Set up self-hosted server services at the push of a button

Quick Service

Article from Issue 267/2023

Setting up a server manually on Linux can sometimes test your patience, but with YunoHost you can install and configure your servers with just a few mouse clicks.

Linux is considered an excellent server operating system mainly because of its stability. But installing and configuring a server requires in-depth knowledge, even on the free operating system, and is something usually done at the command line. Enter YunoHost [1], which lets you set up a fully configured server on your intranet with just a few mouse clicks.

The new version 11 of YunoHost is available both as a standalone distribution and for use on virtual machines. The system supports both 32- and 64-bit hardware, meaning that you can recycle your older computer systems. On top of this, YunoHost is available for many ARM-based single-board computers, and even older Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi systems are suitable as the basis for a server on your network.

The software supports installation on a remote computer via SSH. However, this requires Debian 11 "Bullseye" as the preinstalled underpinnings on the remote machine. After installing the basic system, you can easily integrate the desired services via a web-based interface. The system is not limited to a couple of well-known services, but supports no fewer than 350 preconfigured programs.


The project's website lists the minimum hardware requirements for each platform to run YunoHost [2]. Because these requirements are very low both in terms of RAM (512MB) and in terms of storage (just 16GB free disk space), even older 32-bit computers with conventional hard disks are suitable for YunoHost operation. Detailed instructions for the different approaches to installing the system as a function of the target platform are available on the project site. But, basically, the Debian setup wizard is used in both text and graphics mode.

The basic installation sets up a database and a web server. On completing the setup, just reboot the system and you will see a login prompt. YunoHost is now ready for use. You then talk to the system via the graphical web interface from any device that has a web browser. To do this, simply type https://YunoHost.local or, alternatively, the IP address of the system in your browser's address bar. A setup wizard then launches with a start page reporting the successful installation of the server. Pressing the Begin button takes you to the configuration dialog (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Use the browser-based wizard to complete the basic configuration.

In the first dialog you need to create a domain for the YunoHost server. If you don't have your own domain, the software offers you the option of generating a dynamic domain. The DynDNS service keeps your domain accessible on the Internet even if your IP address changes. After this, you are prompted for a new admin password with a length of at least eight characters. Finally, you need to log in as admin in the following window. This takes you to the admin start page, which lists different categories for configuring options (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The web interface clearly groups all the settings on a single page.

The recommended approach is to click System update first after completing the initial installation. The software then determines the packages to be refreshed and lists them. You can start the update by clicking Update all packages at the bottom of the page. The routine updates both the operating system itself and the list of available applications. After completing the update, click on the small house icon in the top left corner to return to the main window.

Account Management

After the update, create a user account with extended authorizations which will act as an administrator in the future and can be reached by email. Then configure your new server to automatically send notifications to the administrator in case of problems or anomalies. You now also need to create the users who will have access to the server applications later.

To do this, select Users in the main menu and New User in the dialog box that then appears. This will take you to the input mask for creating new users. Based on the domain, YunoHost also creates multiple email accounts. After completing the dialog box, press Save. Then open the settings for this user in the next window by clicking the small open arrow to the right of the user name.

In the Mail forward field of the user display, now specify an email address to which YunoHost will forward any notifications. To do this, press the blue button on the right to edit the account. Then select Add a mail forward from the dialog underneath and press Save to save the entry.


When done, it is a good idea to run system diagnostics to find and fix potential problems. YunoHost runs system diagnostics twice a day by default. If problems are detected, the administrator is notified by email. You can start manual diagnostics by selecting Diagnosis in the main menu and then selecting Start initial diagnosis. The server now performs a comprehensive check of the system and after a few minutes displays the results in tabular form (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Diagnostics help YunoHost detect errors in the configuration, which it then categorizes.

Diagnostic categories without abnormalities are marked by a green button following the respective group. Anomalies that do not affect the function of the system are tagged with a yellow warning. Red buttons indicate that there is a problem in this group that negatively affects the function. Each category with a warning or a detected problem has two additional buttons on the right side of the window: Clicking on Details will display details about the detected problem, while clicking on Ignore tells YunoHost to disregard the respective entry in subsequent diagnostics.

Numerous problems with red highlighting will tend to appear in the Ports exposure category in particular; this is because many routers block the ports required for access from the Internet. You can ignore ports 25, 80, and 443, which are especially important here, as long as you do not need access to the server from the outside. If required, you can change the status for this check by selecting Ignore.

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