7 more uses for your VPS: setup a VPN & more

Updated: April 11, 2019

One of the greatest things about a VPS is that it’s a blank slate– you can use your server for whatever you want. You’re only limited by your imagination!

One of our very first blogs on VPS uses is still extremely popular– What is a Virtual Private Server, and What Can it Do?— so we thought we’d circle back and showcase some more interesting, educational, and just plain cool things that you can do on your SSD Nodes server.

1. Use a VPS to host your own VPN

The virtual private network (VPN) is at the center of big conversations among various tech communities, and for good reason—with recent changes to how ISPs can manage and sell your browsing data, some people want to take the extra security step.

For those who want the most control, installing OpenVPN in your VPS is your best bet—it’s a trusted, open source solution that allows for customization and flexibility depending on your current virtual server setup.  It’s a great solution if you’re hosting a few websites on your VPS, for example, and want to add a VPN to that implementation.

Another option is to provision a whole VPS toward VPN work. streisand and Algo are two open source options that aim to make that job relatively easy.

Algo is quite… confident that their VPN implementation is the best.

Learn to turn your VPS into a VPN! Check out our tutorial on how to install OpenVPN on Ubuntu 16.04!

2. Still miss del.icio.us?

The old social bookmarking website is long gone—at least the version from its heyday—and has passed through a number of different owners in recent years.

If you want to rediscover that same old experience but want something a little newer can use a VPS to install shaarli, a minimalist, open source clone of del.icio.us.

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3. Or, stick with RSS

When Google Reader shut down in 2013, a void was left in the Atom/RSS space (and in many of our hearts). Feedly has turned out to be the biggest player to take advantage of that new market, but many people still miss the simplicity of Google Reader’s interface and the customization options.

The Tiny Tiny RSS interface.

Tiny Tiny RSS is an open source news reader that supports everything Google Reader did, and then some—including podcasts. You can access it from anywhere, and the installation should be relatively for those who have a working LEMP stack, for example.

4. Start self-hosting web apps

With VPS hosting being so affordable, one of the great VPS uses is hosting your own web apps to save some money on more expensive solutions.

If the previous two items are of any interest to you, you might want to consider a more comprehensive self-hosting infrastructure. By using Docker, docker-compose, and Nginx together, you can host SSL-enabled web apps on your VPS in an easy and automated way.

To learn more, check out the handbook: Self-hosting with Docker: The definitive handbook

5. Stay in touch with VoIP

Whether you’re a gamer who wants to stay in touch with the rest of your squad, or just someone who wants a private space to catch up with friends and family, a self-hosted voice over IP application is a great use case for your VPS.

Mumble is one open source option that’s targete mostly toward gamers, with clients that work on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

For those running Ubuntu, the packages are in the official repositories, so installation is quite easy:

$ sudo apt-get install mumble-server
$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure mumble-server

6. Access a GUI remotely

As much as we advocate for using your VPS to learn more about Linux administration and shell commands, there’s just some work that can’t be done easily using the command line alone. Enter the VNC, which allows you to turn your VPS into a graphical interface, just like your desktop or laptop.

If you’re running Ubuntu on your VPS, for example, you can install the Xfce desktop environment, plus tightvncserver, and you’re pretty much ready to go.

Just be sure to set up an encrypted SSH tunnel to make sure your connection is secure!

7. Use your VPS to give a little back

This option requires the most creativity, but is certainly the most philanthropic choice for your VPS—particularly one that isn’t doing much at the moment, or has some spare hard drive space available.

Are there any clubs, non-profits, or even small businesses in your area that could benefit from having their website and email hosted via your server? If they don’t have a website yet, they just be jump at the opportunity to get online at no cost. And if they do have a website, maybe they’ll be incredibly happy to escape a costly and unreliable shared hosting solution.

It might not be tax-deductible, but you can certainly give yourself a fuzzy feeling.

What else are you using your VPS for? We’d love to hear your about your experiments—if they’re really great, we’ll write them up and add them to the piece.