How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

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Alibaba Cloud uses an Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud computing model, allowing users to make use of its massive computing power so they can deploy servers and applications. The first time you sign up with Alibaba Cloud, you automatically qualify for a limited trial credit, providing you with an opportunity to do some kind of test drive on the platform. Due to the limited nature of the given credit, you can’t really run or deploy applications for production purposes. Still, the resources you’re given are relatively enough to do a test drive and see how the platform works.

Now, we’ve already written a detailed article about almost everything you need to know if you’re to use Aliababa’s free trial credit

RECOMMENDED READING: How does Alibaba Cloud Free trial work?

In this article, we will primarily focus on how to deploy a server on Alibaba Cloud using the available trial credit after signing up. And just to remind you, Alibaba Cloud credit only allows you to deploy an eligible service once, For example, if you deploy an ECS instance, and then terminate it, you won’t be allowed to deploy it again without having to pay. We think this detail is important for you to understand before we proceed to the next step.

Accessing the Console

When you sign up for an Alibaba Cloud account, you will be able to log in so you can access the Console. Inside the console, you will be able to create and deploy servers of any kind. And you will also be able to monitor deployed servers, manage billings, and every other configuration you make.

When you log into your Alibaba Cloud, you will have to navigate to the upper side of the Platform’s left section and click Console as seen in the screenshot below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

In a real sense, the homepage of the Alibaba Cloud console looks like this in the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Navigating to the free trial page

Now that you’ve logged into your Alibaba Cloud account, you have to navigate to Aliababa’s free trial page that lists down a number of eligible ECS servers you can deploy for free. Here is a link to this page, and you should be able to see something like this in the screenshot below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Selecting an Eligible ECS Instance

Before we proceed, you need to understand that if you signed up as an individual user, you won’t benefit from enterprise credits that are limited to only verified organizations or businesses. So, the free trial credit scheme is categorized into two; credits offered to individual users and credits for enterprise users. For example, individual users can’t use the credit scheme to deploy services with banners marked with “enterprise only” wording as seen in the illustration below:

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

And so, individual users can only deploy ECS instances or services listed under the free trial scheme as long as they’re not marked with “enterprise only” wording. See the illustration below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Alibaba Cloud uses Elastic Compute Service, ECS which is primarily used to deploy virtual servers on the platform. If you’re to go with the free credit plan, there is a limited number of ECS instances available to you. For example, for individual users, the following are the ECS instance types you can select for the free trial scheme:

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  • ECS t5 Instance-2C2G (3 months only)

This allows you to deploy an ECS instance with 2 CPU cores, 2GB RAM, 40GB disk storage, and 1Mbps bandwidth for a period of 3 months, starting from the date of deployment. After 3 months, and if you wish to continue with your deployed server after the trial period, Alibaba Cloud will start to charge you  $11.99/month for renewal

  • ECS t5 Instance-1C1G (1 year)

This allows you to deploy an instance of 1 CPU core and 1GB RAM, 40GB Disk storage, and 1Mbps bandwidth for a period of one year. And then after the trial period, you will be charged $8.48/month for renewal.

Obviously, the 3-month trial plan (ECS t5 Instance-2C2G) slightly has more computing resources compared to a one-year trial plan (ECS t5 Instance-1C1G). But it’s up to you to choose what is best for you depending on what you plan to achieve using the free credit scheme.

Deploying a sample ECS instance – technical

Since we’ve understood the types of Alibaba ECS instances available for the free trial credit, we can go ahead and deploy a Ubuntu server and see how it’s done. In this example, we’re going to select the 3-month trial plan that allows us to deploy an ECS instance with 2 CPU cores and 2GB RAM.

All you have to do is to click on “Try now” as seen below in the screenshot

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Instance setup & configuration

After clicking the “Try Now” button, you will be taken to the ECS instance configuration page which will look as seen below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Ok, let’s break down what you need to do in this section:

  • Select Quick Launch

This will give you simplified configuration settings compared to custom launch settings. The Quick Launch setting is suitable for beginners. But if you know what to do, then you can try out the Custom Launch settings

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  • Select a Region

An Alibaba Cloud Region is a geographic location where they’ve established one or more data centers to provide cloud computing services. Each region is designed to be an independent, self-contained data center infrastructure, with its own set of resources such as computing, storage, and networking. You will need to select the suitable region that is nearest to you.

  • Select Zone

After selecting a region, you will also need to select a Zone. An Alibaba Cloud Zone is a physical location in which Alibaba Cloud data centers are situated. These data centers contain the necessary infrastructure and equipment to provide cloud computing services to customers in that particular “region“. So, it’s important to note that Zones are located in the region. Each region can have multiple zones. And you will need to select any zone in a region that’s suitable for you.

Let’s say you’re located in the United States or Europe, or if you expect the users of your application to be in these locations, then you will need to select Europe & Americas as the choice region and then select one of the available zones like US (Silicon Valley), US (Virginia) and more.

