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Create a Web Server with NGINX and Secure it Using Certbot

Certbot makes the SSL certificate deployment and renewal such an effortless process. Learn how to use certbot with Ngnix.

β€” Sagar Sharma

Warp Terminal

HTTPS is not a luxury anymore. You must have it on your website.

Let's Encrypt project has made it easier to deploy SSL certificates for free but it needs to be renewed after every few months.

Certbot saves you the trouble as it automates deploying new certificates and renewing the existing ones.

You can comfortably use certbot with Nginx. Wondering how?

In this tutorial, I will walk you through the following:

  • Installing NGINX
  • Adding server block
  • Installing and using certbot

Sure, you can skip any section if it is already configured.

To follow this tutorial, you'd have to have a registered domain name.

In this tutorial, I will be using AWS VM. But you can use any of your favorite ones.

Just make sure to have a public IP; otherwise, you won't be able to use it as a web server (a mistake I made previously).

So let's start with the installation of NGINX.

1. Installing NGINX on Ubuntu

As the NGINX is available on the default repository of Ubuntu, it can easily be installed with the following command:

sudo apt install nginx

To verify the installation, check the installed version:

nginx -v
check the installed verison of nginx on ubuntu

Start the NGINX service and make it start at every boot using the following:

sudo systemctl start nginx && sudo systemctl enable nginx

If you are using the UFW firewall (which you must), allow the NGINX to pass through it:

sudo ufw allow 'nginx full'

2. Setup NGINX Server Block

To set up, up the NGINX server block, use the following command and replace the with your own domain:

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/

Next, update the owner of the directory to the current user using the chown command:

sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /var/www/

And change the permissions of the directory using the chmod command:

sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/

Now, let's create a sample HTML index page:

nano /var/www/

My index page contains the following and you can use the same too:

        <title>Greetings from Sagar Sharma</title>
        <h1>Success!  The sudoersagar server block is working!</h1>

Save changes and exit from the nano text editor.

Next, you will have to make a directory named sites-enabled:

sudo mkdir /etc/nginx/sites-enabled 

Now, let's create a simple NGINX server block:

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/
server {
        listen 80;

        root /var/www/;
        index index.html;


        location / {
                try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

And in case, you have no idea what is being used on the server block, here's a brief explanation:

create NGINX server block

Save changes and exit from the text editor.

To enable your site, you will have to create a soft link from sites-available to sites-enabled:

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/ /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Finally, test the configuration file using the following command:

sudo nginx -t
test NGINX configuration file

If everything is done correctly, you will have the same output as shown above.

Now, reload the NGINX configuration:

sudo nginx -s reload

3. Create DNS A Record

By the DNS A record, you can map the domain with the NGINX public IP address.

The process is quite straightforward for most providers. Here, I'm using google domains.

Create DNS A Record in Ubuntu


  • A as a type
  • 300 for TTL (Time To Live)
  • Add public IP address in data field
  • Do the same for www hostname

Save the record.

It takes time to reflect on the changes (2 mins in my case).

To check, you can use the dig command with the domain name:

use dig command to check the website

And if it is up and running, it will show the IP address you used with the domain.

4. Setting up certbot

To set up certbot, I will be using snaps (a package manager developed by Canonical).

And the first step is to remove any existing certbot package on the Ubuntu system:

sudo apt remove certbot 

But if you are using anything apart from Ubuntu, you will have to configure snaps manually.

And for that purpose, we have a dedicated tutorial:

How to Install and Use Snap in Various Linux Distributions
Snaps are Canonical’s way of providing a cross-distribution package management system. In this article, we will see how to install and use snaps in various Linux distributions.

Once you are done with the setup, use the following command to install certbot:

sudo snap install --classic certbot

And finally, create a symlink to the certbot directory:

sudo ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot

To verify the installation, check the installed version of certbot:

certbot --version

5. Install certificates

You can request 50 certificates per week (maximum).

As you can request a limited number of certificates per week, using the test certificate is the best practice to find possible errors.

To install testing certificates, use the following command:

sudo certbot --nginx --test-cert

And it will ask the following:

  • Enter your email address to receive urgent renewals and change in policies.
  • Use the link to download the PDF of the terms and conditions and press Y and hit enter if you agree.
  • It is optional to subscribe to the mailing list by which you will receive newsletters.
  • It will list available domain names for the request. You can select one or two manually. And if you want certificates for every domain listed, leave it blank and hit enter (that's what I did).
use HTTPS test cerificates using certbot to find any errors

If you find no errors, you can proceed with installing the actual certificate:

sudo certbot --nginx

It will ask the same set of questions but will add one different question.

As you already have installed the test certificates, you have two choices:

  • Reinstall the existing certificates (test certificates in my case)
  • Renew and replace certificates

Choose the 2nd option and hit enter:

install HTTPS certificate using certbot on NGINX

That's it! You have secured your website with HTTPS.

And now, if you check, the connection to the site will be secured:

site is secured by let's encrypt

Certbot is scheduled to run every 12 hours and will renew certificates if the existing one is expired. You can check the times using:

systemctl list-timers
list timers on Ubuntu

And if you want to update them manually, you can use the following command:

sudo certbot renew

Want to live patch your Ubuntu server?

Being one of the most powerful OS, you can live patch your Ubuntu server without rebooting.

Yep, it's that powerful. Want to learn how? Here you have it:

How to Enable Livepatching on Ubuntu Server
Tired of rebooting your Ubuntu server after every security upgrade? You may enable live kernel patching and forget about reboots altogether.

I hope you will find this guide helpful.

Let me know if you encounter any errors while executing the given steps.

Also, if you have any suggestions on what I should cover next, let me know in the comments.

Sagar Sharma