Setting up VPN with OpenVPN on RunCloud Managed Ubuntu VPS

These are the steps I’ve used to set up a VPN connection to RunCloud managed VPS server, with OpenVPN running on Ubuntu 16.04.

I’ve added brief explanations of each step for a quick copy/paste job.

VPN RunCloud

Setting up VPN on the Server Side

First install the basic OpenVPN package and “easy-rsa”, a simple shell based CA (Certificate Authority) utility, with related dependencies.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install openvpn easy-rsa

Set up directory, and configure variables for the CA;

make-cadir ~/openvpn-ca

cd ~/openvpn-ca

nano vars

Edit these variables as desired;

# These are the default values for fields
# which will be placed in the certificate.
# Don't leave any of these fields blank.
export KEY_CITY="Hong Kong"
export KEY_ORG="HostVirtual"
export KEY_EMAIL=""
export KEY_OU="Community"

# X509 Subject Field
export KEY_NAME="Server"

Continue with building the CA and hit enter for all questions;

source vars



The following command creates the server certificate, hit enter for all questions, including the ‘challenge password’ & ‘optional company name’. Except, answer ‘y’ twice in the end, when it asks to sign and commit requests for the certificate.

You can change the server key name to whatever;

./build-key-server server

Generate a strong Diffie-Hellman keys (recommended);


Generate an HMAC signature (recommended);

openvpn --genkey --secret keys/ta.key

This is how you can create the Client Certificate and Key Pair files directly on the server which you can then copy over to the VPN client host.

Change the key name as desired, and again hit enter for all the questions except the last two ‘y’ answers;

./build-key client

Next copy the files to the OpenVPN directory (including an OpenVPN configuration file), and correct the server file name if needed;

cd ~/openvpn-ca/keys

sudo cp ca.crt server.crt server.key ta.key dh2048.pem /etc/openvpn

gunzip -c /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/server.conf.gz | sudo tee /etc/openvpn/server.conf

Then start editing the server.conf file;

sudo nano /etc/openvpn/server.conf

These are recommended settings to route all traffic;

local #change ip here if needed

tls-auth ta.key 0
key-direction 0 #add this line

cipher AES-128-CBC # AES
auth SHA256

user nobody
group nogroup

push "redirect-gateway def1 bypass-dhcp"

push "dhcp-option DNS"
push "dhcp-option DNS"

port 8420 #select random port

cert server.crt #change if needed
key server.key #change if needed

Either uncomment or add this as a new line to allow traffic forwarding, and the last command will adjust the values for your session;

sudo nano /etc/sysctl.conf


sudo sysctl -p

RunCloud uses Firewalld as it’s Firewall, here’s how configure it;

sudo firewall-cmd --zone=runcloud --add-service openvpn
sudo firewall-cmd --zone=runcloud --add-service openvpn --permanent

sudo firewall-cmd --add-masquerade
sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --add-masquerade

SHARK=$(ip route get | awk 'NR==1 {print $(NF-2)}')
sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --direct --passthrough ipv4 -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s -o $SHARK -j MASQUERADE

sudo firewall-cmd --reload


sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --change-interface=eth0

Start the OpenVPN service, and check it’s running;

sudo systemctl start openvpn@server

sudo systemctl status openvpn@server

ip addr show tun0

Enable OpenVPN to start at boot;

sudo systemctl enable openvpn@server

Create a directory structure and client config files;

mkdir -p ~/openvpn-ca/client/files/

chmod 700 ~/openvpn-ca/client/files/

cp /usr/share/doc/openvpn/examples/sample-config-files/client.conf ~/openvpn-ca/client/base.conf

nano ~/openvpn-ca/client/base.conf

Edit, comment out or add lines;

remote my-server-1 8420

proto udp

user nobody
group nogroup

#ca ca.crt
#cert client.crt
#key client.key

;cipher x
cipher AES-128-CBC
auth SHA256
key-direction 1

Add these commented out lines to base.conf, if your Linux distribution comes with the ‘/etc/openvpn/update-resolv-conf’ file (like on RunCloud Ubuntu 16.04);

# script-security 2
# up /etc/openvpn/update-resolv-conf
# down /etc/openvpn/update-resolv-conf

Create script for generating the files;

nano ~/openvpn-ca/client/

# First argument: Client identifier
cat ${BASE_CONFIG} \
<(echo -e '<ca>') \
${KEY_DIR}/ca.crt \
<(echo -e '</ca>\n<cert>') \
${KEY_DIR}/${1}.crt \
<(echo -e '</cert>\n<key>') \
${KEY_DIR}/${1}.key \
<(echo -e '</key>\n<tls-auth>') \
${KEY_DIR}/ta.key \
<(echo -e '</tls-auth>') \
> ${OUTPUT_DIR}/${1}.ovpn

Make the file executable, and generate client configurations;

chmod 700 ~/openvpn-ca/client/

cd ~/openvpn-ca/client/

./ client

If everything went file you have the client.ovpn file ready;

ls ~/openvpn-ca/client/files/client.ovpn

In RunCloud management (, you can open the port in your firewall easily. Navigate to –> Servers, “server name”, Security and select “Add rule”.

Define a globally open port, for the UDP protocol (or TCP is you are using that), or use a rich rule to restrict port connections to an IP or IP range.

Setting up VPN on the Client Side

In this example, I’m using Tunnelblick on macOS as my VPN connection client to connect to the newly set up Ubuntu VPN server.

Download a copy of the “client.ovpn” file to your client machine and open it with Tunnelblick. Answer yes, to use the’ plugin for OpenVPN.

If you want to use OpenVPN 2.5 or later, you need to remove ‘comp-lzo’ from both server.conf & base.conf (deprecated in OpenVPN 2.4).

Troubleshooting VPN

If a connection gets stuck at the “waiting for server response” stage. Usually flushing the  routing table has fixed the problem (on macOS);

sudo ifconfig en0 down
sudo ifconfig en1 down
sudo route flush
sudo ifconfig en0 up
sudo ifconfig en1 up

Useful FirewallD commands when in trouble;

firewall-cmd --get-default-zone
firewall-cmd --get-active-zones
sudo firewall-cmd --list-all

Find out more about RunCloud VPS manager here.

Comments are welcome in the box below.
Thanks for your visit! David.

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