /etc/mongod.conf 


auth = true
bind_ip =
Add admin user

Open the Mongo Console with mongo.

use admin
db.createUser({ user: "<username>",
      pwd: "<password>",
      roles: [ "userAdminAnyDatabase",

Restart the service
sudo service mongod restart

Installation of a new website

Create a MongoDB database

mongo -u admin -p {adminpassword} --authenticationDatabase admin

Add a MongoDB user for the website

use website-com
  user: "website-com",
  pwd: "{newpassword}",
  roles: [
	{ role: "readWrite", db: "website-com" }

Add the website’s directories

Websites are organized as follows:

The main identifier is the domain name of a website, while dots are replaced by dashes.

Directory Path
Single website’s root /var/www/xyz-com
Single website’s Git repository /var/www/xyz-com/repo
Single website’s web root /var/www/xyz-com/www


  • => blog-xyz-de
  • => website-com

Add a dedicated website user

Use the domain name for the user’s name:

sudo adduser website-com

Make the user the owner of the website’s directories

In /var/www execute:

sudo chown website-com website-com –R

Create a Git repository

In /var/www/website-com/repo run

git init --bare

Add the Git deployment hook

This hook is used to deploy changes made to the master repository. It can be customized for each website depending on the specific needs.

Go to /var/www/website-com/repo/hooks and create a new file called “post-receive”:

vi post-receive

Add the following commands to it:


# Make this executable: chmod +x post-receive


echo "Deployment started"

read oldrev newrev branch

if [[ $branch =~ .*/master$ ]];
	echo "Master received. Deploying to production..."

	# Creates a temporary working directory

	# Checks out the master from the repository
    GIT_WORK_TREE="$PREPARATION_DIR" git checkout -f

	# Installing all npm and bower modules/packages
    npm install --allow-root
    bower install --allow-root

    # Removes all files in the Website's root
	rm -rf *

	# Copies all files over
	cp -r . $WEBSITE_ROOT

	# Restart the Website via PM2
	pm2 restart $PM2_APP_NAME

	# Removes the preparation directory
	echo "$branch successfully received. Nothing to do: only the master branch may be deployed on this server."

echo "Deployment finished"

Remember the value of PM2_APP_NAME and use it as an identifier for your pm2 application later.

After saving, make the script executable:

chmod +x post-receive

Push your application to your repository

By cloning your deployment repository on your local development machine and pushing the first version to the master branch, you should receive a fresh version at /var/www/website-com/www (Check with ls –l).

git clone ssh://{username}@{ipaddress}/var/www/website-com/repo website-com

Make sure the user you’re connecting with has the necessary rights to run the Git repository. It’s recommended to connect with the user you have just created before to run the website, because he/she has the necessary access rights.

Set up PM2

Give the user temporary root privilige

Call visudo and add the following line:

{username} ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL

Run the startup script

To start pm2 with the system:

pm2 startup ubuntu

PM2 will tell you, you have to run this command as root, and print the full command to execute, for example:

sudo env PATH=$PATH:/home/{username}/.nvm/v0.10.32/bin pm2 startup ubuntu -u {username}

Remove root privilege

Call visudo again and remove the line you did just add before.

Start your application

cd /var/www/website-com/www/
pm2 start app.js --name "website-com"

Note: The PM2 instance is now running in the context if your website's user. This is especially useful to limit file access, but you can't see any other PM2 process or applications as you could see if running all websites under one single user.

If everything works PM2 reponds with Process {nameofstarting.js} launched. Wait a few seconds and use

pm2 list

for a fresh status update. For more information see

pm2 help

Configure the website in nginx

We’re using a single configuration, which can be found at:

sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

nginx is running as a reverse proxy to handle all the public stuff on port 80 for us. It then passes all the traffic we want to to our node application.

server {
	listen 80;


	location / {
    	proxy_pass http://localhost:{YOUR_PORT};
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
	    proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
    	proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
	    proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

After saving the configuration, use

sudo service nginx reload

to tell the server it should use it.