  • Select the instance Type

It’s important to specifically select an instance type with eligible resources as defined under the free trial scheme. If you’re going with a 3-months credit plan, then make sure you’re selecting an instance with 2 CPU cores & 2GB RAM, and 40GB Disk storage. On the other hand, if you’re going with a 1-year trial plan, then make sure you select an instance with 1 CPU Core, 1GB RAM & 40GB Disk space.

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Continue to Scroll down

Still on the Quick Launch section, you need to scroll down so you can configure other settings. Please see the screenshot below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Let’s further break down these settings:

  • Select Image type

The image type represents the type of operating system you want to deploy on your virtual server. There is CentOS, Windows Server, and Ubuntu. Each of these operating systems is available in various versions. You will have to select the right version you want from the dropdown boxes corresponding to the choice operating system you want to run. Let’s say you want to select Ubuntu, then you can either go with the latest version which is, 22.04-64 bit (Latest version by the time of this writing), or 20.04-64 bit. You also need to know that some applications may not be ready for the newer versions of the operating system, so you have to select the best version that can work for you.

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  • VPC (Network Type)

Alibaba Cloud VPC is a service that allows you to set up your virtual servers and applications within a Virtual Network, also known as Virtual Private Cloud. The Alibaba Cloud VPC mimics a physical network topology and configurations. Your server will be able to be accessed on the internet because of the VPC. When you create an Alibaba Cloud account, a default VPC is automatically created for you in your suitable “Region” where you want to deploy your virtual servers. And so, if you’re a beginner, you need to go with the default VPC network as launching the custom VPC configurations will require a broader understanding of cloud network networking. The default VPC is selected by default for you.

  • IP Address setting

Make sure you select “Assign Public IPv4 address“. This means that your server will automatically be assigned an IPv4 address and you will use it to SSH into your server or remotely access it from your local computer.

  • Network Billing Method

Make sure you select “pay by bandwidth“. And also, make sure you select 1Mbps as per the terms of the free credit scheme. Beyond 1Mbps bandwidth, you’re going to be charged money.

  • Duration

You can select the appropriate duration in accordance with the terms of your free trial plan. Select either 3 months or 1 year based on the server instance you’re deploying which is eligible for the free trial credit.

Launching & Setting the password

Now that everything is set, you need to hit the Create Order button and your server will start to provision. It’s also important to keep in mind that you can’t set the login credentials of your instance in the Quick Launch scenario. This means that you will be able to set the password of the instance after it has been successfully provisioned.

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Monitor the Provisioning Status

Once the order is created, you can go back to the Elastic Compute Service (ECS) console. This can be achieved by clicking the console button as explained at the beginning of this article. See the screenshot below;

And then, you will have to click the toggle button on the Left side as seen below:

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Make sure you click click Elastic Compute Service as seen in the screenshot below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Finally, you will be able to find the ECS console, and you will notice that there is an instance running. See the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Resetting the instance SSH Password

This step is for you if you used the Quick Launch scenario to deploy your instance. As said earlier, Quick Launch doesn’t let you set the SSH password beforehand. On the other hand, if you go with the Custom Launch scenario, you can set up the SSH password in advance.

So, to reset the password, you will need to click on your instance in the ECS console as seen below in the image;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Once you click on the instance, you will be taken to a section where you can customize your instance settings as shown in the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

From this section, we can reset the password by clicking on the Reset instance password feature

as shown in the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

You will be taken to a page that has all the created security groups. In most cases when you’re a newbie on the Alibaba Cloud platform, you’re likely to have only one security group which is created for you by default as shown in the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

As seen from the image above, what we need is to click on the available security Group which by no doubt your server is attached to.

Set up the necessary Firewall Rules

To be able to remotely log into your server, you will need to make sure the appropriate firewall rules have been set. If you’re using SSH, make sure port 22 has been set. On the other hand, if you created a Windows server, then port 3389 for RDP has to be set.

Traffic to and from your server on Alibaba Cloud is primarily managed by security groups. Firewall rules are set to ensure that only acceptable traffic is accepted

RECOMMENDED READING: How to install and configure UFW firewall on Ubuntu Linux

By default, a security group is created for you and when you launch a server, appropriate ports are opened by default. But to be sure that everything is set, you can check the current setup of your security group configuration attached to your ECS instance. You can do this by going to “Configure Security Group Rule” as shown in the image below;

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

Inside your security group, make sure the SSH port is configured. And if not configured, you will need to add rule and fill in the necessary details as shown in the image below:

How to use Alibaba Cloud Free credit to Set up Ubuntu server

The same method can be used to add any firewall rule you want. All you need is to change the port number. Assuming you deployed a Windows server and you want to connect to it using RDP, you can add port 3389

Connecting to the Server

You can connect to your server using SSH. The details you need are:

  • The SSH username: By default, a user called root is created on the server once you deploy it. So, the root is going to be the SSH username

  • Hostname: This is the IP address of your server. You can find the IP address of your server using the ECS console once you click on it.

  • Password: You’ve already known how to obtain your SSH password.

This is basically what you need to know if you’re to set up a server on Alibaba Cloud so you can benefit from the free trial credit. It’s important to note that once your trial period elapses, Alibaba will start to charge you money. And so, you need to keep track of your server and make sure you’re within the limits of the credit scheme to avoid incurring charges.

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