How to Use the PuTTY Application

how-tos
Sunday October 1, 2023
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Web Hosting - PuTTY

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, secure remote access to servers and devices is of utmost importance, especially for web hosting professionals and server administrators. PuTTY, a widely acclaimed open-source SSH and Telnet client, offers a robust solution for connecting to and managing remote servers with ease. In this guide, we will walk you through the essential steps to harness the power of PuTTY for seamless server management.

What is PuTTY?

PuTTY is a versatile terminal emulator that enables you to establish secure shell (SSH) connections to remote servers and devices. Whether you need to configure server settings, troubleshoot issues, or execute commands on a remote machine, PuTTY provides a reliable and encrypted channel for these tasks.

Getting Started with PuTTY

1. Download and Install PuTTY

In this guide, we will focus on PuTTY for Windows. When using Windows, you have two choices: you can opt for either the installer or the standalone executable version of PuTTY. We highly recommend selecting the installer for its advantages in terms of convenience and functionality. It simplifies the process of keeping PuTTY up-to-date and installs valuable add-ons that become invaluable once you become familiar with them.

To begin, please visit the official PuTTY website to download the latest version of PuTTY for Windows. Select the version that matches your system environment. In most cases, this is the '64-bit x86' MSI package. Once downloaded, follow the straightforward on-screen instructions for installation.

2. Launch PuTTY

After installation, launch the PuTTY application. You'll be greeted with a straightforward interface that allows you to configure your SSH sessions.

Web Hosting - PuTTY
Configuration Screen

3. Configure the SSH Connection

To establish a connection to your server, you need to provide the following details:

  • Host Name (or IP Address): Enter the IP address or domain name of the remote server.
  • Port: By default, SSH uses port 22. If your server uses a different port for SSH, specify it here.
  • Connection Type: Select SSH.

4. Save Your Configuration (Optional)

To save time in the future, you can save your SSH configuration settings by giving it a name and clicking the "Save" button. This way, you can easily load your configurations for future sessions. The name should be entered in the 'Saved Sessions' input field.

5. Establish the Connection

Click the "Open" button to initiate the SSH connection. You will be prompted to enter your username and password. Once authenticated, you will have secure access to your remote server's command-line interface.

How does PuTTY work in your Hostney Environment?

To connect to your web hosting account, you must gather the required account information and generate an SSH Key. Let's start with the SSH Key.

  1. Sign in to your Hostney account at my.hostney.com
  2. Navigate to 'Security' > 'SSH Keys'
  3. Select your account from the dropdown menu
  4. Give the new key a nice name
  5. Protect the key with a password if you like (highly recommended)
  6. Click 'Add Key' to generate the key
Generate SSH Key

After generating your SSH key, select 'PuTTY Key' from the dropdown menu.

Web Hosting - PuTTY
Web Hosting - PuTTY

Click 'Download' to get the key. Keep it safe as it's your passwordless authentication for hosting.

Download Key

Now that we have taken care of the SSH Key, it is time to connect your SSH Terminal. At Hostney, we use the default SSH port, which is 22.

We will need a hostname or the server's public IP address to connect, so we need to grab that information first.

  1. In your Hostney Control Panel, navigate to 'Hosting' > 'Accounts'
  2. Look for your account in the list and select 'Information' under 'Action'
  3. Copy the 'Server / Hostname' information to your clipboard
Web Hosting - PuTTY
Web Hosting Account Information
  1. Paste the hostname into 'Host Name (or IP address) field
  2. Give this connection a user-friendly name by typing the name in the 'Saved Sessions' input field
  3. Click 'Save' to save the settings
Save Session

Now that we have the session saved, select the session in the list.

Save PuTTY Session

Navigate to 'Connection' > 'SSH' > 'Auth' > 'Credentials' in the left navigation pane and in the 'Private key file for authentication' field, browse to the file that you downloaded previously from your Hostney Control Panel.

Private Key for Authentication

Click on 'Session' in the left pane, select your session name from the list, and click 'Save' to save the changes.

Web Hosting - PuTTY
Save Configuration.

Great! Now we are ready to connect. Click on 'Open'.

Once you connect, you will see a PuTTY Security Alert. This is the first time you are connecting to this server, so PuTTY will inform you about the potential risks of connecting. It is safe to click 'Accept' to continue.

PuTTY Security Alert

You will be asked to enter your username, which can be found on the same page where you got the hostname.

Web Hosting - PuTTY
Web Hosting Account Information

And, there you have it. You have successfully connected to your SSH Terminal.

Web Hosting - PuTTY
Successfully connected to SSH Server with PuTTY

SSH is secure, but how does SSH encryption work?

SSH (Secure Shell) encryption is the backbone of secure and confidential communication in the digital realm. It operates on a simple yet robust principle: to ensure that data transmitted between two devices remains private and tamper-proof. Understanding how SSH encryption works sheds light on the sophisticated mechanisms that protect sensitive information during transmission.

At its core, SSH encryption employs a combination of symmetric and asymmetric encryption techniques. Here's a closer look at the key elements:

  1. Asymmetric Encryption: The process commences with asymmetric encryption, which involves a pair of cryptographic keys—an SSH public key and a private key. These keys are generated using complex algorithms. The public key, as the name implies, is shared openly, while the private key is kept securely on the device. When a connection is initiated, the remote server uses the public key to encrypt data before sending it.
  2. Session Key: As the data reaches the recipient, it can only be decrypted using the corresponding private key. This mechanism ensures that even if someone intercepts the data, they cannot decipher it without access to the private key. This secure exchange of keys sets up an encrypted communication channel known as a session.
  3. Symmetric Encryption: Once the session is established, symmetric encryption takes over. In this phase, a shared secret key is generated, known as the session key. This key is used for the remainder of the communication session. Symmetric encryption is highly efficient and well-suited for bulk data transfer. Both the client and server use the session key to encrypt and decrypt data, providing a secure and rapid means of communication.
  4. Data Integrity: SSH encryption doesn't stop at confidentiality; it also ensures data integrity. Hash functions are employed to create checksums of transmitted data. Upon arrival, the recipient can verify these checksums to confirm that the data has not been tampered with during transmission.

In summary, SSH encryption operates as a sophisticated ballet of cryptographic keys, symmetric and asymmetric encryption, and data integrity checks. It guarantees the privacy of data during transit and ensures that only the intended recipient, armed with the corresponding private key, can unlock and decipher the information.

Conclusion

PuTTY is an indispensable tool for anyone who needs to manage remote servers efficiently and securely. With its user-friendly interface and robust feature set, it simplifies the process of remote server administration. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can harness the full potential of PuTTY and ensure a smooth and secure remote access experience.

At HOSTNEY, we prioritize security and ease of use for our clients. PuTTY is just one of the many tools you can leverage to make the most of your web hosting experience. Stay tuned for more informative guides and tips from HOSTNEY to enhance your hosting journey.

For any hosting-related queries or assistance, please don't hesitate to contact our expert support team. We're here to help you succeed in the world of web hosting.

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