As I am currently using a Hetzner server, I am also able to use 100 GB backup space which they offer free of charge. But anyway: If you're not hosting your server at Hetzner this may also apply to your actual hosting environment.

Directory structure

Directory Path
Backup Root /var/backup
Website Backups /var/backup/www
MongoDB Backups /var/backup/mongo
nginx Backups /var/backup/nginx


Backup user

There needs to be a user with a backup role to create backups of all databases:

use admin
      user: "backup”,
	  pwd: "{newpassword}",
      roles: [{ role: "backup", db: "admin" }]

Backup script

Save the following shell script as /var/backup/create-backup-for-mongo and make it executable:


echo "Mongo Backup started"



# Remove all but the latest 30 backups
rm -rf `ls -t | tail -n +30`

# Back up all the databases to a new directory
mongodump -u $ADMIN_USERNAME -p $ADMIN_PASSWORD -o $CURRENT_BACKUP_TARGET --authenticationDatabase admin

zip -r "$(uuidgen).zip" $CURRENT_BACKUP_TARGET

echo "Mongo Backup finished"


Create the script /var/backup/create-backup-for-www and make it executable:


echo "WWW Backup started"


rm -rf `ls -t | tail -n +30`

# Back up all the websites to a new directory

zip -r "$(uuidgen).zip" $CURRENT_BACKUP_TARGET

echo "WWW Backup finished"


Create the script /var/backup/create-backup-for-nginx and make it executable:


echo "nginx Backup started"



# Remove all but the latest 30 backups
rm -rf `ls -t | tail -n +30`


zip -r "$(uuidgen).zip" $CURRENT_BACKUP_TARGET

echo "nginx Backup finished"

Mount the backup server

Install cifs-utils

sudo apt-get install cifs-utils

This will mount the backup server as a local drive and it will reconnect on each reboot (it’s a single line added to fstab).

sudo vi /etc/fstab 

// /mnt/backup-server       cifs    iocharset=utf8,rw,credentials=/var/backup/backup-credentials.txt,uid={localusername},gid={localusergroupid},file_mode=0660,dir_mode=0770 0       0

(If you are not aware of the group id, just type id and it will be displayed for the current user (in case you want to mount the drive in his/her context)).


vi /var/backup/backup-credentials.txt



Transfer script

Create a script that combines all backup actions and that finally transfers everything from the current backup folder to the backup server. Save that script as /var/backup/create-and-transfer-backups and make it executable.


echo "Global Backup started"

#Important: use absolute paths to be independent of the user context

rsync -avzE --delete --stats /var/backup /mnt/backup-server

echo "Global Backup finished"

Schedule backup

sudo vi /etc/crontab 


# m  h  dom mon dow user command
10 14 *   *   *   root bash /var/backup/create-and-transfer-backups

(Runs the backup every day at 2:10 pm.)



Action Command
Change User name passwd
Grant root priviliges visudo, add: {username} ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL
System UpdateS: Fetching the list of available updates sudo apt-get update
System UpdateS: Strictly upgrading the current packages sudo apt-get upgrade
System UpdateS: Installing updates (new ones) sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
Reboot sudo reboot
Remove a directory and its sub-directories recursively rm –R {directoryname}
Remove everything, files and directories sudo rm -rf *
Show current network settings ifconfig
Make rudi the owner of a directory chown -R rudi {directoryname}
Start a system service sudo service {servicename} start
Restart a system service sudo service {servicename} restart
Stop a system service sudo service {servicename} stop
Reload a system service sudo service {servicename} reload
See who’s the owner of a process ps aux
chmod Details &
Grant a Role in MongoDB afterwards db.grantRolesToUser("username", [{ role: "readWrite", db: "dbname" }])
Make a shell script executable chmod +x {scriptname}

Add a SSH shortcut (on the development machine)

Create (or edit) a file named config in ~/.ssh/ (User's root directory)

Host username
	User username

Now just type ssh username in terminal.

Packages via apt-get not available?

If some packages are not available via apt-get, take a look at the sources configuration:

sudo vi /etc/apt/sources.list

If the extras and the archive repositories are commented out, just remove the comments.